Berklee’s Global Network Evolves


In late October, representatives from Berklee’s international network partner institutions gathered at Berklee’s Valencia, Spain, campus for three days of presentations, information sharing, and networking. The confab drew leaders representing partners from Asia, Europe, North and South America, Oceania, Israel, Canada, India, and Africa, underscoring the global reach of the Berklee education.

Larry Simpson, Berklee’s senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, told the audience, “Berklee is a different place than it was when the Berklee International Network [BIN] was established. We are now larger, more global, and have broader offerings for our students.” Simpson noted Berklee’s recent expansion through the merger with Boston Conservatory, the establishment of the Valencia Campus, and the success of Berklee Online.

“When I came to Berklee, we only offered a bachelor of music degree,” Simpson says. “Today’s more robust Berklee also offers bachelor of fine arts, master of music, and master of fine arts degrees, and the bachelor of professional studies degree for online students.” Simpson cited Berklee’s vision statement for 2025 and the role of partner institutions in realizing the goals outlined in the statement. “The world needs more music, dance, theater, and art, not less,” Simpson emphasized. “We need institutions that are prepared to educate and to show students what possibilities exist for them. We need to find ways to do this that are cost-effective and make the best use of technology. That’s why we are here this week.”

Matthew Nicholl, associate vice president for global initiatives, gave a history of Berklee’s international outreach before announcing a change in the name from Berklee International Network (BIN) to Berklee Global Partners (BGP).

A History Lesson

“From the very beginning, Berklee has been a global institution” Nicholl said. “From Gary Burton’s first teaching and concert tours with Berklee faculty members to Larry Monroe’s first academic partnerships with external institutions, we have played on the world stage. Berklee Online began offering our curriculum in 2002 and then online courses for credit in 2004. The Internet and related technologies increased our reach in the world and our programs’ effectiveness far beyond what was possible before their use. Starting in 2007, the audition and interview process required us to interview every student applying to the college. This meant we had to travel to more places than ever before. To do so, we created more partnerships. In 2012, Berklee’s expansion to a second campus in Valencia extended our horizons further.”

Nicholl said that the Berklee has evolved beyond having international interests to becoming a global institution, signaled by the name change from BIN to BGP. “Access to the intellectual capital of Berklee is no longer localized, it’s distributed throughout the world,” he stated. “As we seek to encourage collaboration and engagement between Berklee and our partners and among the individual partners, our work will become global in scope. The program has outgrown the single category of BIN schools to include four partnership categories to reflect the numerous and varied relationships we have now.”

As announced by Nicholl, the new categories for BGP include academic partners, network partners, affiliate partners, and special partners. The category names indicate level of involvement between the partner institution and Berklee [For category description, see the “New Partnerships Defined” sidebar below.]

Pathways to Boston

Leaders of the member schools note that many of their students ultimately hope to spend at least part of their academic career at Berklee’s Boston campus. Given the higher tuition and cost of living at the Boston campus, finances are an obstacle for many international students. Summit sessions were dedicated to sharing strategies partner institutions employ for managing costs.

Students attending partner schools with a credit-transfer agreement can reduce the price tag on a Berklee degree by completing Berklee’s core curriculum while living in their home country and paying lower tuition rates than those at Berklee’s Boston campus. This provides students a pathway to a Berklee degree and completion of the final two years of their college career in Boston. Damien Bracken, Berklee’s dean of admissions, told attendees, “Too many of our students borrow all of the tuition money and still can’t afford to finish their degree. We want them to get the degree. These pathways are viable.”

Fellow panelists Gaylene Carragher of Holland College in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and Yehuda Eder, a cofounder of the Rimon School in Israel explained what their institutions are doing to make a degree more affordable. “We have 30 first-year music students at Holland College, and 17 are on the Berklee pathway program,” Carragher said. “Our students’ passion is to attend Berklee. They have the option to spend up to two years at Holland where tuition is $5,500 per year. If they decide to go to Berklee, up to 52 of the credits they have earned will be accepted by Berklee.”

The Rimon School in Israel has had a longstanding credit transfer agreement with Berklee, and many Rimon students continue on to Berklee. Eder spoke of a creative new model in development that will enable Rimon students to remain in Israel and earn a bachelor of music degree issued jointly by Berklee and Rimon. The plan proposes that students take courses taught by Rimon faculty members and through Berklee Online. Those will comprise nearly 80 percent of the 120 credits needed for a bachelor of music degree. The remaining liberal arts courses will be taught at Tel Aviv’s Kibbutzim College. The resulting degree will offer a localized Berklee experience at a fraction of the cost of spending four years in Boston. “We are hoping that the students who finish this program will then continue on for a master’s degree at Berklee Valencia,” Eder said.

A panel on raising money for scholarships highlighted different approaches used by partners in various countries. Private philanthropy is a big part of the advancement effort at Berklee in America, while institutions in other countries must rely more heavily on funding from government agencies and foundations.

In his keynote address, Manolo Diaz, senior vice president of the Latin Grammy Foundation, shared that from 2015 to 2017, his organization has offered scholarships totaling $2.5 million to 112 students. Among those recipients, 34 percent chose to attend Berklee and 18 percent chose to attend Berklee partner schools. Three grants of $200,000 each provided full, four-year scholarships for students to attend Berklee.

A panel on Berklee’s City Music Network discussed how partner institutions are adapting City Music programs to help needy youth in their locales to gain access to musical instruments and education. Other panels spoke of how Berklee and partner schools are helping their alumni connect for internships and career opportunities.

In summary meetings, member institutions, grouped according to geographical location, shared creative ideas on increasing cooperation through faculty exchanges, guest artist visits, and concert tours showcasing their students. Representative Jack Harbord of Leeds College of Music in England, proposed creating an online platform where students at the partner schools can market ideas to one another.

In his closing address of the summit, President Roger H. Brown stated, “The whole premise of the network is to help each other in ways that are reciprocal. It requires us to trust each other, to work through difficulties together, and to have a clear plan to support each other. If we do so, we’ll be so much stronger as a group of people than we will be individually.”



New Partnerships Defined


Academic partnerships made with educational institutions are the most comprehensive of the four partnership types. Curricular alignment between the partner schools and Berklee and a credit transfer agreement enable students from academic partner schools to transfer up to 60 credits, or half of the credits required for a bachelor’s degree from Berklee. Academic partners also license Berklee textbooks and participate by hosting Berklee events, audition and interview visits, and Berklee on the Road programs. Academic partners may also offer Berklee City Music and PULSE programs. They can use the Berklee logo on their official documents and promotional materials and participate in the biannual global summit.

Network partnerships include academic institutions, agencies, governmental and nongovernmental institutions, vendors, and industry representatives that support Berklee’s vision. While they do not have a credit transfer agreement with Berklee, they collaborate in all the other ways that academic partners do.

Affiliate partnerships include institutions, organizations, and individuals seeking to collaborate with Berklee through a specific program or opportunity. Current affiliate partners include China’s Dulwich College and Shanghai Conservatory of Music and the Inter-American-Development Bank, which serves countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Special partnerships include various institutions currently under agreement with Berklee relating to cooperative or dual degrees, special programming, and academic or business-related engagement. These partnerships allow space to explore new, innovative, and creative opportunities for the future and highlight growth and innovation to foster the entrepreneurial spirit. Special partners offering dual degrees thus far include Harvard and Suffolk universities in the Boston area.

The new BGP structure will also foster connections between the various partner institutions. “The overarching goal of BGP is to find, educate, and nurture new talent anywhere in the world,” Matthew Nicholl said. Current BIN members will begin migrating to new agreements within the four new categories during the 2018–2019 academic year. For more information on this initiative, visit