Professor Colin Lawson, tenth Director of the Royal College of Music (RCM), yesterday informed the RCM Council of his decision to stand down from the role on August 31, 2024.

In an email to staff, he said: ‘It remains an extraordinary and humbling experience to lead the Royal College of Music, and a tremendous honour to work with such talented colleagues and students across the institution – one that I will proudly continue with the utmost dedication and vigour.’

Professor Lawson has led the Royal College of Music through one of its most transformative and sustained periods of growth over nearly two decades and positioned the RCM as a world leader, now ranked the global top institution for performing arts (QS World University Rankings 2022). Colin, appointed CBE in 2016, has increased access to excellence through digital innovation, global partnerships and the remarkable delivery of a transformational £40 million campus redevelopment as well as leading the College through the pandemic. The RCM’s physical footprint has doubled since 2017, with new performance spaces replicating the professional environment and a new interactive Museum open to the public. Professor Lawson’s dedicated efforts in support of access and excellence mean that over 50% of RCM students receive scholarship support. His international outlook has brought new significant partnerships such as the ground-breaking Global Conservatoire which connects students and cultures, sharing knowledge on-screen across the world. He has also expanded digital infrastructure so that the RCM broadcasts many more concerts, including masterclasses with some of the world’s greatest musicians reaching over a million YouTube views in 95 countries.

Lord Guy Black, Chairman of the Council of the Royal College of Music since 2017, comments: ‘Professor Lawson is a distinguished Director, eminent musician and respected academic (his Encyclopaedia of Historical Performance in Music won the C B Oldman Award in 2019) and the RCM is enormously blessed to have had the benefit of Colin’s leadership for nearly 20 years. During this time, he has seen an extraordinary transformation in the RCM, both physically and culturally. His leadership throughout the pandemic has been essential to steering the Royal College of Music through the biggest crisis of our times and he brought the institution through it stronger than ever before. I am immensely grateful for his continuing dedication and commitment.’

On his plans for the coming months, Professor Lawson comments: ‘The student experience and the pursuit of excellence have been of upmost importance to me ever since my arrival at the RCM in 2005 and there is still much to do as we continue our programme to invest in facilities, widen access for the most talented musicians across the world and drive innovation.  I remain fully committed to delivering the current strategic plan – and the leadership transition will not detract from this vital work. In the RCM’s Directorate, the teaching and professional services teams and the RCM Council – we truly do have extraordinarily talented people.’

There will be a global search for the next RCM Director and consultants will be appointed to support the process.