My experience of studying Eurovision at university
Yes, you heard that right – I studied Eurovision at university. As part of a Bachelor of Arts at The University of Melbourne, there is a whole unit dedicated to the Eurovision Song Contest.
The course is the lovechild of subject coordinators (and Euronerds) Alison Lewis and John Hajek (previously profiled by Aussievision here), who found that in their other subjects, they consistently referenced the Eurovision Song Contest, as it is often a microcosm for broader European society; so naturally, they designed a whole subject around the Contest, and the role it has played in shaping Europe.
I stumbled on this course just by looking through the subject handbook, trying to pick my subjects for second semester, and as soon as I saw it I knew I just had to do it. Here's a bit of a recount of how it happened!
My relationship with Eurovision prior to the subject
My first exposure to Eurovision was in 2014, as a 14-year-old (yes, I’m a 2000 baby); my dad was flicking through the channels and landed on SBS and Eurovision happened to be on, and I was hooked.
Originally, I started to like it because I simply liked the music, but since then, I have grown into an absolute Eurovision tragic. I followed most of the National Finals in 2019, and I was lucky enough to go to the Grand Final of Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv (pics below) – don’t ask me how much the ticket cost! So fair to say I was excited to do the subject.
The other students
Of course, not everyone is a Eurovision tragic like myself, so I didn’t know what to expect coming into the subject, whether I could reference other performances, or if people were doing it as a ‘bludge subject’. But to my pleasant surprise, the large majority of my peers loved the contest as well. Despite doing classes on Zoom, the discussions were interesting and I was able to satisfy my desire to talk Eurovision, since none of my family or friends like it at all.
For our last lecture, we had a dress up class, which was a lot of fun.
The course itself
The content itself went week by week, focusing on a particular country or group of countries, and their history with the Eurovision Song Contest and how it has related to their standings in Europe. Different topics included: how is Eurovision political; the rise of Sweden; Yugoslavia and socialism; Eurovision and gender-identity; Russia and the USSR; and also the UK and Ireland, which was the inspiration for one of my other Aussievision articles on the British and Irish decline at Eurovision.
I thought knowing Eurovision was just knowing the songs from every year, but there is so much more. Some of the most interesting pieces of info that we covered were:
The 1993 Bosnian entrant had to flee persecution in order to sing at Eurovision
A factor of the split of Serbia and Montenegro was Eurovision,
The 1974 Italian entry (‘Si’) being censored for being seen as propaganda for a referendum on divorce
Portugal’s entry in 1974 was a song which sparked a revolution
Russia and its anti-gay laws
The changing in voting and music styles
Winning Eurovision can make a country more "European" (for example Israel, Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Baltic states (Latvia and Estonia)
Armenia’s 2015 entry commemorating a genocide
Using the Contest as a gateway into the European Union
I could go on for hours, but the gist of the course was to enlighten us pupils about just how impactful Eurovision has been and will continue to be so influential on European society.
For the assessment component, we had one test, we had to record a presentation on a different topic - I did mine on examples of when Eurovision gets political. The big 'exam' like assessment was a 2000 word essay - my topic chose had me analyse some recent winners of the Contest and what makes a successful Eurovision entry.
The course has definitely made me a bigger Eurovision fan – for one, it prompted me to join the Aussievision team, and now I look at the Contest as far more than just some songs – we see all the glitz and glam, but there’s much more substance to the contest which I am now able to appreciate more.
If anyone here is doing Arts at Melbourne (niche market, I know) or has an option of covering this at any other University, I would definitely recommend it. It’s so interesting, and Alison and John are so lovely and knowledgeable, and you’ll meet some great like-minded people. There’s plenty of Eurovision singalongs, don’t get me wrong, but you’ll also learn some fascinating content.
Until the powers that be make a whole degree on Eurovision, this is by far the next best thing!