Reduction in funding for education across New South Wales does not only affect prisons but also higher education. Uncertainty has been brought to art studies since the proposed plan to merge three different institutions into one, where the Sydney College of the Arts and National Art School would be incorporated into the University of New South Wales by the beginning of 2017. This decision promoted by the government will not only affect students, teachers and staff of the universities, but will also impact the distinct educational system of each institution. The merger will destroy the diversification of the niche course offerings from the distinct institutions and create uncertainty for the students already enrolled.
Sydney College of Arts
Economic cutbacks are affecting higher education in Sydney. The Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) will be incorporated into the University of New South Wales at the beginning of 2017 due to an agreement with the University of Sydney. To justify the decision, it has been alleged that SCA has a significant deficit problem and a drop in enrolments, but it should not be forgotten that education is a right, not a means of production or a business to obtain profits.
The agreement will entail a reduction of teachers (around 60%) and courses (Jewellery, Ceramics and Glass-making studios), and will result in higher numbers of students and limited resources and facilities. Additionally, as the teaching method varies between the two institutions, the merger will see a reduction in the quality of education being offered and the loss of students' abilities to choose the institution that works for them.
In response to the agreement, students, teachers and supporters have carried out different demonstrations of their dissatisfaction, such as protests, letters, student strikes, and fundraising events. SCA students started an occupation of the Dean’s office on campus on August 22 with a rally held on September 7 in support of the occupation. The rally had the following demands:
1. The college at Callan Park to remain;
2. No staff or course cuts;
3. Replace the Dean of SCA with representatives of the staff of SCA; and
4. An independent review of the financial situation
This movement, ‘LET the SCA STAY’, has already received the support of different organisations. Maritime Union Australia has donated $2000 worth of food and supplies, and Justice Action has donated $500.
Defenders have also written a petition to maintain the independent existence of the institution.
Click here for the Sydney College of Arts petition
Click here for the ‘LET the SCA STAY’ Facebook
National Art School
The proposal of merging the National Arts School with the University of NSW led to a march of hundreds of students, artists and supporters to the Parliament House. Marchers carried a petition to Parliament with more than 14,000 signatures claiming the independence of the nation’s oldest art school and its security through a long-tem lease. They want the federal government to be responsible for the school’s funding until it becomes completely self-funded by 2022, the same way it supports the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).
The idea of merging both institutions threatens the uniqueness of their respective educational experiences as well as the future of enrolled students and staff working at the National Schools of Arts. The agreement, promoted by the state government, is also seen as an attempt to sell the heritage site, a colonial-era gaol where NAS is currently situated, to the highest bidder.
The desire to create a ‘School of Artistic Excellence’ will do nothing but undermine the right to choose between different educational models and the diversity that has led to such a success in the art industry.
Click here for the National Art School petition