NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Editorial: Creative Arts Futures: Probable. Possible. Imagined.

Dr Jenny Wilson — 2016 was a year of discussion and consultation on the future of higher education.  Yet despite all the effort and a flurry of statements reinforcing the Australian government’s preferences, actual detail on how these will be implemented is trickling out at best with much still being debated.

In research, we know that creative arts will be one of the test sites for the ERA research impact exercise but, at time of writing, universities have only just received instructions on how the impact and engagement pilots will take place.

The Australian National Audit office is in the process of assessing the effectiveness of the design process and monitoring arrangements for the National Innovation and Science Agenda and those who have not yet had their fill of government consultations have until 31 March to contribute their views on the quality of policy advice, the appropriateness of planning, governance and implementation. (

As we wait for a little more certainty, our contributors consider the scenarios that are likely and how the future could, or should, be realised for creative arts.


Datastan may sound like a statistician’s dream holiday destination but Sandra Gattenhof’s (QUT) well researched article reveals that it is, in fact, a cause of much of the angst around demonstrating the real impact of the arts. Taking the same topic of research impact and engagement, Tim Cahill (The Conversation) and Julian Meyrick (Flinders) evoke a more agricultural picture as they explain how research indices can produce benefit or chaos for society depending upon how they are conceived and applied.

UK commentator Jenny Waller, draws upon her recent book Art as Extraordinary Science to consider how universities could combat their failure to ‘teach’ innovation if they just listened to their arts teachers.

Vice Chancellor, Warren Bebbington (Adelaide) one of few creative arts academics to attain the university’s highest leadership position, contrasts his own circumstances as a graduating music student with the situation for current arts graduates as he suggests an integrated and shared model for arts education.

Laurene Vaughan (RMIT) turns to the question of how designers can captialise upon the interdisciplinary demands for creativity to ensure that graduates can change and lead future direction.

Sean Lowry’s (VCA, Melbourne) account of Project Anywhere offers a new ‘dissemination’ pathway for creative arts that combines the exhibition and peer review setting suggesting a way forward for research in the art form.

Considering the Australian Government’s history of research evaluation, Datastan may be a location that we will all be visiting this year.

Sandra, Jenny and Laurene have drawn upon their recent books as part of their contributions. Full details for those who wish to learn more are provided in this edition’s news.

More from this issue

More from this issue

Call for Artists Closes: 3 July 2017Event: 19 – 23 February 2018Event Location: Brisbane, AustraliaWebsite: Link | Link APAM is Australia’s leading internationally focused industry event for contemporary performing arts – with a key focus on increasing international and national touring outcomes and business development opportunities for the sector. The event, which will be held in Brisbane in […]

By Professor Su Baker, President, Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts — With a quick scan of the status of higher arts education around the country, and indeed the world, we see some hopeful signs and many looming dangers and this allows for flights of fancy and doses of reality.
By Professor Laurene Vaughan — For some time now I have been focused on a series of questions about the future of the university and what value it brings to the world now and for the future.

Project Anywhere was conceived as one possible response to these distinct yet interrelated challenges. Project Anywhere is a global exhibition model in which the role of curator is replaced with the type of peer review model typically endorsed by a refereed journal

In their narratives of art education, Pevsner (1940) and Goldstein (1996) trace a complex history from the medieval guilds to the 20th Century art schools. This narrative is separate from that of mainstream education, since art schools are independent institutions answerable only to themselves.

When I first enrolled at university to study music, I never doubted for a moment I would find a career when I finished. It was the halcyon days of the late 1960s, there was full employment in most parts of Australia, and an expanding appetite for the arts, fuelled as arts councils and arts centres came into being. I wanted to teach music, and with a rapidly expanding schools system crying out for teachers of any subject, recruiting even those had not graduated, professional employment in my field was a certainty.

Within the increasingly neo-liberalist world there is an obsession with numerical data to enable governments, businesses, NGOs and learning institutions to tell a story about value and impact of spending monies, both public and private. Such data is converted into easily communicated percentages, budget lines or graphs to demonstrate return on investment (ROI). Goldbard (2015) refers to this practice as ‘Datastan XE "Datastan"

...when government funding has been used to found a cloistered institution, as in the case of academic research, and this is overlaid with a thick coating of market logic, at some point someone will ask, ‘what are you actually doing over there?’