NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Plus ca change Plus c’est la même chose?

By Dr Jenny Wilson — “Change” is defined as the act of transforming or making something different from what would have been if left alone. In academia we are in a constant state of change. Things are always transforming – small wins here, steps back there – like a giant snakes and ladders board that can mask the bigger longitudinal picture.

NiTRO reader and colleague Peter Anderson recently sent me an article that he published when the Strand Inquiry into Research in Creative Arts was in its early stages [1]. In it he raises issues that still resonate today – how the Australia Council distinguishes between artists inside and outside academia and the diminished recognition between traditional scholarly publications and those in creative arts formats (Category J  in the old Research Quantum days). His call for “greater consideration” of “the interaction between the various spheres of activity within the artworld … the university, the public art space and the commercial gallery” reflects a balance that we are still striving to achieve.

In 1996 he noted that:

“ … there does not seem to be a great deal of research available that examines the activities of artists employed as academics, and within the general research on artists incomes and employment circumstances … the artist as academic seems to disappear, with little account being taken of the very different career structure and economic foundation …”

Nearly 25 years later, there is still little visibility or understanding about artists employed in tertiary education.

As we cautiously “celebrate” greater recognition and reflection of creative arts disciplines promised by the recent ANZSRC review[2], this reminder has prompted me to ask just how far have we REALLY come since Strand was in its early investigative stages? With a paucity of evidence and analysis, do we really know what we have gained through the myriad of past changes?

In this edition of NiTRO, our contributors consider “change” from a variety of angles:

Lizzie Muller (UNSW) argues the corrosive effect of “disappearing” arts in government visibility prompts a change in cultural leadership style

Steven Alderton (National Art School) traces NAS history to highlight the major changes to the institution, and art education, that have occurred

Paul Gough, formerly RMIT now recently appointed VC of the Arts University Bournemouth UK, considers the changing perspectives of the studio as he compares the Australian and UK

Julia Prendergast (AAWP and Swinburne) and Craig Batty (UTS) discuss the changes that continue to affect AAWP

Tim Cahill, MD of Research Strategies Australia and a regular contributor to DDCA, predicts some of the transformations to research in Australia’s higher education sector

James Oliver (RMIT) analyses the nature and conditions required for change as he asks whether universities can really engage with these needs

Herman van Eyken (Griffith Film School), hot off the plane from the European Film Schools meeting, shares current global thinking on artistic research and film practice.

For many Australians, Climate Change has dramatically intervened in their day to day lives as they recover from the impacts of bushfire and flooding. Kim Cunio (ANU) and Paul Dalgarno (Melbourne) highlight how tertiary artists and their institutions have responded to these recent tragedies.


[1] Anderson, P.  (1996) ‘A New Art Academy?’ Eyeline 31 QUT.

[2] DDCA submissions to this review are available at:

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Associate Professor Lizzie Muller — It will be “business as usual” for arts policy and funding, said Paul Fletcher[1] Federal Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, commenting on the disappearance of the word “arts” from the title of his government department. A statement that anyone interested in the quality of life in Australia should not find reassuring.
By Associate Professor Kim Cunio — In Canberra no-one is saying Happy New Year. It is not that we have lost our manners but that it seems somehow immoral to talk so lightly when we have been encircled by the suffering of others in a never ending Summer of bushfire. There was more.
by Professor Herman Van Eyken — In the Scandinavian countries, Artistic Research is often defined as the creation of an original work of art in combination with a critical reflection on the process of creation, and publication is when the art work meets an audience and the critical reflection is disseminated to the broader community of artists in the field.
Dr Julia Prendergast and Professor Craig Batty — We are thrilled to contribute to this NiTRO edition focusing the theme of Change. In this article we consider the theme as it relates to the activities of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), the peak academic body representing the discipline of creative and professional writing in Australasia.
By Dr Tim Cahill — It is accepted that Australian universities run research at a loss, with research cross-subsidised from student fees. Across the sector this results in around a $4.1b difference between research revenue and research expenditure, or about 42 per cent of research which is funded from non-research revenue.[1]
By Steven Alderton — In 2022, the National Art School in Sydney will celebrate 100 years on the site of the former Darlinghurst Gaol, where the tall, convict-built stone walls date from 1822 and the first prisoners arrived in 1841.
By Paul Dalgarno — Artists and art lovers flocked to the Art Schools for Fire Relief opening night at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery on 30 January, 2019. More than $100,000 has been raised for Wildlife Victoria and the Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund in an art exhibition hosted by the Victorian College of the Arts at the Margaret Lawrence Gallery.
By Professor Paul Gough — I’m back in the UK, back here after a really memorable and innovative time at RMIT University; six deeply enjoyable and action-filled years as head of a college crammed with all the creative industries including the oldest School of Art in Australia, with its exquisite studio-based activities in gold and silversmithing, and innovative research and galleries that stand comparison with anything on the global stage.