NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Looking sideways to look forward

Welcome to Edition 39 of NiTRO, the last edition for 2021. Following on from our successful virtual forum in conjunction with the Australian Council for University Art & Design Schools on the 28th and 29th October, we take this opportunity to reflect on day one in which we compared our COVID-19 affected two years with that of the UK.

By Professor Clive Barstow

Welcome to Edition 39 of NiTRO, the last edition for 2021. Following on from our successful virtual forum in conjunction with the Australian Council for University Art & Design Schools on the 28th and 29th October, we take this opportunity to reflect on day one in which we compared our COVID-19 affected two years with that of the UK. While the forum took on a somewhat UK-centric focus, it is important to remember that while the UK responded to the pandemic in a very different way than here, its political context almost mirrors that of Australia, and so offering valuable insights on how to tread a path forward in a post pandemic new normal.  

At our previous bi-annual conference in late 2019, we met in person at the VCA and talked about the pressing issues at the time, teaching and research. We hugged and kissed, shook hands, coughed and sneezed without guilt or fear, shared stories and fed off the energy in the room to help drive the DDCA’s direction for the next two years. 

Eight weeks later the world changed for all of us. I don’t need to go into the history of what happened because we have unfortunately lived this history too well, however I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all our members, academics, students, and artists everywhere here in Australia for your commitment to keeping our very special form of education alive when everything seemed to be against us. 

With this as our backdrop to the forum, Professor David McGravie, University of Derby and Vice Chair of CHEAD, gave a generous and detailed account of how the UK responded to the pandemic and offered several positive outcomes for the arts sector as the UK rethinks its strategies in a post pandemic and post Brexit world. The session was followed by presentations by Liz Hutchinson (SHAPE UK) and Lee Hornsby (Creative Industries Federation UK) who presented a broader context as to how the creative industries have positioned themselves within industrial, economic and socio-political domains. What was made clear through these presentations is the need for a single peak body in Australia to advocate for the arts, for a deeper involvement and recognition with government and industry, and for a re-branding of our sector to lift the perception of the arts beyond simply entertainment, to an equal status and importance to the sciences.  

The forum raised a range of issues, such as:

  • How will arts education and research look with the loss of so many courses and seasoned and experienced academics across the sector, how do we survive our own institutions?

  • How are school and faculty restructures and financial rationalisations affecting our ability to deliver world class teaching and research in the arts?

  • International students: how do we recover them and what do we have to offer them in terms of a resetting of value education in the arts?

  • Research: missing outputs due to closures of our venues. Will this give Universities the lever to move creative practice to a teaching only discipline, or worse, to move the arts out of the university completely?

  • Our health and wellbeing, what is the toll on ourselves as a result of our generosity of spirit toward others. How do we look after each other through these tough times? 

And there are positives to look forward to:  

  • 20 years’ technology development in 18 months. On-line delivery (can we supplement studio teaching by creating international networks), what have we learned from remote delivery and the advances in technologies?

  • Hybrid working, rethinking models of academic delivery

  • How do we increase indigenous knowledge and the representation of Aboriginal artists, academics and leaders in our discussions?

  • Year 12s coming into HE:  Gen Zee, who according to the predictions, will be more environmentally conscious, resilient and thankful of their F2F education following COVID lockdowns.

As this is my final year as president of the DDCA, I have been privileged to have been able to offer leadership and to represent the most amazing membership one could imagine through what has clearly been unprecedented and turbulent times. I want to thank everyone for your support and encouragement and particularly the executive of the DDCA who have worked tirelessly to serve the sector with professionalism and care.


Useful links

Times Higher ED, UK arts & humanities funding post pandemic.


Creative Industries Federation UK


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