NiTRO + Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

2020 at Queensland University of Technology

The QUT School of Creative Practice offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with majors in Acting, Dance, Drama, Technical Production, Music, Animation, Film and Screen, Creative Writing and Visual Arts. As a school that had previously taught only face-to-face, the last 12 months presented many challenges.

By Professor Damian Candusso  

The QUT School of Creative Practice offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with majors in Acting, Dance, Drama, Technical Production, Music, Animation, Film and Screen, Creative Writing and Visual Arts. As a school that had previously taught only face-to-face, the last 12 months presented many challenges. The impact of COVID-19 has meant that as a school we need to carefully consider changes with a view to securing the future of our programs; especially drawing upon the way some of our alumni created new opportunities as they moved to use digital platforms to reach new audiences, or transformed their businesses.

The Faculty of Creative Industries has merged with the Education and Justice Faculties; however, academic staff see this as a positive reposition

With many other universities experiencing rapid changes to courses and personnel, we have fared very well by comparison. The Faculty of Creative Industries has merged with the Education and Justice Faculties; however, academic staff see this as a positive reposition. We have research strengths in Community and Social Impact and Engagement, and we are expanding our Double degrees offerings, making this a logical merger.

COVID-19 has also provided an opportunity for staff to lead in innovative digital teaching … highlighted by many of our ECR staff across our performance areas

The school is now reconsidering its identity and how to position ourselves for the future of the arts, performing arts and creative industries. Our priority will be to shape students for an evolving future and a greater diversity of job opportunities. As an example, our Dance, Acting, Drama and Technical Production majors are being enhanced to include additional elements, as the focus shifts from the proscenium to digital technologies and virtualisation.

COVID-19 has also provided an opportunity for staff to lead in innovative digital teaching. This was highlighted by many of our ECR staff across our performance areas excelling in this space. In addition, staff demonstrated great strength in compassion for their students. All staff (academic and professional) have been incredible in adapting to what feels like constant change, and this has brought the school closer together.


Professor Damian Candusso is Head of QUT’s School of Creative Practice. He provides a unique nexus between academic leadership, research, and professional industry engagement. He has been awarded at both national and international levels and was the first Australian to serve on the Board of Directors for the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE), based in Los Angeles. Some notable screen credits include: Better Watch Out, The LEGO Movie, The Great Gatsby, Australia, and Happy Feet.

More from this issue

More from this issue

By Dr Jenny Wilson — The events of 2020 have ushered in major change in the university sector and for creative arts in particular.

The most outstanding recollection of the ANU School of Art & Design (SOA&D) in 2020 was the increasing and incredible capacity of my colleagues to develop new ways to teach and make, adapting quickly to offer students truly imaginative learning experiences.

The dramatic effects on international student enrolments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are being witnessed in all our institutions. At Edith Cowan University the impact has not been felt as dramatically as in some Universities that have a greater reliance on international on-shore students as a major component of their income generation.

Here at Southern Cross University (SCU), like much of the tertiary sector, we find ourselves much changed. Being a regional institution, while SCU’s share of international students is small in comparison to larger urban universities, the loss of revenue has been commensurate with size and so has still had a profound effect.

For students and staff at Monash University, 2020 was a year of loss and learning. As for all Australian universities, the rituals of university life were reimagined in ways that previously were inconceivable.

Transforming the structure of a university in the middle of a pandemic might not be on the top of everyone’s wish-list, but this is what happened at the University of South Australia.

Like most universities across the world, ECU has been forced to adapt in the face of the many and varied challenges presented by COVID-19. Notwithstanding the impacts of such challenges, the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), when compared to other conservatoire schools across the world has fared extremely well.

Although 2020 was a difficult year, both professionally and personally for all involved, I am pleased to report that the staff and students in the School of Creative Arts at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) achieved a great deal together and we have entered 2021 stronger than ever.

When the National Art School campus closed due to COVID-19 in March 2020, students, teachers and staff were not the only ones affected. We also had to shut the doors on the public to the NAS component of NIRIN, the 22nd Biennale of Sydney.

For all the storm clouds of 2020, there was also silver to be found. Many schools around the country commented on the incredible ingenuity of teaching staff, adapting to the online delivery of programs and courses in ways never before imagined.

The ANU School of Music has been hit like much of the ANU by COVID-19. Our 2020 story was pretty similar to many other stories; finding ways to make remote learning possible; finding ways to bring our students back to campus in Semester 2; and then finding ways to make the savings envelope.

The primary impact of 2020/COVID-19 on the UQ School of Music has been increased pressure in all domains: change and adaptation in teaching, lost opportunities in research, and decreased engagement opportunities.