NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

The broader global impact of the COVID pandemic

In Australia, we have not only closed national borders but intermittent interstate closures have made our physical worlds contract even further and concentrated our attention on our local communities and colleagues. As a glimmer of a post-COVID life emerges, we peek outside our Antipodean curtain to explore how others have fared.

Increased parochialism is one of the observations made of the broader global impact of the COVID pandemic [1,2].

In Australia, we have not only closed national borders but intermittent interstate closures have made our physical worlds contract even further and concentrated our attention on our local communities and colleagues. As a glimmer of a post-COVID life emerges, we peek outside our Antipodean curtain to explore how others have fared.

We are very aware that while Australia may have experienced comparatively low COVID cases, our colleagues in other countries are still battling the pandemic. Although we have all experienced the challenges brought by COVID, the situation in each country is affected particularly by other factors, and by government policy responses. We read of student hardship in the UK and wonder how this is affecting emerging artists and performers. We wonder how Brexit may impact upon future student, staff and creative arts mobility, teaching and research for our colleagues in Europe and the UK. In the US, we read media reports of drastic budget cuts in higher education and wonder what the change of administration has had on higher education and creative arts. 

In this edition of NiTRO we invited colleagues outside Australia to share their experiences of the impact of 2020:

Nathan Cohen (University of the Arts London) provides two pieces that explore the impact of 2020 COVID restrictions on his home institution and on a multi-partner ERASMUS project

Raymond MacDonald (University of Edinburgh) shares the positive outcomes that have resulted from COVID restrictions on his musical projects

Jane Davidson (Melbourne) captures the experiences of US colleagues Professor Carol Becker, Dean of the Columbia University School of the Arts, and Professor Rob Cutietta, Dean of the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California (USC)

Lucy Brown (London South Bank University) reflects upon the benefits and challenges that online connection has brought

Ciara Chambers (University College Cork) shares the successes brought about by a shift in student filmmaking due to the pandemic

Abigail Gilmore (University of Manchester) charts how social injustice and inequality has grown even as the importance of creativity and cultural democracy is revealed

Jonathan Vaughan (Guildhall School of Music and Drama) explains how the school overcame the time delay problems presented by Zoom to develop a system for online distance music performance

Antonia Collins (The Bamboo Project) traces her journey that led to the development and delivery of online stage management training programme perfectly suited to lockdown

Simon Standing (University of Plymouth) observes how the “have/ have not” dichotomy revealed by COVID restrictions has affected and will continue to affect the student community. 

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/robasghar/2021/02/06/our-leaders-once-thought-globally-the-pandemic-has-made-them-parochial/?sh=14857b1f2867

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/14/opinion/politics/coronavirus-close-borders-travel-quarantine.html

More from this issue

From both sides

Recent online interviews with Professor Carol Becker, Dean of the Columbia University School of the Arts, and Professor Rob

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More from this issue

March 2020 to March 2021 has for all of us been the most unusual year, a time when we have been immersed in a universal but highly individualised fug of dread, anxiety and increasingly bad hair.

I ran the Stage Management pathway at a traditional drama conservatoire in the UK for a number of years. Digital Education was in its early days and the general mantra was, “It does not work for us or our students – we are a practical discipline that must be taught face to face.”

As I write this article the UK is moving out of a national lockdown – again. This time, however, the Government roadmap that was announced is the attempt to return the country to some form of normality.

In Ireland and the UK, those of us who teach film theory and practice at academic institutions had to adapt quickly to assist students attempting to complete creative practice projects during 2020 and 2021. Suddenly the usual array of filmmaking opportunities was vastly reduced.

Music has a fundamental quality to help us connect with others, to satisfy and nourish our need for companionship. Its unique and universal capacity to engage and connect us, socially and emotionally in enjoyable ways, lies at the heart of why music is implicated a huge number of health-related interventions.

It’s been a year of momentous change. I started my job at London South Bank University (LSBU) during lockdown, meeting my team for the first time online in 2020, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. My day was quickly filled with back-to-back online meetings.

In the summer of 2019 an Erasmus+ bid for research into STEAM in Higher Education, coordinated by Birmingham City University, was approved. At the time, the UK was also in protracted negotiations with the European Union, the impending exit having implications for educational exchange. This would prove to be a deeper issue to resolve.

Monday 2 March 2020 turned out to be Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s last day of normal service. Hitherto there had only been five cases of COVID-19 in the UK. That morning we discovered that one of our staff had tested positive and became the sixth case.

Recent online interviews with Professor Carol Becker, Dean of the Columbia University School of the Arts, and Professor Rob Cutietta, Dean of the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California (USC), offered insights into the impact of 2020 on the tertiary arts sector on the eastern and western seaboards of the United States.

In March 2020 an announcement was broadcast that we should all stay at home and only venture out for the most essential activities. While this had been anticipated, it still came as something of a shock and heralded the start of a period in all of our lives that few might have imagined previously.