NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Welcome from the President: A year of transition

For many, 2022 has been a year of transition. Whether moving into new roles or university structures, new (or extended) forms of teaching and learning, different research and research training landscapes, not to mention refreshed national governance and priorities, many of our DDCA members will remember 2022 as the year where changes brought about by COVID-19 started to settle in.

By Craig Batty

For many, 2022 has been a year of transition. Whether moving into new roles or university structures, new (or extended) forms of teaching and learning, different research and research training landscapes, not to mention refreshed national governance and priorities, many of our DDCA members will remember 2022 as the year where changes brought about by COVID-19 started to settle in. While some of this might be experienced as negative – at least at this stage of the changes settling in – some of it is undoubtedly positive. 

For a start, the election of a new national Government has brought about a great deal of optimism for the creative arts sector, and the new National Cultural Policy has certainly lifted the spirits of those working in Higher Education. Consultation for this new national policy reached far and wide, from industry to community to education, and the DDCA worked with partners the Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (DASSH) and the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) to provide a collective submission, which can be found here

We also partnered with the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Researchers and Centres (ACHRC) on two seminars: one on Creative Research in the Academy as a ‘Wicked’ Problem; and one on what a data-driven future of non-traditional research output (NTRO) assessment might look like. The first of these seminars attracted over 120 delegates (online), and the rich discussions that took place signal that there is still some way to go to gain national consensus and consistency in how NTROs are recognised and assessed within universities and across the sector. The new Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) model is currently under development, likely for a 2025 roll-out, and the DDCA is actively involved in having a voice at the table.

This week we made our submission to the review of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Act 2001, a national consultation that is currently underway. This has been undertaken in collaboration with two of our peak body members, ACUADS and the AAWP. Again, we feel there is a real chance here for the DDCA to help shape the future of the ARC, which includes aspects such as research funding, ERA, and sector leadership and succession planning.

The future of the DDCA

In the spirit of reflection and transition, earlier this year Executive Board members voted in favour of undertaking a review of the DDCA, with a view to developing a new strategy. So much has changed since the DDCA was launched in 2013, across the sector, the country, and internationally. Dr Diana Newport-Peace from Outside Opinion has been working with us on this review, which has included an environmental scan of the sector and peak bodies like the DDCA; interviews with DDCA Executive Board members and other associates; and a vision and strategy workshop that took place at the end of November.

The strategy workshop was open, honest, lively and future-focussed. It was really great to see people reflect not only on DDCA’s successes over the past decade, but also areas where traction had not quite been made, or where new opportunities for advocacy, leadership and recognition might reside.

NiTRO stands out as the DDCA’s proudest achievement, as a vibrant platform for sharing opinions and showcasing good practice across the creative arts tertiary sector. The importance of NiTRO as an accessible forum for first-time academic writers was highlighted. The DDCA is also proud to have been instrumental in driving policy change. Through our strong relationship with the ARC and a responsive approach to issues, we have significantly advanced the profile and assessment of creative research and non-traditional research outputs – noting that there is still some way to go. Through a period of sustained turbulence for the sector, the DDCA has also successfully fostered collegiality and collaboration among creative practice academics and leadership. Significantly, with many of DDCA’s leaders (formal and informal) approaching retirement, we need to act now to ensure succession plans are in place.  

Over the coming months, a refreshed vision for the DDCA will be developed, along with a strategy and implementation plan, setting the agenda for how the organisation will operate – including for and with whom – over the next five years. It is an exciting time to be doing this work, and we will keep you updated on progress.

Thank you

Finally, some special thanks need to be made. First, to Executive Board members who stepped down at the recent AGM: in particular, Professor Su Baker one of the DDCA’s founders who has steered us to where we are today. Also, thank you to two-year co-opted member, Professor Dennis Del Favero, for spending time with us. We are grateful that you accepted our offer to join us for this critical period. Sincere gratitude goes to you both. 

And … to Dr Jenny Wilson, who will be stepping down as editor of NiTRO after this edition to enjoy (partial) retirement. I think everyone will agree that the DDCA would not be what it is today without Jenny. Her unmatched knowledge, strategy, passion, and all-round kindness has been a hallmark of the DDCA since its inception. Thank you, Jenny, for all the quite frankly amazing work you have done for the DDCA, and congratulations on this next stage of your life. You deserve every moment.

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