NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 21

In organisational and governmental debates about the primary value of the creative arts, instrumental and extrinsic criteria, including economic, social and industrial factors, are routinely employed. … However, it is necessarily the case that the most important value inherent in creative arts research is something intrinsic to that practice: that the value of creative practice research is that it is a creative practice.

While the sector has a pretty broad understanding what creative practice research is - and how its outcomes align with the ARC’s definition of research … there are still conflicting views about where the new knowledge resides, even from those doing the work … I want to explore the idea of craft - specifically as opposed to art - and problematise why people often shy away from it in a research context.

“If we cannot measure what is valuable, we will come to value what is measurable, so that passion for measurement can distort organizational efforts by prizing and overproducing what can be measured and neglecting what cannot.”

In 2017 the Deans of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences agreed to survey decision makers in creative arts disciplines about the perception that “While every other FoR has increased its average score in each of the ERA rounds … FoR19 is the only code in which the average score across the sector has decreased in each ERA round” … We turned to the ERA Outcomes data to test this, and to review how FoR19 (Studies in Creative Arts and Writing) stacks up not only against closely related disciplines but also against the very different (scientific) disciplines selected for

Within the broad definition of practice-led research, how has contemporary literature fared in terms of its categorisation, measurement and funding compared with the visual and performing arts? I interview Professor Jill Durey, previous head of English at ECU and now retired, and who has lived through the various incarnations of ERA.

Impact is something that cuts across the lives of artists both outside and inside the academy. Considerations of impact have always been core to creative artists as they have activated the power of the arts to influence people, places, practices, and politics across many diverse cultural contexts and time periods. What is far newer is a bureaucratic turn towards measuring these impacts for the sake of accountability and measuring return on public investment.

Thirty years, conventionally, represents a working life, and if that is still true, then that has been mine, so far. It also coincides with the journey of shape shifting in our current higher arts education sector that a number of us have witnessed, been subjected to and perhaps have produced, through a common ambition we have for the positive impact that arts education can deliver.

Now that the Federal election is over, we can likely expect the next ERA to be 2021, instead of some later year. While it’s an enormous amount of work for what some deem a “beauty pageant”, more infrequent ERA exercises mean having to manage a larger, more unwieldy data set. And it’s all about the data. What has been particularly exercising minds at time of writing is the opportunity to suggest changes to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC) Field of Research (FoR) Codes for the next ERA.

When NISA released their innovation report that led to the ARC developing the Engagement and Impact (E&I) framework, people were palpably nervous. Not yet another framework which already over-worked academics had to consider in their research trajectory. And yet, the roll out of E&I … suggests that the framework can actually help to articulate, capture and mobilise all the complex ways the academy is valuable to society. Especially multifaceted areas like social impact. It made visible some of the invisible work academics do.