Higher Education

Ensuring good educational opportunities for visual artists is one of NAVA’s central concerns to enable artists to be well prepared to embark on and progress in their professional careers. Tertiary art schools are key to reaching this objective.


The Dawkins reforms in the early '90s saw art schools moved under the umbrella of universities and required to be more business like and set ‘performance targets’.

Levels of public funding stagnated and between 1995 and 2005 public investment in tertiary education in Australia increased by 0%.

After Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU) was introduced by the Howard government in 2006, universities were stripped of support services. In 2008, in an address to the Sir Robert Menzies Oration, the Hon Julia Gillard MP acknowledged that together with increasing student enrolment fees, the impact of this bill had diminished the quality of campus life resulting in low student satisfaction levels and a high drop-out rate.

Funding cuts to higher education have been driving program and campus closures or mergers across both the university and TAFE sector.

What's happening to Australia's art schools?

There was a time when art schools were regarded as a thrilling hotbed of experimentation, bohemianism and great new anarchic ideas. But the gradual funding squeeze and the Dawkins reforms saw them moved under the umbrella of the universities and required to be more business like and set ‘performance targets’. What has been the consequence?

School to Work Inquiry

In May 2017 the Federal Government led by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham set up an Inquiry on how students are supported from school to work.

According to the Parliamentary website: “The inquiry will look at ways to ensure students are supported from school to work by measuring gain in schools and how this contributes to supporting students for post-school education and training. The inquiry will also look at opportunities to better inform students of appropriate post-school education and training using employment outcomes as a measure of course suitability.” You can read more about this Inquiry here.

NAVA has made a submission to this inquiry available here.



K Flintoff, R Martin, A Barker, Pedagogy in Creative Disciplines, academia.edu


Lauren Carroll Harris, Are Australian universities creating good artists?, Overland, 221 Summer 2015


Rowley, J., Bennett, D., Blom, D., Dunbar-Hall, P, Exploring the Pedagogy and Impact of Technology on ePortfolio Creation for Arts Students in Australian Tertiary Study, UAE Journal of Educational Technology and eLearning, vol.5 2014,pp 36-45

Professor Noel Frankham, UTas, Attitudes and Trends in Australian Art and Design Schools, ACUADS, 2014

Vincent McGrath, UTas, Differentiate or Perish : the Future for Regional Visual and Performing Arts, ACUADS, 2014


Helen Johnson, Is the research your practice, or is the practice your research?, Un Magazine 7.1, 2013


Peter Anderson, Buckley & Conomos, Rethinking the Contemporary Art School, Real Time, Aug-Sept 2010


Sarah Miller, reform, reinvention & the education revolution, Real Time, Aug-Sept 2009

Stephen Naylor, REGIONAL ART SCHOOLS: A MODEL FOR SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS, Scope (Art & Design), 4 Nov 2009

Su Baker, Brad Buckley and Giselle Katt, Creative arts PhD: future-proofing the creative arts in higher education: scoping for quality in creative arts doctoral programs: project final report, ACUADS & UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY, 2009


Don Lebler and Erica McWilliam, Aligning Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment for building creative capacity in undergraduate students: A Case Study from the Conservatorium, paper presented at the Creating Value: Between Commerce and Commons Conference, Brisbane


On Thursday 22 September 2016, University of Melbourne’s Dean of VCA and MCM announced that VCA’s Centre for Cultural Partnerships (CCP) would be discontinued, effective as of December 31, 2016.

The CCP was Australia’s only dedicated graduate teaching and research centre for community arts and social practice.


Let SCA stay
Let SCA stay, action meeting 2016

Background (SCA):

On 21 June 2016, Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) and UNSW Art & Design announced to their students that a Heads of Agreement had been signed agreeing to close the University of Sydney's SCA campus in Rozelle and relocate all students to the UNSW Art & Design campus in Paddington from semester 1, 2017. The options offered to continuing students were they could complete their USyd degrees on the UNSW campus, or transfer their degrees to the closest equivalent under the UNSW program.

SCA has occupied the historic Kirkbride complex at Callan Park, for two decades and has extensive art-making facilities at the site, including specialist kilns and glassworks. Around 500 students use the buildings and resources. It has a very different model and set of objective to those of both UNSW Art & Design and the independent National Art School. This range of studio practices and diversity of approach is seen as highly desirable in offering a breadth of choice to those wishing to undertake tertiary studies in visual arts and design.

On 28 July 2016 University of Sydney’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence, circulated an email to all students announcing he had terminated the Heads of Agreement between the University of Sydney and UNSW concerning the future of Sydney College of the Arts and instead would be rolling SCA into the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences on the Camperdown campus. In early August a draft proposal plan was leaked which outlined:

- Jewellery, ceramics and glassmaking will be discontinued.

- 25 of the 43 FTE positions will be cut.

- There will be no BVA enrolments for 2017.

- All ongoing SCA students will be relocated to the Camperdown campus from the start of 2017.

In response, more than 130 SCA students are pursuing class action against the University of Sydney for alleged breach of consumer law.

In February 2017 it was announced that the shut down of SCA at Callan park would be delayed for two years while new plans and facilities are developed to shift the faculty to the USyd Camperdown campus. No new students were accepted to the BVA program in 2017.

For more information on the campaign, please see below.

Background (NAS):

On 24 June 2016 it was announced that the Darlinghurst gaol site, long-term home of the independent National Art School (NAS), was transferred from the NSW Department of Education to Property NSW, raising the possibility it could be put up for sale. Rumours circulated that NAS will be folded into UNSW.

On 19 July 2016, the Director of NAS, Michael Snelling publicly announced his resignation.

On 27 July 2016, NAS announced the appointment of Michael Lynch as Acting Director to defend the independence of the historic National Art School.

The appointment of Steven Alderton as director and chief executive of the National Art School was announced in January 2017.

Online Petitions and Groups:



SCAR - Sydney College of the Arts Resistance

Friends of SCA: SAVE SCA


Save Visual Arts Education at the University of Sydney - no to the closure of SCA!


Friends of the National Art School (FONAS)

NASEXIT - the National Art School should withdraw from amalgamation

In the Media:

November 2016

Joyce Morgan, National Art School head Michael Lynch calls for support, The Saturday Paper, 26 November 2016

September 2016

Sydney College of Arts Students Claim Unlawful Conduct by University Management, ArtForum, 21 September 2016

Andrew Taylor, SCA students allege unlawful conduct against University of Sydney, SMH, 20 September 2016

Michaela Boland, SCA dean Colin Rhodes steps down after student ‘lock-out’, The Australian, 15 September 2016

Lesley Munro, Students take action against Sydney University over Sydney College of the Arts closure, SMH, 14 September 2016

Eliza Barr, Sydney College of the Arts dean Colin Rhodes resigns after student backlash against campus move, staff cuts and degree changes, Inner West Courier Inner City, 14 September 2016

Liz Bradshaw, Sydney College of the Arts crisis in context, RealTime Aug-Sept 2016

James Supple, Support floods in as students occupy to save SCA, Solidarity, 9 September 2016

Julie Hare, 138 students make claim against Sydney, The Australian, 8 September 2016

Gina Fairley, An art school is not greyhound racing, ArtsHub, 5 September 2016

Week of 22 August 2016

Osman Faruqi, Australia’s Arts Community Is Getting Behind Students Who Are Occupying A Building At Sydney Uni, Junkee, 23 August 2016

Kathryn Morgan, Sydney University arts students angry over proposed program cuts barricade office, list demands, ABC News, 22 August 2016

Eliza Barr, Occupied: Sydney College of the Arts students take over Callan Park campus to protest closure and staff cuts, Inner West Courier Inner City, 22 August 2016

Week of 15 August 2016

Anthony Klan, SCA students make consumer claim against Sydney university,

The Australian, 17 August 2016

Week of 8 August 2016

Kelsey Munro, Sydney College of the Arts staff face savage cuts, SMH, 11 August 2016

Julie Hare, Jobs cuts flagged for troubled SCA, The Australian, 10 August 2016

Raven Hunan, University of Sydney flags job cuts in plan to move College of the Arts, ABC, 10 August 2016

Gina Fairley, Art school won't take new students, ArtsHub, 10 August 2016

Eliza Barr, Sydney College of the Arts staff to be cut following relocation to Sydney University main campus, Inner West Courier Inner City, 10 August 2016

Tom Joyner, More than 130 students take on Sydney University for alleged breach of consumer law, HoniSoit, 9 August 2016

Outcry Grows as Sydney University Considers Shutting Down Its Art School, ArtForum, 8 August 2016

Week of 1 August 2016

Andrew Taylor, Sydney University angers top end of town with plan to close art school at Callan Park, SMH, 3 August 2016

Matthew Westwood, Artists ‘punished’ for boycott, The Australian, 2 August 2016

Call for independent review of Sydney College of the Arts, SMH, 2 August 2016

Alexi Polden, The privatisation by stealth of Sydney University, HoniSoit, 1 August 2016

Week of 25 July 2016

Gina Fairley, Breaking news: Art school merger is off, ArtsHub, 28 July 2016

Andrew Taylor, University of Sydney terminates art school merger with University of NSW, SMH, 28 July 2016

Gina Fairley, NAS remains in fighting hands, ArtsHub, 28 July 2016

Andrew Taylor, National Art School appoints Michael Lynch to defend institution against merger, SMH, 27 July 2016

Australian artists and students speak out against closure of fine arts college, World Socialist Web Site, 26 July 2016

Elizabeth Colman and Tony Bosworth, Quilty slams arts decision, Inner West Courier - Inner City Edition, 26 July 2016

Week of 18 July 2016

Damien Murphy, Sydney's tertiary art institutions merged: National Art School at Darlinghurst and Sydney College of Arts at Paddington move to UNSW, SMH, 23 July 2016

Joyce Morgan, Grim picture for visual artists and Sydney art colleges, The Saturday Paper, 23 July 2016

Andrew Taylor, NSW government offers no guarantee for the future of the National Art School, SMH, 20 July 2016

Andrew Taylor, National Art School's future in further doubt following departure of director Michael Snelling, SMH, 19 July 2016

Gina Fairley, Shock resignation leaves art school rudderless, ArtsHub, 19 July 2016

Week of 11 July 2016

Eden Faithfull, Let SCA Stay movement stages performance art protest outside Archibald Prize ceremony, Honi Soit, 16 July 2016

Michaela Boland, Suhanya Raffel set to become M+ Museum director in Hong Kong, The Australian, 16 July 2016

Gina Fairley, Protests exploit Archibald Prize announcement, ArtsHub, 15 July 2016

Anthony Albanese joins rally to keep Sydney art college, Nine News, 15 July 2016

Students protest schools' merger at Art Gallery of NSW ahead of Archibald announcement, ABC News, 15 July 2016

Archibald winner highlights tough times, SBS News, 15 July 2016

David takes on Goliath in Sydney Uni battle, ArtsHub, 12 July 2016

Update 6 July 2016

NAVA has called for the University of Sydney to continue to support the Sydney College of the Arts in a letter written to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sydney and copied to the VC of the University of NSW and the heads of the two art schools. NAVA is taking a delegation of art sector representatives to meet with the Acting Vice Chancellor and Provost Stephen Garton on Friday 8th July. NAVA had also written a similar letter to the Fellows of the University of Sydney Senate on behalf of the Australian visual arts sector to express our very great concern over the proposed ‘merger’ between Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) and University of New South Wales Art and Design (UNSW A&D). Read the full letter here.

Week of 4 July 2016

Jim McIlroy, Students rally to save the Sydney College of the Arts, Green Left weekly, 9 July 2016

Stephen Garton's response to SCAR's open letter, 8 July 2016

Ross Woodrow, The Director’s Palette, Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research July Bulletin

Laura McLean, On the threatened closure of Sydney College of the Arts, Runway, 7 July 2016

Elizabeth Fortescue, Students clash with police over Sydney University and University of NSW’s art campus closure plans, Daily Telegraph, 6 July 2016

Eryk Bagshaw, SCA: Sixty students to take on University of Sydney, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 July 2016

Andrew Bell, 300 students protest SCA closure at USyd Senate meeting, Honi Soit, 4 July 2016

Week of 27 June 2016

Elizabeth Farrelly, We're starving our culture with cut after cut, SMH, 1 July 2016

Gina Fairley, Fact Check: Are our art schools closing?, ArtsHub, 30 June 2016

Max Hall and Subeta Vimalarajah, Provost commits to student consultation group to oversee SCA negotiations, Honi Soit, 30 June 2016

Su Baker, Why the University of Sydney art school sale is wrong, The Australian, 29 June 2016

Alexandros Tsathas and Victoria Zerbst, University management face angry staff and students over proposed SCA ‘merger’, Honi Soit, 29 June 2016

Andrew Taylor, 'No friend of the arts': University of Sydney slammed by associate professor for closing art school, SMH, 28 June 2016

Andrew Taylor, National Art School head Michael Snelling says merger with UNSW 'on the cards', SMH, 28 June 2016

Week of 20 June 2016

Rachel Evans, Battle to Save Sydney University's College of the Arts, Green Left Weekly, 24 June 2016

Question from Mr Alexander Hart Greenwich MP to the Deputy Premier, Minister for Justice and Police, Minister for the Arts, and Minister for Racing, NSW Parliament

Anna Frey Taylor, Arts news: Sydney art schools to merge, ABC Radio National Books and Arts, 23 June 2016

Lisa Visentin, Emily Smith, Sydney University art school merger with UNSW sparks outrage among students, SMH, 21 June 2016

Deborah FitzGerald, The Sydney College of Arts based at Rozelle will cease to exist after University of Sydney and University of NSW agree on merger, Inner West Courier Inner City, 21 June 2016

Alexandros Tsathas and Sam Langford, Wheels in motion for SCA merger with UNSW, Honi Soit, 21 June 2016

Gina Fairley, Two Sydney art schools set to merge, ArtsHub, 21 June 2016

November 2015

Andrew Taylor, Sydney University abandons art school at Callan Park, SMH, 24 November 2015

Deborah FitzGerald and Eliza Barr, Sydney College of the Arts expected to vacate Callan Park site in radical overhaul, Inner West Courier Inner City, 24 November 2015

October 2015

Andrew Taylor, Mergers not ruled out as Sydney's art schools 'explore opportunities for a closer association', SMH, 8 October 2015

May 2015

Clarissa Bye, Controversial plan to move National Art School to the western suburbs, Parramatta Advertiser, 25 May 2015

Eliza Barr, College of the Arts denies plans to vacate Callan Park site, Inner West Courier Inner City, 21 May 2015

SCA Archibald Prize Protest 1

SCA protest outside Archibald Prize 2016, with Barry Keldoulis

SCA Archibald Prize Protest 2

SCA protest outside Archibald Prize 2016, with artist and SCA graduate Tim Silver

SCA Archibald Prize Protest 3

SCA protest outside Archibald Prize 2016, with Anthony Albanese MP, Federal Member for Grayndler

SCA Archibald Prize Protest 4

SCA protest outside Archibald Prize 2016, with artist and SCA graduate Agatha Gothe-Snape


VET Fee-Help

Art education being crushed!

NAVA wrote an open letter to the Education Minister, Simon Birmingham in response to media reports that the majority of arts courses would be denied subsidy as part of the proposed major overhaul to the government's VET FEE-HELP Scheme, 26th August 2016. When this was officially confirmed, NAVA made a submission to the Education Minister regarding the proposed changes in late October 2016.

In November, NAVA took a delegation to Canberra to meet with the Minister and his adviser, the Arts Minister's adviser, Shadow Education Minister and the Australian Greens arts representative. We made the case for reinstating most art courses to be eligible for the renamed VET Student Loan Scheme. The delegation consisted of NAVA, members of the National Advocates for Arts Education (NAAE) and a highly reputable independent RTA. We were advised that the next opportunity for reconsideration would be mid-2017.

NAVA letter to Minister Birmingham re: proposed VET loans changes, 26 August 2016

NAVA submission to the Education Minister re: changes to the VET Student Loan scheme, 27 October 2016

Save Art in TAFE
Save Art in TAFE rally, 2012

Cuts to government funding subsidy for arts courses in TAFEs started in 2012 causing a dramatic drop in enrolments and as a result, a the severe contraction of courses and staff around the country, the worst affected states being Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

In September 2012, the NSW government announced that it would stop subsidising art education in TAFE, leaving 4,000 students without access to finishing their courses in 2013, unless they could pay fees of around $6000 to $8000 per year.

A Senate Inquiry into the role of TAFE and its operations was called in early 2013 in response to cuts made to the subsidy of courses in the TAFE sector in several states.

NAVA made a submission to this inquiry.

In the news


Arts sector puzzled by vocational course cuts, The Wire, 21 October 2016

Richard Watts, Arts education cuts leave sector fuming, ArtsHub, 18 October 2016

Osman Faruqi, The Federal Government Has Wiped Out Vocational Arts Education In Australia, Junkee, 12 October 2016

TAFE NSW overhaul will include job losses, unclear how many, Minister says, ABC News, 13 September 2016

Matthew Knott, We will smash business model: Simon Birmingham outlines private college crackdown, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 August 2016

Richard Watts, Student loans cut to creative courses, ArtsHub, 10 October 2016

Arts training threatened in vocational loans review, ArtsHub, 29 August 2016


Kirsty Needham, TAFE to sell off 27 sites, close regional campuses, SMH, 13 September 2015

Matthew Knott, TAFE shake-up: federal government pushes for vocational education takeover, SMH, 11 September 2015


Jordyn Butler, Where RMIT stands in TAFE funding dilemma, Catalyst, 10 April 2014

Megan Gorrey, Arts course attracts big influx of students, Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser, 11 February 2014

Peter Wicks, No warning: NSW Government leaves TAFE students stranded, Independent Australia, 7 February 2014

Monique Cowper, Job cuts feared at Hornsby TAFE after fine art department axed, Hornsby Advocate, 6 February 2014

Matthew Knott, NSW deals blow to Christopher Pyne's push for school independence, SMH, 5 February 2014
Tracey Findlay, TAFE students left in the lurch after art schools closed at Northern Sydney Institute, Hornsby Advocate, 4 February 2014


Linda Swinfield, TAFE cuts come at a personal cost, ArtsHub, 12 April 2013
Anna Patty, Call to reinstate fine arts funding at TAFE, SMH, 19 March 2013


Tim Crankanthorp, OPINION: Fine Arts deserves fairer deal, Newcastle Herald, 8 November 2012

Katherine Danks, TAFE students revolt over cuts to funding, news.com.au, 4 November 2012

Tamara Winikoff, Politics damaging arts training opportunities, ArtsHub, 16 October 2012

Andrea Hull, TAFE cuts damaging arts careers, ArtsHub, 27 September 2012

Brendan Sheehan, TAFE cuts will affect everyone: state governments should think again, The Conversation, 20 September 2012

Phillip Hudson, Prime Minister Julia Gillard slams Baillieu Government for cutting TAFE funding in Victoria, Herald Sun, 24 August 2012

Rachael Lucas and Jenni Henderson, East Gippsland arts community brace for TAFE cuts, ABC Gippsland, 1 August 2012

Geoff Strong, TAFE cuts the end of the road for Ballarat arts school, The Age, 25 May 2012