ANU plans arts cuts, one admin for Art and Design and Music

Ian Bushnell 23 November 2020 19
School of Art and Design

Clouds over the ANU School of Art and Design. Photo: Supplied.

The ANU has proposed major cuts to the arts and revisited plans for a single administration to run the School of Art and Design and School of Music.

It plans to wind back the Gallery, close the Furniture, Jewellery and Object Workshops and merge the world-class Glass Workshop with Ceramics, cuts that one prominent artist says will have a devastating impact on Canberra’s arts sector and the students currently enrolled.

The Animation and Video major is also considered to be too costly and will need to go.

The proposals are included in the Managing Change Document in response to the ANU Recovery Plan adopted to deal with the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ANU needs to save $103 million a year to 2023 and lose hundreds of positions.


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It says that despite eight years of reform, the School of Art and Design’s position is unsustainable, operating with an annual operating budget deficit of $2 million, which would be bigger but for a direct subsidy from the University of over $1 million a year.

And after years of tumult and upheaval at the School of Music, the ANU has gone back to the 2012 external review that started it all to propose the merger of the two Schools administrations.

It proposes a joint administration group and two management teams focusing on Operations and Technical support.

The document says all current administrative positions will be reviewed and revised, and a combination of newly created and combined roles will be required in areas such as marketing, event coordination, impact and engagement to ensure that the specialised functions of the Research School are maintained and prosper.

The move to a single administration for the two Schools would mean a net loss of three positions and the direct transfer of 29 positions.

The School of Art and Design reorganisation will mean the axing of some positions and the creation of some new ones, a revamp of technical support and changes in work practices.

It will result in the net loss of five positions and the direct transfer of 31 academic staff positions.

The document says the Furniture, Jewellery and Object Workshops operate in a heritage building where larger student loads are not possible and the small classes can no longer justify the cost of salaries, maintenance and consumables.

It acknowledges the reputation of the Glass workshop but the available infrastructure and WHS compliance restricts the ability to grow student numbers, which have consistently been low.

The merger would support ”a more broadly-based cross-disciplinary teaching and learning model in the School”.


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The School’s Gallery has for years been used for exhibition and to showcase student work, and has had a strong relationship with the Canberra community.

”However, at a time of severe financial constraint and changing emphasis on external communication via social media and online, the activities of the Gallery have been scaled back and resources redistributed into digital communication,” the document says.

The ANU says job losses will be achieved through natural attrition, permanent transfer, redeployment, voluntary conversion to part-time work, fixed-term pre-retirement agreements, or voluntary separation.


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19 Responses to ANU plans arts cuts, one admin for Art and Design and Music
Amanda Biggs Amanda Biggs 1:38 pm 26 Nov 20

Very disappointing. This will be devastating.

Rauny Worm Rauny Worm 7:21 am 25 Nov 20

There will sadly be a negative flow-on effect for the entire creative sector , and not just in Canberra.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 8:45 pm 24 Nov 20

Following on, in a sense, from Kim Johnston’s comment last night about this presenting an opportunity for CIT, it might also be a case for the ACT Government to look at some sort of funding arrangement with the ANU for these areas of study.

As we look for opportunities to diversify the ACT economy away from its reliance on the bureaucracy, and consider opportunities to position the ACT as a tourist and lifestyle destination for people with deep pockets, a reputation as a place which creates beautiful, stylish things would be very useful.

There’s probably also some broader issues here about having a serious look at the current relevance (if any) of the managerialist attitudes which were at the heart of the Dawkins “reforms”.

    llewellyn llewellyn 11:10 am 25 Nov 20

    No. There are reasonable grounds to believe the ANU cannot be trusted to disburse such external funding in this way. The ANU already gets around $200 million per annum in National Institute Funding, and the School of Music and the School of Art were previously the National Institute of the Arts because they fell under the same scheme. Now, however, the way the ANU disburses that money internally is, to say the least, opaque (check out their latest Annual Report). The decision not to fund Art and Music properly is at root one based in a policy decision from Senior Management, not a financial necessity.

kate11 kate11 11:18 am 24 Nov 20

Unfortunately this is a continuation of what was happening over a decade ago when I was at art school.
Art school doesn’t fit with current university system because art doesn’t attract international students and it doesn’t work as an online course. Need long hours in the studio to learn art. Would be better as part of a technical college – if only we had good CIT and TAFE funding!!

Issy Turner Issy Turner 11:37 pm 23 Nov 20

Can Schmidt just admit he hates the arts already

Adam Bowler Adam Bowler 9:54 pm 23 Nov 20

Something stinks at the ANU... and (for once) its not Sullivan’s Creek...

Petra Odden Rickman Petra Odden Rickman 9:49 pm 23 Nov 20

Not just Art, the whole of ANU is going through a restructure, more plans coming this week 😞

Aloisia Cudmore Aloisia Cudmore 8:58 pm 23 Nov 20

The video and animation major is a huge investment opportunity for the school of art and design. The current transition to online art exhibitions has only highlighted the need for video makers and animators in our constantly changing world. The big money that is made out of art school is hugely in technological based industries - video and animation is one of these. What a sad change to push the ANU School of Art and design backwards in the art world while other major institutions are valuing innovation.

It’s a sad future for not just the current students at the anu school of art and design, but for the overarching Canberra community and the Australian arts sector. We need to stop cutting the arts as the first option.

Sarah Warren Sarah Warren 8:53 pm 23 Nov 20

Disappointing. Arts are so important to lifting everyday life.

Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 8:41 pm 23 Nov 20

A nation's capital that can't afford a fully fledged art school? Says everything that needs to be said about Morrison's Australia.

Here's your chance CIT to set up brilliant art courses.

    Kurt Halbauer Kurt Halbauer 9:42 pm 23 Nov 20

    Blaming Morrison is such a misguided political pot shot. The articles says ANU have been working on reform since 2012. This means systemic issues in how the Arts department (and Music) have been around under governments from both parties. Neither side of politics could fix it. Perhaps there is more to be said of how the ANU is run (considering Music cuts began in 2011) 🙄

    Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 9:57 pm 23 Nov 20

    Kurt the comment re Morrison refers to the changes to tertiary fees, directing students to assumed relevant degree programs. The cost per student is now so high, with unis blindly following neoliberal principles, the visual & creative arts don't stand a chance. I'm looking forward to CIT doing it better with ACT govt support.

    Kurt Halbauer Kurt Halbauer 9:59 pm 23 Nov 20

    Kim the issues at ANU predate recent tertiary changes by around a decade. But please, make a political blame game out of this 🙄

    Kim Johnston Kim Johnston 10:02 pm 23 Nov 20

    Given that for the last decade, eight years of which have been under conservative govts who determine national tertiary policies and funding, I'm not quite sure who else might be responsible. So perhaps i should have said, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison. Sorry.

    Peter Tregear Peter Tregear 11:14 am 25 Nov 20

    Yes, it does say something about the current government's national priorities, but it also says something about the University's too. Yes, internal reform has been necessary, but there has never (in my view) been a clear sense of what the ANU really wanted these Schools to be, aside from cheap to run and industrially pliable. The lack of any clear vision for the arts as a legitimate part of a great university's sphere of intellectual and civic-building activity is something that comes from within the ANU as much as it does from without.

Hans Dimpel Hans Dimpel 7:25 pm 23 Nov 20

There is something wrong with the system when they have to cut funding even though other countries provide almost free uni. Where is all the money going?

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 7:06 pm 23 Nov 20

Of course they will. Overseas students don't come to study the arts.

Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 6:34 pm 23 Nov 20

Arts is always the first to go 😥

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