Last Thursday, the University of Sydney’s (USYD) vice-chancellor, Michael Spence has announced the termination of the merge between Sydney College of Arts (SCA) and the University of NSW.
The merge was proposed less than a month ago and secretly signed between USYD and UNSW in June without the consultation of students. However, the students recently received an email from Spence. He stated that the two institutions ultimately had different definitions of what a “centre of excellence in visual arts” meant. Apparently, the original intention had “always been…not to proceed…unless we were clear that the vision…would benefit both the University and visual arts teaching and research.”
According to Fairfax Media, the agreement only allowed students to continue studies at UNSW Art and Design as well as the transition of some staff to UNSW. But one industry source questioned the move, saying “If [UNSW’s contemporary fine arts curriculum] was inadequate from Sydney’s point of view, why did it not include these issues in the Heads of Agreement?”
Several influential people have also expressed their discontent. Greens MP Jamie Parker had no faith in the merge from the outset: “If the University [of Sydney] had properly consulted staff and students, they would have discovered the incompatibility of the art practices at the two schools.” Neither did he believe that UNSW had adjusted their syllabus to align with SCA’s studio-based learning or had sufficient space for the new students.
Sally Breen, a well-known art collector and sponsor, told Fairfax Media that she would be “far more swayed into putting money into art schools”. When SCA was threatened, she no longer pledged money to the Art Gallery of NSW’s (AGNSW) Sydney Modern building project. To protest the planned closure, students alumni and supporters had also gathered on the steps of AGNSW. The rally coincided with the award of the Archibald Prize to highlight the social importance of art.
Although the merge has been terminated at present, Spence still states that talks of a merge with UNSW’s Art and Design may continue. Additionally, the future remains uncertain due to the planned movement of SCA students to the main Camperdown campus from the beginning of 2017. SCA’s original Rozelle campus at Callan Park will also be part of USYD’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Spence believes that this will “avoid unnecessary costs of remaining at Rozelle for more than a transition period.”
Furthermore, Spence states that 2017 applicants will not be accepted for the Bachelor of Visual Arts “to create a re-imagined Bachelor of Visual Arts for commencement in 2018.”
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Last modified: July 31, 2016