The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee invited the DDCA to make a submission to its inquiry into the provisions of the Higher Education Support Amendment (Response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report) Bill 2023.
DDCA + ACUADS joint submission:
We, the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts (DDCA) and the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS), appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on the Universities Accord Interim Proposal.
The DDCA is a representative body for the creative arts in Australian universities. Our discipline base includes visual arts, design, theatre, dance, music, screen production, digital arts, and creative and professional writing.
The DDCA exists to inform, connect and amplify the voices of people and organisations responsible for scholarly and research leadership of the creative arts in higher education. Our role is to champion the effective leadership of teaching and research in our disciplines, enhancing understanding; promoting diversity, inclusion, excellence, collegiality and sustainability; and contributing to the challenges of our age.
The DDCA publishes ‘NiTRO: Creative Matters – perspectives on creative arts in higher education’. This is an online platform for the discussion of matters relating to practice, research, teaching, policy and reporting relevant to the creative arts in the university sector. (https://creativematters.edu.au/)
The DDCA represents 32 member institutions, as well as 5 peak bodies. These are:
Adelaide Central School of Art
Australian Film, Television and Radio School (AFTRS)
Australian National University
Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education
Central Queensland University
Edith Cowan University
University of Melbourne
National Art School
University of New South Wales
National Institute of Dramatic Arts
Photography Studies College
The University of Queensland
Queensland University of Technology
University of South Australia Creative
Southern Cross University
Swinburne University of Technology
University of Southern Queensland
The University of Sydney
University of Tasmania
University of Technology Sydney
University of Wollongong
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
Western Sydney University
IDEA – Interior Design and Interior Architecture Educators Association ACUADS – Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools
ASPERA – Australian Screen Production Education and Research Association AAWP – The Australasian Association of Writing Programs
The Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) is the leading body for the university visual arts, crafts and design disciplines. We play an active role in shaping quality education for artists and designers. ACUADS represents over 30 Australian university art and design faculties, schools and departments and other academic units offering university degrees at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The organisation addresses social, economic and cultural policies and discourses affecting the sector.
ACUADS represents 23 member institutions. These are:
Australian National University National Art School
University of New South Wales University of Sydney
University of Technology Sydney University of Western Sydney Griffith University
Queensland University of Technology University of Southern Queensland Adelaide Central School of Art University of South Australia University of Tasmania
Swinburne University of Technology University of Melbourne
La Trobe University
Edith Cowan University University of Western Australia
Included in this submission is a summary of recurrent themes and concerns as expressed by our membership. We do urge you to read the full submission that includes further and specific feedback from ASPERA, ACUADS, IDEA and AAWP.
In general, we support the five Priority Actions as proposed in the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, notwithstanding some reservations and prompts for more nuanced considerations as they relate to these actions.
Giving consideration to the future of Australia’s higher education system, and as this relates specifically to the HASS disciplines which we represent, we must also give credence to the new National Cultural Policy (Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place, on 30 January 2023), which affirms that the arts have a crucial role to play in the prosperity and cohesion of Australia’s society, and this includes economic, social and cultural prosperity.
The University is a critical part of this growth and development. How we support our undergraduate and postgraduate students, how we support and enable research, the working environments we cultivate to ensure health and wellbeing as well as innovation, creativity and meaningful contribution to society. We detail here items that may have been overlooked which are specific to the HASS disciplines in relation to the University Accord Interim Report.
Priority Action 3 is strongly supported
This priority action needs to be First Nations led. Additional, culturally appropriate support for First Nations students needs to be reflected in funding provisions. We would like to see First Nations undergraduate and postgraduate students included as well as First Nations educators and researchers. We would also welcome First Nations people to be included in management and governance positions. The best support for First Nations being First Nations educators, researchers and leaders. This inclusion needs to be meaningful where First Nations knowledges and approaches are embedded within the learning, teaching and research cultures.
Financial support for students including postgraduates
Access and success are dependent on financial support for students who are also under the strain of the cost of living and are either working full time whilst trying to study, or withdrawing from courses because maintaining work and study commitments becomes untenable and detrimental to health and wellbeing. Stipend amounts need to be reconsidered.
Support and inclusion for low SES students is strongly supported
Even greater financial support needs to be made available to students from low SES backgrounds, who we strongly support should be included in the Higher Education System. To enable their success there needs to be careful planning around how these students transition into the higher education environment, and how they are enabled to succeed. There needs to be considered thought put into how we enable students from low SES for success. This needs to include flexible and generous Austudy allowances to enable students to study and make the most of their higher education experience.
Implementing Support Providers for currently underrepresented students is strongly supported
It is important to acknowledge how much our educators already do in this regard, and the services already in place in terms of student support. Further support, to account for changes in the cohort make-up and abolition of the 50% pass rule, needs to be reflected in further Federal funding.
Ceasing the 50% pass rule is strongly supported
The Job-Ready Graduates initiative needs to be reversed immediately
This has been a disservice at multiple levels, and for *all* disciplines and sectors, not only to HASS but also to STEM.
‘Scientists, engineers, qualified carers and others will be needed in large numbers’ (p.1)
The emphasis of such groups tends to continue to affirm/echo the much-debated STEM focus in education (as opposed STEAM approach). For example, in terms of qualified carers, there has much been much research and study around the arts (and higher arts education) and its role in enhancing wellbeing in aged care facilities including the wellbeing of carers as well as aged care residents. A more well-rounded approach and greater emphasis of interdisciplinary interconnectivity would enhance this perspective. This will be more aligned with section 2.2.1. ‘Getting the balance of skills right’ on page 45.
Skills and knowledge
There seems to be an overemphasis on ‘skills’ in the report which assumes a narrowly utilitarian function. This needs to be expanded to include the large scope of universities and their role in society. Whilst skill-attainment and a thriving ‘workforce’ is critical, that the workforce is ethically-minded, culturally-sensitive, creative, flexible, resilient, and healthy, is just as important. These are only some of the ‘skills’ and capacities cultivated in the HASS disciplines, and we would like to see this reflected in the Accord more explicitly.
Ten possible ‘system shifts’ to improve Australia’s higher education system as part of an integrated tertiary system (p. 20)
This Could include greater recognition for research-led teaching approach as part of an integrated tertiary system. There is a need for more explicit articulation of research within higher education learning and teaching.
We would like to emphasise our concern in regard to research reporting, and measurement of quality and impact. While the enhancement of research metric data and data systems are important and valuable forms of evaluating research and research impact, some acknowledgement of not all forms of research are quantifiable or can be represented via metric approach. Acknowledgement of qualitative approaches need to be included as part of a more holistic approach towards national evaluation of research outputs and impacts.
We caution against a solely automated, data-driven approach, which is not always a suitable form for evaluating the creative arts. Alternatives to the model that works in STEM is required for some HASS disciplines that engage in Creative Practice Research. Metric-based systems do a disservice to the creative arts. Further acknowledgement and representation of necessary diverse forms of qualitative evaluation would be a useful inclusion in the report to ensure a recognition of the wide range of research practices and ways in which these practices are evaluated within the national sector. Support in the form of properly qualified and professionally trained administrators and assessors who are adequately/appropriately recompensed for their work is needed in this space in order to provide an equitable playing field.
Competitive Funding – to acknowledge that regional universities are in a sense ‘competing’ with G08 Universities, yet the level of resources and training differ significantly. Acknowledgement of smaller funding attributed to the creative arts in comparison to other disciplines continue to provide a disservice to overall research impact (and perception of) in comparison to other fields of research.
In closing, university governance needs serious attention and revision. Work needs to be undertaken to ensure universities are good employers, and that the well-documented exploitative and precarious working environment needs to be addressed, especially if we are to fulfil our remits and aspirations of ‘innovation’, ‘excellence’ and ‘creativity’.
Thank you for your consideration.
Professor Craig Batty
President, The Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Creative Arts