Beyond Equivalency: Repositioning artistic research within the Australian university sector

Jenny Wilson
2014 Conference

Presented in concept at the ACUADS 2008 conference, this paper reports on a research study conducted for PhD into how artistic researchers have been accommodated in the Australian university research management system, and the impacts experienced by artistic researchers through this location.  It draws upon a wide range of data to provide the first analysis of this topic reported across all artistic disciplines in Australia in relation to university experiences  and updates the Strand Report in 1998 in relation to government policy.  Data sources include a correlation of literature from arts disciplines with that of higher education management and government policies; survey responses from of heads of academic units containing artistic researchers in over 40% of Australian universities; interviews with 27 artistic researchers in three case study universities; and interviews with longstanding expert commentators on artistic research and Deputy Vice Chancellors responsible for research.

The study suggests that while limited progress has been made towards the acceptance of artistic research as an equivalent and legitimate research endeavour, significant structural, cultural and practical challenges remain which are undermining relationships between universities and their artistic staff and engendering behavioural changes within artistic practitioners that can affect the nature and quality of artistic work that is produced. Reflecting the voices of artistic researchers across the broad visual and performing arts disciplinary spectrum from early to senior career academics, it explores ways forward for universities, and artistic researchers themselves, to secure greater equity and recognition for artistic research.

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About the author

Jenny Wilson has over 20 years experience as a senior administrator in research and ‘non-teaching’ management portfolios within the university sector.  For the majority of her career, her responsibility has specifically included artistic schools and disciplines. Spurred by the apparent lack of institutional understanding of the position of artistic practice within the research portfolio, she embarked on a part time PhD (completed in 2014) with supervisors from the Victorian College of the Arts and the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne. She has published and presented on the topic since 2005.