ACUADS Chair’s Report (December 2007)

Posted on December 31, 2007

Posted on 31 Dec 2007

Su Baker, Head, School of Art, Victorian College of the Arts

Well, 2007 has been another active year in the life of ACUADS and the tertiary sector.

Research Quality Framework (RQF)

At a national level it was largely dominated by the now deferred RQF. While we spent many hours and much effort in discussion with our colleagues at DEST, the planned RQF will now no longer go ahead, but rather a new form of assessment will be developed over the next year or so. There are no details but a statement made by Senator Kim Carr gives a clear indication of the good and the bad news for next year; see also the CHASS web site for more details.

Below is an excerpt from a statement made by Senator Kim Carr for an article in Campus Review.

The humanities, arts and social sciences will be central to Australia’s national innovation system, a move that will bring it into line with some of the world’s most innovative and creative countries.

Furthermore, new Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr told Campus Review last week he would rigorously support the peer review system, affirmed the importance of blue skies research and described academic freedom as one of the central tenets of research quality assurance.

Kim Carr, whose full title is Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, said innovation would be lifted as a priority in the national debate. A multidisciplinary approach would be fundamental in helping to address some of the more complex issues facing the nation.

“By igniting the creative spirit of our people, we will deliver great science and innovation solutions for industry society and the environment. Now this also applies to the humanities,” Carr said. “I am using science not just in a narrow definition, but the European definition, which is knowledge of the world – that is how we can take forward a program that will actually change the face of this country.

“There is absolutely no doubt about us adopting a multidisciplinary approach – this is a key concept.” Carr said universities and public research agencies would play a vital role in the process. “We want to reinvigorate their capacity to undertake that task,” he said.

There is no doubt the RQF is dead in the water and the only remaining issues for Carr are how to officially euthanase it and the development of a sleeker model in 12 months time.

“The RQF was fundamentally flawed, poorly designed and administratively expensive, and relied on measures that couldn’t be defined. I’m looking to have a departmental briefing on how that can be done immediately.

“I’ve asked for a technical brief to make sure we scrap the RQF correctly and then I will use the next 12 months to build consensus on the nature of the metrics and the proxies for metrics for the replacement quality assurance system.” As for additional research funding, don’t get your hopes up.

“I have every expectation we are in for a very tough budget.”

So I think that means don’t hold your breath for any new injections of funds next year. I think we would all be happy if they were to take a serious look at the funding models of the sector, and to start to fund us in a way that reflects the true costs of teaching and research. We should be ready with our arguments and on call to contribute to the discussions when and where they happen.

So those of us who have spent time on the RQF in 2007 shouldn’t feel that we have wasted our time as we will be asked in the future to work on the appropriate methods by which we can accurately represent the high quality work that emerges from the tertiary art and design sector. Colleagues I have spoken to recently have felt that the exercise to date has had some benefits, in the main, of raising the awareness levels and encouraging greater participation in reporting research activity. We have also made clear the need to be discipline specific and I feel that the message has been heard. The trick will be how to do it.

Annual Conference: Sydney, September 2007

We thank Ian Howard and his team for the stimulating rapid fire ACUADS Annual Conference in Sydney where we were able to sample the great examples of the breadth and depth of work being undertaken in the sector. In addition to the live event, the handsome publication Research 07/08, that was produced by COFA ahead of the conference, is an excellent record of a cross section of research activity, which is alive and well in the sector. The contributing Schools all have copies so use them liberally to spread the word. This is a great instrument for our advocacy both at the local level – that is, our own staff and academic leaders – and the hierarchy of our institutions, and for policy makers.

Carrick Institute Grants

Another piece of good news is that ACUADS has been successful in receiving two Carrick Institute Grants in partnership with our various university colleagues. Details of these will be on the ACUADS web site early in the new year. In brief these two important studies are described below:

Scoping Common Curriculum Issues – Studio Teaching

A group of universities, led by UNSW, are working on a ground-breaking research project which will investigate current models of studio teaching in architecture, art and design in Australia.

Institutions involved are the University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland, RMIT University and the University of Tasmania.

Running between 2007 and 2009, the Studio Teaching Project (STP) aims to develop discipline-specific benchmarks for studio classes.

Surveys and case studies will be used to define the fundamental characteristics of studio-based learning, and to identify the most innovative examples that enhance both student and staff experience, and optimise learning outcomes.

Instigated by Associate Deans Professor Robert Zehner from the UNSW Faculty of the Built Environment and Graham Forsyth from UNSW’s College of Fine Arts, the project is being conducted in collaboration with the University of Queensland, RMIT University and the University of Tasmania.

This project aims to identify best practices to provide a reference for teachers and leaders across a range of disciplines where studios are an important part of the student experience.

Professor Noel Frankham, Head, Tasmanian School of Art, University of Tasmania in being part of the team, is representing ACUADS.

Future-Proofing the Creative Arts in Higher Education: Scoping for Quality in Tertiary Creative Arts Learning, Teaching, and Research Training

The project leaders are: Associate Professor Su Baker (Chair, Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) and Head, School of Art, Victorian College of the Arts Faculty, University of Melbourne) and Associate Professor Brad Buckley (Director, Sydney College of the Arts Graduate School, University of Sydney).

The project team consists of eight members of ACUADS Executive from nine Australian universities representing six states: VCA, University of Melbourne, RMIT, Monash University, Swinburne University, University of South Australia, University of Tasmania, Curtin University, UNSW, Griffith University. This will include members of the peak bodies for Music, Film and Theatre.

This scoping project intends to work closely with the recently funded project through the Carrick Common Curriculum Scheme, Curriculum Development in Studio Teaching. In conjunction with this important work we wish to extend this analysis to examine the current offerings of the Creative Arts PhD and also the role of the professional Doctorate of Creative Arts (DCA) in Australian university art schools. While there is much debate in the current literature about the nature of the traditional Australian PhD and its narrow focus, this scoping study will examine how the creative arts PhD and DCA may provide an innovative model for research training.

The scoping study will also consider the role that course work plays in developing a broader range of skills in the candidate by considering the US PhD model. The US model has two years of course work followed by two or three years in which the thesis is developed. The project will also consider the PhD by publication, where a series of exhibitions and a shorter dissertation may form the thesis.


In 2008 there are plans to develop a more active Research section of the ACUADS web site that will operate as a form of publishing house for work that is relevant to the sector and that needs a quick turnaround. Noel Frankham is developing this project and we look forward to this great new opportunity to spread the word both to each other and the broader community.

ACUADS continues to seek your involvement in the business of the art and design sector and so we welcome initiatives and dialogue with staff and students at all levels of participation, so please distribute the Newsletter as widely as you wish. We particularly welcome the contributions of newly appointed academics and research students.


ACUADS has three Awards:

  • Fellowship Award,
  • Distinguished Research Awards; and
  • Distinguished Teaching Awards.

Two Awards were presented at the ACUADS Annual Conference held in Sydney, 26-28 September 2007:

  • Distinguished Research Award to Robyn Stewart of the University of Southern Queensland
  • Distinguished Teaching Award to John Teschendorff of Curtin University.

Our congratulations to them both.