Changes to Sydney College of the Arts

28 July 2016

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, today sent the following message via email to students of the Sydney College of the Arts.

Dear students,

I am writing to let you know that yesterday I informed the Vice-Chancellor of UNSW that I have decided to terminate the Heads of Agreement between the University of Sydney and UNSW concerning the future of Sydney College of the Arts.

It has always been our position that we ought not to proceed with the proposed merger unless we were clear that the vision for a centre of excellence was achievable, and would benefit both the University and visual arts teaching and research. However, as the process has continued, the University of Sydney has increasingly come to the view that, despite the best efforts of all involved, our two institutions have a different vision of what a centre of excellence in the visual arts might entail and the extent to which it is important to preserve the SCA’s distinctive tradition.

Moreover, when the University embarked on this process, we had hoped we would have had greater clarity around the future of the National Art School by this point. That is not the case, and we have become increasingly concerned about the adequacy of the facilities available to realise our vision of a centre of excellence.

Regretfully, I am not sufficiently confident these differences can be reconciled in time for a 2017 start. The decision to terminate the Heads of Agreement means there are a number of issues we must work to resolve quickly. At this stage, I can provide the following information.

·         The SCA will become a part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as foreshadowed in the September 2015 discussion paper Improving our organisational design and agreed by Senate last December.

·         The SCA will begin the move to the Camperdown/Darlington Campus, as signalled in the 2016–20 Strategic Plan, from the beginning of 2017. This will avoid the unnecessary costs of remaining at Rozelle for more than a transition period but, even more importantly, will enable the SCA fully to exploit the opportunities of interdisciplinary research and teaching created by proximity to so many relevant disciplines, and allow those disciplines to enhance their work through greater engagement with the visual arts. The University is exploring all options for appropriate accommodation on the Camperdown/Darlington Campus and will be making an announcement about a new home for the SCA in the coming weeks.

·         The SCA’s curriculum will be considered as part of the implementation of education elements of the University’s 2016–20 strategy.  While we will not be accepting new applications for the Bachelor of Visual Arts in 2017, our aspiration is to create a re-imagined Bachelor of Visual Arts for commencement in 2018. The program will be developed to take advantage of the opportunities provided by a move to the Camperdown/Darlington Campus and the new University-wide undergraduate curriculum.

·         Currently enrolled Bachelor of Visual Arts, postgraduate coursework and HDR students will be able to continue their courses at the University.

·         The University will accept applications for the Master of Moving Image commencing in 2017. We will enrol students who already have a confirmed offer for the Master of Contemporary Art or Master of Fine Arts, as well as students who have already been accepted as PhD students for 2017.

·         We believe that this longer-term transition arrangement will allow community events at our Rozelle Campus to proceed as planned, including scheduled major exhibitions and the Laneway Festival.

We remain committed to keeping you informed, and will liaise with the SCA student consultative committee as we work to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Of course, if at some time in the future the opportunity arises, we could recommence our discussions with the aim of establishing an institution that reflects the considerable and distinctive strengths of the existing three schools. However, the University believes that at this time our priority must be to secure and to develop the strengths of the SCA.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Michael Spence

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Kirsten Andrews

Head of Media and Government Relations