Sydney College of the Arts - Administrative History

On the 25 July 1975 the Sydney College of the Arts was established by the New South Wales Minister for Education as a College of Advanced Education. The establishment of the College arose from the Gleeson Report of 1970 and the Crafts in Australia - Australia Council Enquiry, 1973, which recommended that an Art College be established in Sydney. The College was constituted under Section 5 of the Colleges of Advanced Education Act , 1975, No 11 and operated under the NSW Ministry of Education. On the first of January, 1976 the College was given the responsibility for running design courses previously conducted by the Technical and Further Education Commission of New South Wales. The first group of 130 visual arts student were enrolled in 1977.

The College aimed to provide tertiary education to produce practising professional artists and designers and was the first College of its kind in New South Wales. The aims and objectives as outlined in the 1984 Annual Report were:

  • To provide an environment where students will gain experience in the arts that will help them to lead rich , creative and productive lives
  • To meet the individual needs of all students who hope to become practitioners of the arts
  • To stress the importance of the arts in the community and to engender an understanding of wider community issues
  • To help students to attain a capacity for imaginative, creative thinking, to achieve an ability to define goals and recognise problems and to develop the confidence to trust their intuition.

The Planning Committee of the College commenced to meet in January 1975, under the Chairmanship of Gerry Gleeson. This committee consisted of prominent artists, designers, business people and educationalists. The initial structure of the College was as an autonomous unit under the New South Wales Ministry of Education. The College Planning Committee became the College Council on the 8 February 1978 when the college was declared corporate. The College By-Law was gazetted under the Colleges of Advanced Education Act, 1975, No 337 on the 9th November, 1979. The chairman of the First Council was Kenneth Tribe who had been a member of the Planning Committee. Other council members included the Principal Officer of the College, the two heads of school, members selected from academic and general staff, two elected student members and twelve members appointed by the Minister for Education. The principal, academic board and administration of the College reported directly to this council. John Bailey was the principal of the college from its inception to 1987; Jim Allen retained the position of Head of the Visual Arts school until 31 December 1987.

Sydney College of the Arts - Organisational Structure, 1976

The Academic Board was the principle advisory body of council. It maintained standards regarding academic supervision, procedures and approval of which course proposals would go to council.

Below the Academic Board the Academic Program was divided into two programs which were known as the School of Visual Arts and the School of Design. The schools were kept separate as far as possible. It had been recognised that the career ambitions and needs of students in the design sector and the attitude of the designers required separate courses with different orientations, even though the resources used for teaching both courses would often be similar. Each school was headed by a program director (known as the Head of School from 1983) who each chaired a School Board of Studies. The Board of Studies were first appointed in 1977 and consisted of academic and student representatives. The function of the Board of Studies was to encourage teaching, advise on the structure of courses, the action of academics and advise on the allocation of staff and facilities. The Head of School was responsible for the academic program for approved award courses offered by the school, for all students enrolled in the school and for the management and allocation of resources. The Departments within each school were under the control of a department head who reported to the Head of School on academic and resource matters.

The College was initially allocated temporary premises throughout Sydney; Administration was housed in Walker Street, North Sydney; the Design School studios were at White Bay, Rozelle; and the Visual Arts Studios were based at Smith Street, Balmain. Campuses were later added at Barr Street and Evans Street, Balmain and administration moved to "Monteith", Allen Street, Glebe in 1980. The provision of accommodation was to remain a problem for the College for a number of years.

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As part of the College function in maintaining and preparing artists the Sydney College of the Arts encouraged relations with external bodies. At one stage premises were rented to the Craft Bookbinders Guild and the National Aboriginal Islanders Skills Development Association, NAISDA. In 1981 Sydney College of the Arts Press was established. The in-house publisher aimed to publish books that were worthwhile and related in subject matter to the teaching and research interests of the College. In 1982 COSCA, the Consulting Organisation of the Sydney College of the Arts, was established by the College Council and registered as a company. Among its aims was to protect inventions developed by students and staff and to organise commissions to be undertaken by College members.

The College was funded by recurrent and capital grants from the Commonwealth Government acting on recommendations made by the Commonwealth Minister for Education as advised by the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission which was advised by the New South Wales Higher Education Board.

In 1984 the Colleges of Advanced Education Act was amended. This changed the number of council members from 25 to 23.

The Federal Government issued a Green paper outlining changes to higher education policies on the 27 February 1987 and on the 15 April 1987 the Council considered an invitation from the NSW Minister for Education to join the proposed NSW Institute of the Arts. These developments led to the formation of a Working Party on the Future of the College to review of the operations of the College and to report back to the College Council with a recommendation on the proposal and possibilities of amalgamation with the Universities. Committee members were Barry Davis (Head of the School of Design), Malcolm King (Acting Principal), Jim Allen (Head of the School of Arts), Graham Findlay (College Secretary), Jim Montague, Louise Riddell, and Emily Bullock.

On the 7th of June 1987 the Council resolved to inform the Minister that the College did not wish to join the Institute of the Arts and would explore other options for amalgamation. There were discussions with the major universities in Sydney and the Council resolved to recommend to the Minister for Education that a merger with the University of Sydney was the most preferred option. However, on the 14th of December 1987, the Minister for Education , Rodney Cavalier, announced that the Sydney College of the Arts would be dissolved.

The College was officially dissolved on the 25th of January 1988. The two schools were formally divided. The School of Design was transferred to the governance of the newly created University of Technology and on the 27th of January, the School of Visual Arts became a semi-autonomous component of the NSW Institute of the Arts, retaining the name and aims of the Sydney College of the Arts. The College Council was replaced by the NSW Institute of the Arts Board of Governors who were appointed by the Minister for Education.

The NSW Institute of the Arts had been established by the Minister for Education on the 16th of June 1987 under the Institute of the Arts Act, 1987, No 124. It was formed from the Institute of the Arts of the Sydney College of Advanced Education and National Art School of the New South Wales Department of TAFE (East Sydney TAFE) renamed as the City Art Institute. The first Board of Governors was constituted on the 31 July 1987.

Sydney College of the Arts - Organisational Structure, 1987

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This was an interim period of governorship for the College. The Higher Education Policy Statement - White paper issued in July 1988 suggested a unified national system for tertiary training. It was supported by the NSW Government and Ministry for Education, who made the Colleges aware that the Institute of the Arts Act would be repealed in favour of amalgamation with the universities. Throughout 1989 negotiations took place over the arrangements for amalgamation.

Sydney College of the Arts - Organisational Structure, 1989

On the 19 September 1989 the University of Sydney and the New South Wales Institute of the Arts agreed in principle to establish the Sydney College of the Arts as an Academic College of the University of Sydney. This was formalised under the Higher Education Amalgamation, Act 1989. Under section 7 of the Act the University Senate replaced the NSW Institute of the Arts Board of Governors as the governing body of the College. The College was given status equal to that of a university faculty and the College Academic Board was renamed the Sydney College of the Arts Board.

Sydney College of the Arts - Organisational Structure, 1990

The College structure is headed by a director, who chairs the College Board and reports directly to the Senate. The University Vice Chancellor has ultimate responsibility for all delegations. The college followed the faculty model and operated as a single School of Visual Arts with one budget within the college. The position of Head of School of Visual Arts was abandoned and the College structure simplified in 1994.

Sydney College of the Arts - Organisational Structure, 1996

In 1996 the College moved from its temporary locations to permanent premises in the Rozelle Hospital grounds. The College is now housed in the refurbished Kirkbride buildings.

The record keeping of the College has suffered under the number of reorganisations and relocations. Not only is information dispersed throughout Sydney but for certain periods of the College history especially the period referring to the transfer of Sydney College of the Arts to the NSW Institute of the Arts; and the period as part of the Institute of the Arts, 1988 - 1989, there is a definite absence of many records.

The College at Rozelle retains a substantial amount of pre - amalgamation records in their secondary storage room which they chose not to transfer. These include; subject files to 1990, Staff Establishment records; Sydney College of the Arts Board Minutes, 1988 - 1990; Annual Statistics; COSCA Director's Committee and Management Committee Minutes, 1982 - 1985; Academic Advisory Committee Minutes, 1988 - 1990; and Music Advisory Committee Minutes, 1976 - 1978.

As part of the division of assets following the division of the schools of Art and Design, the University of Technology, Sydney was made responsible for the records of the Sydney College of the Arts. The University of Technology retains all the staff and student records of the Design School; all original signed minutes for the Sydney College of the Arts; Council, Academic Board, Planning Committee, By-Law and Rules Committee, Education Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, Finance and Properties Committee, Personnel Committee, Staff Development Committee, Art Board of Studies, and Tender Board to 1987.

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