Future-Proofing the Creative Arts in Higher Education

William Lungas

Although the PhD in the creative arts is quickly emerging as a significant measure of quality and innovation in the field, it is still subject to variations in terms of form and quality as exemplified by the wide range of examination procedures currently deployed in Australian universities. Such disparity in combination with pressing pedagogic and resource issues has significance for both the integrity and growth of the sector. This scoping investigation is an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) funded initiative, and will be conducted in partnership between the Australian Council of University Art and Design Schools (ACUADS), the Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, and the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. The project leaders are Associate Professor Su Baker Chair, (ACUADS) and Acting Dean, Victorian College of the Arts; Associate Professor Brad Buckley, Director, Sydney College of the Arts Graduate School; and Research Fellow Giselle Kett, Project Manager, Future proofing the Creative Arts in Higher Education, VCA.

The study aims to:

- gain a national and international understanding of quality research training methods and to establish best practice models that assist in ensuring quality graduate experiences and outcomes;

- identify models of thesis submission for the PhD which may include a body of new creative work, musical scores, design outcomes, original painting or sculpture, or other contemporary art media forms accompanied by a significant text;

- establish benchmark standards of high quality supervision so candidates will experience positive and high value engagement with academics and the institutions within which they are enrolled;

- examine how coursework can enhance and broaden the skills of candidates; and

- consider how the PhD by publication may be undertaken in the creative arts field.

Over the past 10 years ACUADS has initiated a number of significant studies which provide a context for this study. The resulting reports include: Research in the Creative Arts by Dennis Strand, (1998); an examination of the modes of delivery and assessment practices of art and design honours degree programs - Honours Benchmarking Project, by Nigel Lendon (2000); and a review of higher degrees in the creative arts and student perceptions of these degrees – Research Training Benchmarking Project by George Petelin (2002).

The research and publications of the Centre for the Study of Research Training and Impact (SORTI) at the University of Newcastle are also highly relevant to the proposed study. Several studies have been conducted into PhD examinations in fine art, and generic studies on research training, education and quality provide a further context for our study. Significant recent articles in academic journals and monographs on research practices in the creative arts include: Barrett and Bolt (2007); Buckley and Conomos (2008); Edmonds (2007); MacLeod and Holdridge (2006); Makela and Routarinne (2006); and Rubenstein (2007).

It is anticipated the study will facilitate improved curricula, supervision and research outcomes in creative arts doctoral programs, and in turn contribute to the appropriate preparation of graduates for contemporary creative arts professional life. By creating industry standards and best practice models the study will enhance the capacity of the sector to grow and develop a high quality, internationally competitive research culture. Further, it provides a timely opportunity to build high quality performance into the next generation of creative arts academics.

For further information please visit: www.creativeartsphd.com/index.html

Image: William Lungas, Arca Series. PhD Candidate at SCA.