No more teapots at RMIT?

21 06 2010

I am disheartened and sad to learn that RMIT Gold and Silversmithing undergraduate contact hours have been reduced for the three major subjects from five per week per subject to four hours.

As a result of this reduction, I understand it has been necessary to change the curriculum, as the shorter teaching time means that it is no longer viable to teach the large-scale teapot project (which had been part of my second year silversmithing subject).

I’m not sure if 2010 is the first year under this new arrangement (can someone tell me if this was also the case in 2009?), but I’ve only recently become aware of it. Perhaps it happened last year and explains why I saw only one teapot at the first/second year exhibition (my review story here) in December?

As much as making the teapot almost killed me (which I’ll write about another time), the skills I gained during that project were unique – the complex design and task planning, the courage necessary to solder the huge joins, the scale, the interaction with other industries (many students source materials and finishes from outside RMIT, which fosters connections outside the school), to mention only a few. It was excruciatingly difficult but invaluable, and it’s sad current and future students won’t have the same opportunity.

Current students have less hours than I had to spend time with experienced teachers to develop their ideas and be taught the skills necessary to manifest their designs. I was in a class of twelve with five hours per week per subject contact time, and it was sometimes barely enough for each of us to have the time we wanted with our teacher – will current/future students get enough experienced input into their work and handskills, with less hours and more students? Perhaps a positive impact may be that students come to rely more on each other and develop stronger peer relationships, skill-sharing and critique; and/or develop more independent research and learning skills?

And I would suspect that the HECS fees haven’t reduced commensurately either … are students paying the same fee as I did, but for less teaching? From reading the RMIT website, at least it seems that the studios are still available for the same hours, so students have the same access to the studio equipment for solo experimentation and practice.

There seems to be a general consensus that the RMIT Gold and Silversmithing undergraduate degree does not focus as much on the technical handskills in the same manner as say NMIT, and favours engagement with contemporary and international art, and conceptual development. I personally loved that aspect of the degree, but I did come into my first year having already learnt some basic handskills elsewhere. Will the reduced hours mean that students would be best to have the basics before attending RMIT … is there now enough time to learn the basics while still working towards the assessment requirements? Does this evolution change the place of the RMIT degree within the general landscape of possible learning paths in Melbourne for jewellery designers / makers?

The less concerned may dismiss this as only one hour per subject per week – but it is a loss of more than 30 hours a semester. No it won’t stop the world turning, or makers making; but to me it’s not insignificant.

This is not a criticism of RMIT, as I am not privy to information to understand the decision points that led to the hour reduction. For many years now many artistic institutions have been under pressure to reduce costs and increase revenue  – RMIT stopped offering Glass under the Fine Art degree early in the 2000s, so at least we can be thankful that the other streams remain. Can anyone tell me if contact hours have been reduced at other G&S teaching institutions (NMIT, Monash, Box Hill, outside Melbourne)?

While I have many questions about the impact of this change, the reality is that university teaching and degrees evolve over time. And all this said, I have enormous faith in the generosity and willingness of the teaching staff, and the creative spirit of makers, and have no doubt that the jewellery and objects made at RMIT will continue to be fabulous … makers will continue to make and express themselves regardless (and sometimes in spite) of any limitations!

Update (27th June): along these lines, I have recently heard (though my friend wasn’t entirely sure) that there is the possibility that Monash University did not accept first-year enrolments this year for jewellery. Is this true – can anyone verify or correct this? I’m certainly not making a statement here as I don’t yet have definite information (I tried looking through the Monash website but couldn’t see anything helpful either way), but I’d very much like to understand more…



4 responses

28 06 2010
Caz Guiney

A very sad state of affairs. I heard late in 2009 that Monash were not taking in 1st yrs for 2010 but that they were still open to an intake in 2011. I have since heard that there will no longer be a 1st yr intake in the disciplines of jewellery and glass. The Fine Art Dept. is apparently undergoing a restructure where they will provide a foundation 1st year and that you will be able to specialise in jewellery in 2nd and 3rd year. This information is the word on the street and as far as I know is not yet officially documented. I can only hope that the chinese whispers have morphed the information and what I have heard is incorrect. I can say with certainty that hours at NMIT have not been reduced.

28 06 2010

Thank you for the comment Caz. This is interesting indeed, as I was wondering if this may be due to a foundation year being considered for introduction. It is a shame though that the hours of experienced teaching for jewellery specific subjects may subsequently be reduced here too. On the other hand, it is good to hear that NMIT hours remain unchanged this year – perhaps this degree will be the best value for money jewellery degree in the very near future (in terms of teaching hours per HECS debt)?

It would be great if current Monash students had more information on this, so please make a comment if you do – if you’d rather be anonymous but still want to get information ‘out there’, you can make up a fake name / email for the comment (and leave the website field empty) …

13 09 2011
RMIT degree changes « Melbourne Jeweller

[…] The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document is interesting too [link] … looks a little confusing for existing students though (as they’re expected to finish in the new structure, so will be ‘transitioned’ mid-degree). Critically to me though, it spells out that each special studio subject has 4 hours teacher-to-student per week – which is less than the 5 hours per subject per week “in my day”. Shame (though I had mentioned this previously). […]

1 12 2014
RMIT reduces hours, again | Melbourne Jeweller

[…] classes in the RMIT Object-based Practice Gold & Silversmithing degree will now be reduced (again) to just three hours per […]

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