RMIT reduces hours, again

1 12 2014

In sad news, I have learned that the studio-based classes in the RMIT Object-based Practice Gold & Silversmithing degree will now be reduced (again) to just three hours per week.

Utterly impossibly ridiculous and such a shame.

In my time at RMIT, yes many moons ago, we had five hours per studio subject and on some days that was barely enough for each student to get time with the teacher; and there were only twelve of us (I believe there are now more per class).

How on earth will any genuine technical skills be imparted in such limited hours? I already hear stories of students who have wonderful ideas they cannot bring to physical reality because they don’t have the skills required to realise their vision.

A reduction in contact hours will only reinforce the generally held opinion that RMIT is not the place to learn technical skills, but is where you go after you’ve learned handskills and want to develop conceptually.

I feel for the teaching staff – I’m convinced they would want more time too, for they will bear the burden of unskilled students not receiving the teaching attention they require or expected when they signed on for the course.

This is all to do with funding. It is sad that the arts seem to be valued less and less by universities and governments.

A reduction in funding has no doubt contributed to the reduced effort being put into exhibitions for the students – there is no longer a 1st and 2nd year exhibition, and the graduate exhibition this year is not in a gallery but in one of the university rooms.

The students are the ones who will suffer for it all.

Enough of my rant … best not to start me …

Update (a few hours after initial publication): Victorian governments and universities best get themselves clear on the fact that Melbourne’s reputation as Australia’s “capital of culture” is entirely due to such courses being available to artists … you remove or undermine the places of learning and experimentation, and you force the culture to migrate elsewhere. If Melbourne wants to keep trading on its rich artistic culture, it must keep investing in the places it is incubated and nurtured.

Update (2nd December): an important note about funding … Universities are federally funded and each university then takes that funding and shares it among its schools, who then allocate accordingly; TAFEs are state funded.

Hence university departments/schools, like the RMIT School of Art, make decisions about how to spend their monies (staff, facilities, etc .. and we all know how expensive equipment for G&S can be); but the university is the one holding the purse-strings and determining how much each school is funded; and these university decision-makers in turn can only give out what the federal government has given them.

[a note for clarity: many thanks to Simon Cottrell for his facebook comment; these aren’t Simon’s words though, they’re mine; but his comment made me realise that this kind of information is important to the debate]



3 responses

2 12 2014
Kevin Murray (@kmaustral)

That’s sad news. It puts more pressure on students to look outside their course to get the skills they need.

2 12 2014

That’s true Kevin; which makes alternative places of learning (outside the university/TAFE system) all the more important.

I’m also thinking of the teaching staff; for many of them teaching is a means to supplement their income from making. If teaching income keeps being reduced, then staff may be forced to look elsewhere, which in turn will most likely put their own practice at risk. It cannot be a nice situation for them at all.

2 12 2014

University and TAFE systems are not linked and are funded and run by Commonwealth and State governments respectively. TAFE offers nationally recognised training and has a minimum number of hours in the workshops a week (12 depending on how the units are bundled and how the course is delivered) because it has a focus on hand skills and smithing and it’s impossible to teach these adequately a few hours a week. TAFE also offers access to a range of equipment and machinery under one roof, exposing students to a variety of possibilities that smaller studios and schools may not be able to afford. Alternative places of learning are important, do a great job and are well worthy of respect in their chosen niches, but they don’t provide nationally recognised training which ensures students walk away with a minimum level of foundation skills in the breadth of subjects taught at TAFE. Short courses and classes are good for supplementing skills, the ideal would be that TAFE or University were a solid foundation from which to work from.

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