Editorial: The shape of things to come

Thirty years ago, in July 1988, the Commonwealth Government introduced a policy paper that was to reshape the Australian Higher Education landscape and introduce concepts and ideas that were to influence university operations over the following three decades. Creative Arts disciplines were particularly affected by the Government White Paper and changes it introduced, referred to as ‘the Dawkins Reforms’ after John Dawkins, the then Minister responsible for its introduction.

Not only did it catalyse amalgamations between universities and creative arts programs in ‘stand alone’ arts colleges, Colleges of Advanced Education and some in TAFE, it also presaged the introduction of more selectivity in research funding, a greater emphasis on particular fields of study, the adoption of business sector models of institutional governance and an increased focus on institutional ‘income generation’.

In this edition of NiTRO we mark the anniversary of the release of the White Paper with a host of perspectives and recollections:

Melbourne University VC Glyn Davis, Gwilym Croucher from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, and VCA’s Danny Butt provide background understanding of the policy and its more immediate consequences.

Richard Vella (Newcastle) considers the influence and subsequent changes for music while Paul Uhlmann (ECU) reflects on the changes in the visual art school that resulted; and Tracey Bradford considers the reforms from the perspective of the TAFE sector.

Jen Webb (Canberra) reflects upon the subsequent key changes that took place in tertiary creative arts while Scott Brook (RMIT) argues that the Dawkins reforms delivered many successes for creative disciplines that we need to build on.

In his analysis of ARC funding, Ross Woodrow (Griffith) reminds us that 2018 is also the 20-year anniversary of the release of the report into Research in Creative Arts by Dennis Strand (The Strand Report).

In a Q&A interview, Kit Wise uses the opportunity of his move from University of Tasmania to RMIT to consider the changes in tertiary arts education since his arrival in Australia in 2002.

We also include the views and experiences of colleagues in Curtin University, Queensland Conservatorium, Sydney Conservatorium, University of Technology Sydney, and Griffith Film School, Queensland College of Art in a combined piece 'Dawkins Reforms: How was it for you?'