Creative Industries Axed By UON

Let the cutbacks begin! Keighley Bradford discusses UON’s abrupt termination of the Creative Industries degree. 

In case you hadn’t heard, UON recently announced they will be cutting their three-year-old Bachelor of Creative Industries program, effective immediately. The University has deemed the program as no longer financially viable, noting a mere seven students enrolled for next Semester, with no enrolments yet for 2021 (as should be expected).

It comes as shock to many following UON’s advocacies for the Creative Industries. Everyone studying on campus in 2017 can probably remember the hype and “NeW” promotional materials hanging around. Heck, even Yak contributed to the hype with their Creative Issue launching at O-Week in celebration.

UON has invested heavily in Creative Industries. Not only are they in the process of building the Honeysuckle Campus, which was intended to foster creative industries relations between the university and the local community, but they are known to support creative students through the annual CREATE Festival and Festival X showcase. Additionally, UON has provided students with placement opportunities through Studio Zed and other coursework electives, and have also openly supported external programs such as the Newcastle Poetry Prize and Newcastle Writers’ Festival.

UON was ahead of the times, investing in the industry before the industry itself even knew it existed. Only within the last twelve months, or so, has the term ‘creative industries’ actually begun to be used commonly and actively within these fields.

To me, and a many others, it all seems a little hasty. Let’s be real – 2020 has been one heck of a year. The HSC hasn’t happened yet, UAC applications are still open (with the 2021 courses options to be finalised in August). I don’t know about you, but as someone who started their tertiary education mid-year, I was greatly disappointed by the Orientation and would not recommend it. Plus, I can tell you from having completed this degree, the BCI structure is much better catered to those who start it in Semester 1 due to the pre-requisites.

In other words, UON should not be worried about the stats (at least, not in my opinion). Instead, they should be seeking advice from their recent graduates and current students on what worked from the program, and what didn’t. Because honestly, the improvements could have been simple and may have worked to entice prospective students, while also satisfying current students.

What are these “simple” improvements, you ask? Well, for starters, the program needed a better balance between the entrepreneurial courses with the creative-based ones. First year was all about the art. Second year was focused on business. And third was dedicated to a project. With the diversity of the disciplines ranging from IT to Music, there should not have been core courses like ‘Visual Art Performance’. Alternatively, the ‘art’ and ‘business’ core courses could have been more evenly divided between first and second year to give a more realistic expectation of the program outcome.

Next, the courses on offer in the major pathways. Hear me out, students within each discipline are creatives who specialise in a certain area of that discipline. A Communication major may be more interested in public relations, another in media production. As Writing and Publishing major may be more interested in fiction writing than in professional writing. The options for some disciplines were quite narrow, not allowing these creatives to fully embrace and learn the things which could benefit their particular practice or interests.

Lastly, the program and students could have benefited from compulsory work placement, similar to that which was previously offered in the Communications degree. While the major project was a cool perk of the degree, many of my peers and I agree that a placement would have benefited us more than completing another project on a much larger scale.

The thing is, despite the teething issues, not many of us regret our choice to have studied Creative Industries at UON. In fact, we had built a community because of our experience (why yes, we were paying attention when you told us the importance of networking). I know there isn’t anything we can say or do, the decision has been made, but in this situation, UON could have benefited from examining the qualitative results rather than focusing on the quantitative results.

We’d learnt the foundations of our careers began with our practice and ability to diversify our skillsets. We’d discovered the industry is all about who you know and taking creative risks. We began challenging ourselves to think outside of the box when it came to problem-solving and looking at how our business and entrepreneurial skills could be applied to jobs in other industries.

I went into this degree with the aspiration of being an author who also worked in a publishing house. Instead, I left with something more valuable, a deeper understanding of the creative industries, and a whole new world of career possibilities. I’ve often thought about just how different my life would be right now if I did not have the opportunity to study the creative industries program, and it is disappointing future students will not be afforded the same opportunity.



Feature Image: Alice Kjoller, Yak Media Designer


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