The Future of Creative Industries at UON

Dr Una Rey chats with Jayme Zimmermann about the choices available to UON’s Creative Industries students who are finishing their degrees, and the options for those interested in joining the Creative Industries program.

As discussed in a previous Yak article, in July 2020 the University of Newcastle announced they were discontinuing their Bachelor of Creative Industries (BCI) program effective immediately. This left many confused about where to go from here, what this change means for current Creative Industries students, as well as others who wished to join the program.

Dr Una Rey is the current Convenor for the Bachelor of Creative Industries Program and a lecturer at the University of Newcastle in the School of Creative Industries. Despite the disruption to the program, Dr Rey highlights the BCI program offers students a pathway with “an emphasis on work-integrated learning, outward-facing culturally, engaging with the cultural and artistic communities across the Hunter Region and in the Precinct, in particular the museums, art galleries, the Civic Theatre, the design companies, and engaging with industry professionals.”

“That is something that we have done well that is being brought more consistently into other Degree Programs,” says Dr Rey.

The discontinuation of the BCI degree left many surprised as the University and Newcastle Council were aiming to develop and promote Newcastle as a creative hub, and the BCI degree provided many opportunities for collaboration. Dr Rey highlighted what these changes meant for people who wanted to study this program, stating, “When a program is discontinued, it means discontinued for new students, so we’re not taking new enrolments beyond 2020.”

Dr Rey explained current BCI students who have completed 40 units have been given “the option to continue in their degree, in the same major, and to carry on their degree that way”. Alternatively, BCI students, depending on how far along they are in their studies, are able to “transfer to another program or degree program across the University as long as they meet the course and the program requirements.”

It is important to note the small number of students who were set to start their BCI studies in the mid-year 2020 intake chose to enrol in other SOCI programs or the B. Arts. “We didn’t lose those students, they were still able to come here and study,” said Dr Rey. “Our school contacted them directly and immediately and assisted and supported them through the transition into other programs.”

But the big question for individuals in this degree is, what now? Dr Rey was able to make clear what this change means for students. “Currently enrolled students in the Bachelor of Creative Industries or Bachelor of Creative Industries, Innovation and Entrepreneurship […] will have their requirements met in their major, in their electives, and in their core units.

Universities, unfortunately, discontinue a degree program, but they have a legal, moral, and indeed an ethical obligation for each student to complete their degree.”

Dr Rey stated the University would be flexible, however, it is important for BCI students to ensure they are choosing the correct courses to meet the requirements of their programs and Majors.

There is also a lack of community awareness surrounding the creative industries. “I think that we have had a lot of challenges with the naming of the Creative Industries degree. I ask people from the plumber, to the schoolteacher, to my neighbours – ‘Do you know what the creative industries are?’ – they often don’t know,” says Dr Rey. “So, I think it should be very clear that we have a School of Creative Industries, but if offers a range of programs in different creative fields.”

The Head of the School of Creative Industries, Professor Paul Egglestone, had the time to comment on what degrees and programs students can study now the Bachelor of Creative industries is discontinued. “According to [the] Australian Government, the Creative Industries involve ‘the generation of creative intellectual property with the potential to be commercialised’ and they include:

  • music and performing arts;
  • film, television and radio;
  • advertising and marketing;
  • software development and interactive content;
  • writing, publishing and print media, and;
  • architecture, design and visual arts.”

Professor Egglestone explains a School of Creative Industries is a place which “develops talent to work in all the professions above.” UON’s School of Creative Industries is comprised of degrees in Communications, Visual Communication and Design, and Music.

“Going forward, we must focus on embedding enterprising and entrepreneurial life-ready graduates,” says Professor Egglestone.

Massive changes are happening structurally at the University of Newcastle. In December 2020 The University of Newcastle also announced they would be culling courses as a result of the University’s thorough review of course structures. There are now eight undergraduate degrees, 14 postgraduate degrees, and 530 individual courses which are set to be consolidated or discontinued sometime this year.  The announcement included details about the University’s new Course Optimisation Project which will create more opportunities in degree programs to ensure all students are able to do work placements and projects (known as Work-Integrated Learning) before they complete their studies.

This announcement was made in 2020 in response to the $58M in revenue lost by the institution as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, and UON’s consequential need to find $35M in savings this year.

“The national and global perspective is that really radical changes are happening across the sector, they were happening anyway, COVID has accelerated that massively and the funding models are changing, as well as the delivery,” Dr Rey stated.

Personally, I feel very grateful to be a successful graduate of the BCI degree. I was able to learn so much and I was able to work out what I really wanted to do as a career through studying this program. I’m glad UON’s School of Creative Industries is very much still in place and options are still available for people wanting to study in this sector.

Feature Image by Jayme Zimmermann, Yak Media Writer.

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