Job and budget cuts have prompted ongoing concerns for the future of programs and courses in the Victorian College of the Arts, now known as the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Music (VCAM). Big question marks loom over all areas of the VCAM including staffing, budgeting, course structure and even its name.

The new faculty was created last month from a merger with Melbourne University’s Faculty of Music. In a staff meeting to mark the merger newly appointed Dean Professor Sharman Pretty said the integration heralded “exciting opportunities for the arts within the University of Melbourne”, though not all staff would have shared her enthusiasm.

Rumours and speculation are rife. In its first month the VCAM have let go at least 12 casual professional staff, moved others to different employee agreements and implemented a hiring freeze. A new announcement in the next fortnight is expected to include further staff and course cuts.

“It’s pretty evident the university is ready to slash and burn,” says Alison Hose of the Victorian College of the Arts Student Union, which permanently closes in June due to a lack of funding. “Staff are extremely concerned and everyone is walking around looking panic stricken about their jobs at the moment.”

VCA Student Union President David Haidon fears that more staff cuts will lead to the elimination of all casual employees at VCAM. This would effectively gut programs such as the college’s puppetry course, which is the only full time course of its kind in Australia.

When queried about the future of puppetry at VCAM a representative of Professor Pretty relayed that “…no decisions have been made [and] any decisions in the University on the introduction or disestablishment of academic programs follows due process including consultation and approval by the University’s Academic Board.”

There is also speculation about the future of VCAM’s Film and Television School, the longest-running film school in Australian with alumni including Adam Elliot, Gillian Armstrong, Michael Leunig and Sara Watt. Crikey received an anonymous tip speculating that the school may be reduced to providing unspecified programs or merged with the School of Art to provide film subjects in a generalist degree. Another speculated that 2010 will be the last year of student intake for its Bachelor of Film and Television degree. The university’s official response is the same as above.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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