While this is not technically a public consultation, there's nothing stopping you from making a submission. The Support Art History at VUW website has been set up to help this; you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain a copy of the consultation paper. Submissions are due by midday Friday June 29, and can be emailed to Lillian Loftus, Faculty HR Manager at email@example.com.
Below is the text of the submission I made this week. Enrolling in Art History at Vic literally changed my life path, and I feel really strongly about this. Please consider adding your own thoughts to the submissions.
* * * * *
SUBMISSION ON CHANGE PROPOSAL – SCHOOL OF ART HISTORY, CLASSICS & RELIGIOUS STUDIES (SACR)
I provide this submission as a graduate of Victoria’s Art History Programme (Master of Arts, 2004), and in my professional capacity as Director of The Dowse Art Museum and Chair of Museums Aotearoa, New Zealand’s umbrella organisation representing 475 organisations.
I made an earlier submission on this change proposal which I have attached for context.
Specific feedback on the proposal as it affects Art History
This submission is made from a position of strong support for the need and value of a vital, outward-looking and internationally-respected Art History programme at Victoria. With other universities cutting courses in the Humanities, VUW is positioned to exploit the strengths of its existing offer and develop new and deeply relevant programmes for New Zealand and international students – but only with the support and belief of university administration. As an employer and professional in a sector reliant upon art history graduates and professionals, many aspects of this proposal fill me with despair.
I acknowledge that falling enrolments are being at least partially attributed to a reduction in the number of secondary schools offering Art History. Having had a similar conversation with Massey University regarding visual arts intakes, I must say I am considerably more inspired by Massey’s approach of doubling down on outreach and student recruitment, compared to VUW’s slow bloodletting.
The University finds itself in a Catch-22 position. Falling enrolments are being used as an argument for reducing staff positions; at the same time, with a reduction in academic staff and the removal of the dedicated administrator, it will be difficult for the department to refresh papers, build public profile and offer the manaakitanga that has drawn generations of students into the department to date.
The proposal also indicates another review and round of changes in 2019. Such major disruption and uncertainty will not only impact staff hugely: it will undermine current and future students’ confidence in the programme and predictably negatively affect enrolments. I cannot see how this proposal achieves anything more than setting a course towards an utterly predictable failure.
Section 1.5.1 of the proposal contains one statement that puzzles me: “the current academic staffing in Art History, while mainly emphasising curatorial studies, ranges beyond the Gallery’s focus on contemporary NZ art.” This is erroneous on two counts; firstly, while some papers contain a small curatorial element and a number of the lecturers also undertake curatorial projects (a form of generating and disseminating research as valid as publishing), by no means would I describe the department as “emphasising curatorial studies”; and secondly, the Adam Art Gallery has a much wider remit than contemporary New Zealand art and in fact presents a varied programme of international, historical and modern exhibitions that are arguably more diverse than any other Wellington region institution – a major feat, given its staffing size and budget.
Specific feedback: Museum and Heritage Studies
I find the recommendations on Museums and Heritage Studies considerably more encouraging. This includes the recognition that an imbalanced EFTS ratio is appropriate for this course, but more importantly, the two areas of growth that are indicated.
Professional development at advanced levels of the sector is a topic that has already been raised with the Ministers responsible for Arts, Culture and Heritage. Speaking from my experience consulting on professional development needs within New Zealand’s museum sector, there is definitely appetite for the kinds of modular/blocked and executive development courses suggested in the proposal. These would be particularly valuable if they could be delivered in partnership with other areas of the university, including Māori Studies, Pacific Cultures and Languages, Public Law and Business.
I would also encourage in due course further exploration of the concept of a “Heritage Hub”, and put forth Te Papa, National Services Te Paerangi, Heritage New Zealand and Museums Aotearoa as potential partners or stakeholders in this conversation.
The more closely I look at this proposal, the more strongly I am struck by the fact that it appears to be entirely motivated by cost-cutting, and how void it is of aspiration, innovation or even – “even”! – attention to academic excellence or the student experience.
The potential is there for Victoria to look for growth from the separate and combined strengths of these two departments.
Aotearoa New Zealand is crying out for academic attention to be given to Māori and Pacific traditional and contemporary art forms and practices; there is a vibrant and ever-growing international discussion about decolonisation and indigenous regeneration Victoria could play a role in supporting, even leading, with a little strategic investment.
There is no postgraduate curatorial training course in the visual arts, and early career professionals regularly head offshore for this – despite the fact the Wellington region has a greater density of potential partners in this area than any other location in the country.
I urge the Decision Panel to consult with the cultural sector before making further decisions, and open your eyes to what you may be able to grow, rather than prune away.