STOP design and visual arts being slaughtered
Open Letter to Unitec
In a design and visual arts degree being taught how to think, to create, to critique and operate independently requires one central pillar – teachers. Removing experienced staff practitioners for the sake of commercialising the course on offer can only serve to undermine the academic offering and doom students to a dumbed down degree.
How Unitec can sack all 50 of its’ DVA staff this month to be replaced by 17 administrators and a pool of casual ‘industry professionals’, to teach almost 600 students is a mystery to the entire design and visual arts sector.
Unitec Institute of Technology(Auckland) has built up one of the leading Design and Visual Arts(DVA) programmes in New Zealand over recent years. Turning out award winning and outstanding graduates who have gone on to achieve success in their chosen fields: interior design, product and furniture design, photography and media arts, graphic design and animation and the visual arts.
Students, staff, practicing industry professionals, industry supporters and industry commentators are all at a loss to understand how sacking all of the staff can make any sense.
Unitec’s rationale – achieving better industry alignment – is flawed, when most of the staff in the DVA programme at Unitec already are practicing artists, designers and photographers outside of their teaching commitments. They bring with them not only practical experience and knowledge but are all accomplished teachers, mentors and assessors of their student’s work and skillfully guide students through the often fraught process of ideation, creation, critical thought and evolution.
Sure Unitec, evolve – we must all change and grow to get better – but be inclusive, share in the knowledge, stop the secrecy, respect the existing resource and intellectual property, expand your horizons and bring in new talent to augment an already exemplary programme.
But killing off all of the current staff and starting from scratch, all the while assuring existing and new students that there will be no change to the courses being delivered, is just madness. Is it not?
Making this large group of skilled practitioners redundant is a slap in the face to the entire design and visual arts sector in New Zealand. If the slaughter of 50 star teacher practitioners in a leading department can occur here at Unitec what does that mean for other departments at Unitec and other tertiary institutions for that matter?
This is a dangerous delivery model where individual thought, creativity and intellect make way for cookie-cutter, piecemeal snippets of training. All cumulative learning, consistency and personal growth is thrown out, along with the baby and the bathwater.
I fear that cost cutting and revenue generation have superseded the provision of what I was expecting to be a superb education at Unitec. What a shame.
Spokesperson for 600 Design and Visual Arts students
Design and Visual Arts department, Unitec