On Tuesday 10 September, Pam Christie Deputy Director-General, TAFE and Community Education notified all TAFE staff that "From January 2013 student fees for government supported places (in TAFE) will increase and Fine Arts courses including sculpture, visual arts and ceramics will no longer be subsidised by the Government."
• DISAFFECTED YOUTH & RURAL COMMUNITIES MOST AFFECTED BY CUTS
The TAFE NSW ‘Our History’ website states that since the 1850's directors of technical education in NSW took the view that education should not only strengthen job prospects – it should enrich society (1).
Disaffected youth that do not fit the High School system, and economically disadvantaged students will be particularly hard hit by the fee cuts. The Certificate III in Fine Arts (FA) attracts those students who need a second chance at accessing tertiary education. This course offers them an equivalent HSC result with the opportunity to continue onto a higher educational level with greater employment potential. Many other students that are currently enrolled part-time in certificate courses will not have the means to finalise their studies. Most regional colleges only offer Certificate II, III & IV FA courses giving people of all ages the opportunity to pursue training in areas that contribute to the economic and cultural well-being of their rural communities. All these courses will go.
• REASONS FOR DELETING FINE ARTS COURSES UNFOUNDED
The main reasons given by the Govt. for the cuts in Fine Arts were lack of employment opportunities for graduates and a reduction in GST revenue (2). Artists contribute hours & years of their own time & money producing artwork for the public domain, contributing to societies culture & vibrancy without any guaranteed remuneration. The National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) argue that artists also drive innovation and add value to commercialization, distribution, marketing and design in all sectors of the economy.
“The creative industries are enablers of creative networks and spaces and of new business models. They contribute 2.8% of gross GDP (more than agriculture; communications; and electricity, gas and water supply). The visual arts, design and architecture makes up over 11% of the creative industries and have been growing in terms of employment opportunity.” (3)
And contrary to the claims of reduced GST revenue, the federal treasurer Wayne Swan, in question time this week, confirmed that in fact NSW GST revenues are rising & revenue is projected to increase by 18% over the next 4 years (4).
• ONLY 2 ½ MONTHS TO IMPLEMENT CHANGES
TAFE Institutes are expected to switch from a subsidised model for all FA courses with administration fees to a fully commercial course structure by 1 January 2013. FEE Help, similar to HECS, will only be offered for FA courses at the Diploma level or above with an approved articulation pathway into at least one university degree. However there is no information on what form these charges will take. With only 2 1/2 months before the full implementation of these drastic changes, there is limited time to promote and inform current and future students of the new fee & course structure. It appears as though the intention & design of this action by the NSW Government is to ensure FA sections at TAFE colleges will collapse & staff will be cut.
•SHORT SIGHTED VISION FOR VET TRAINING REDUCES EMPLOYMENT POTENTIAL
This could mean the end of Fine Arts in TAFE NSW (particularly in regional areas) & the added value of creativity to all people’s lives & enrichment to the local communities & Australia. To only offer a narrow training model that doesn’t incorporate all the skills and knowledge that today's society and economy demand would be a tragedy and a particularly shortsighted vision for Australia’s future. Education taught in isolation from the larger societal context is too limited and will leave many students with narrow training that fails to equip them for jobs — and for lives — in the global economy.