The announcement by the University of Sydney to merge with the University of New South Wales has not been taken well by many students. The on-going protest by the students since June has made the authorities to review the proposed merger once again. The rife backlash has come not just from the students but the teachers and the arts community too. The vice-chancellor of the university came up with this announcement this Thursday citing disparity in the vision which these universities were supposed to share. The announcement that came in late June that SCA would merge into UNSW art and design sparked protests and criticism from students and high-profile graduates of the college, such as film director Jane Campion and artist Ben Quilty.
The proposed merger was said to be having a clear vision and this vision was shared by both the universities yet the failed efforts only reflected the different vision of what a centre of excellence in the visual arts might entail. The conflict that followed post the merger discussions was over the ‘distinctive tradition’. The information regarding the termination of the agreement to merge came on Wednesday to the vice-chancellor. The precarious nature of the National Art School is also in question as it was also brought into the ambit of the proposed new arts program. “We have become increasingly concerned about the adequacy of the facilities available to realize our vision of a centre of excellence,” Spence said.
The initial agreement and negotiations were done over good faith between the universities. It is said that though the agreement reached in June was not binding, at no point did UNSW back away from any part or from its commitment to making it work. There have been variations in the views of both the administration and the students too. One of the students, Frederico Camara, who was a part of the campaign against the proposed merger, said that this merger was nothing more than a trend of corporatizing of universities worldwide.
Jamie Parker, the state MP for Balmain, said the proposal seemed more driven by cost saving than excellence in the arts: “Combining these three very different art schools together risks diluting the unique individual strengths of each organization,” he said. The campaigners are expressive in their opinions and say that the consequences of such merger for the sake of making education a commercialized medium might turn out to be perilous for art education in the country.