HOPE RETURNS TO VCA: Dean Resigns / Brumby & Crean Hint At Solution / Uni Release Response

Posted by savevca1 on July 22nd, 2010

We’re nearly there – but VCA needs you now more than ever.

After over a year of relentless campaigning, tonight SAVE VCA’s 13,879 members can smell hope.

The University of Melbourne has released its response to its own VCAM Review. Read it here and post your thoughts below or on Facebook so they can be included in the official SAVE VCA response. A mini summary of the response is included below. We expect most of you will have a cautious / mixed reading of the paper and look forward to reading your comments ASAP.

However in momentous news, today Dean Sharman Pretty has resigned (read email to staff below) and for the first time, a permanent solution for VCA is now in the air thanks to much welcome Government intervention.

At this evening’s Melbourne International Film Festival, the Victorian Premier John Brumby had this to say:

Before I finish, I want to say something about an institution that is dear to my heart.

Some of you may know that the University of Melbourne has this evening responded to the recommendations of the Switkowski Review of the Victorian College of the Arts which includes their support for the creation of two separate entities – the VCA and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music* – each with their own directors and responsibilities for curriculum and budget.

The VCA plays a significant role in our arts industry and our Government is keen to ensure that a high level of studio-based training is maintained and enhanced in the future.

We welcome the university’s response as an important first step.  But I can tell you tonight that we are not resting on this issue. We are having constructive conversations with the Commonwealth on the future of the VCA – and I am determined to deliver a solution for a sustainable, vibrant and appropriately resourced VCA into the future.  I hope to have more to say on this in the near future.

The cheer from the audience was deafening.

[*note the reference the "Melbourne Conservatorium" is a new entity within VCAM which still combines VCA Music and UoM Music and is still soley Melbourne Model based. The University have not proposed a demerger, instead they are separating Music from the other art forms within VCAM. Read the full response for more info]

Federal Education Minister Simon Crean

We absolutely applaud the State Government’s decision to join the Victorian Greens and Victorian Liberals to fight for VCA and we wait with bated breath for the Federal Government (particularly new Federal Education Minister Simon Creen who holds the purse strings) to show the same determination to deliver a lasting funding solution before the Federal Election. Mr Crean has already hinted in a media release his wallet is out - lets shake the money out!  Email Simon Crean now and tell him how much VCA means to you and Australia’s arts Business and that is must have special, recurring funding delivered this year $6m p/a absolute minimum (s.crean.mp@aph.gov.au). Remember to cc Candidate for Melbourne Cath Bowtell (cath.bowtell@australianlabor.com.au)

More analysis of the University response will follow in the coming days, but for now happy reading and please share your feedback ASAP so everyones opinion can be accounted for.

Congratulations to all on this breakthrough– however we’re not there yet.Email Simon Crean and Cath Bowtell right now! Everyone’s voice counts in an election year!




  • Commitment to studio based training is affirmed.
  • The merger remains with no plans to return VCA’s independence. Uni Melb still owns VCA’s assets.
  • Melbourne Model postponed pending a new curriculum review that will be done this year to be actioned from 2011. This new Review will again not be independent, rather Uni Melb will run it. Music will remain an entirely Melbourne Model affair.
  • No immediate plan to return cut courses (Music Theatre, Puppetry, Film & TV Doco and Drama).
  • VCAM will remain, but will be split internally into two sectors – Music (Melbourne Conservatorium which is combined UoM Music and VCA Music) and ‘the rest’ (VCA).  Each will have their own director, with the Conservatorium head being Gary McPherson (the current head of VCAM Music) and the head of VCA is TBA. Staff and students will not have a say in these appointments. The two Directors will report to a Dean.
  • The different offerings of UoM Music and VCA Music are still not acknowledged, instead they are presented as duplicates. It is unclear why Music is being separated out from the other art forms, thus putting at risk VCA’s unique formula of teaching all art forms, with an emphasis on cross-form collaboration (and the ability to use this unique formula to fight for better Federal funding). Music will continue to operate across two campuses.
  • Even though there is acknowledgement VCA was financially stable prior to the 2005 Federal Funding cut, VCA is still painted as a significant strain on the University and economic rationalism speak abounds e.g. “[VCAM should] take all reasonable steps to reduce the level and duration of transitional funding required”. There is no acknowledgment of the financial burden placed upon VCA by the University in the form of admin and rental costs which were not factored at the time of merger (when Uni Melb scored $103m of VCA assets).


From: Acting Vice-Chancellor <vc@unimelb.edu.au>

Date: 22 July 2010 18:52:11 AEST

To: All staff

Subject: VCAM announcement

Reply-To: vc@unimelb.edu.au

From the Vice Chancellor

22 July 2010

Dear colleagues,

Today the University released its response to the Switkowski Review of the Faculty of the VCA and Music, completed in May this year.

The University Council has approved the recommendations of a steering committee under my leadership to consider the Review, with input from the faculty itself and consultation with the VCA Integration Committee.

Principally, the University endorses the Review’s recommendation that VCAM continue as a single faculty, but now comprising two discrete parts to be known initially as the VCA and the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. Each part will be led by a Director, which will be a new position reporting to the Dean.

The response also endorses the Review’s recommendations on the future curriculum of the Faculty. These include suspending the proposed introduction of the Melbourne Model for the visual and performing arts disciplines based at the Southbank campus, pending a new process to consider the curriculum most appropriate to these disciplines.

This process will consider the faculty’s courses, teaching practices and the feasibility of offering an exclusively practice-based Associate Diploma and Graduate Diploma degree program. As recommended by the Switkowski Report, the review will be guided firmly by the principles that curriculum must be financially sustainable, that studio-practice remain central to tuition, and that talent-based entry be reaffirmed. The Provost or nominee will lead the review, with a brief to report back by 31 December 2010.

The full text of the University’s response, “The Future of the Visual and Performing Arts at the University of Melbourne”, may be viewed at http://www.unimelb.edu.au/vcam-discussion/

As part of the new direction, the Dean, Professor Sharman Pretty will resign from the position. The University’s response has clarified that the future directions of the Faculty, and hence the role of Dean within that context, will be significantly different to that which Professor Pretty was appointed. As a result Professor Pretty has decided to step down, as such a different role is not one that she would be interested to pursue.

Professor Pretty came to us after holding distinguished appointments as an educational leader in the arts both in Australia and New Zealand, which had followed a career in music as a performer, teacher and arts manager. She proved to be a highly intelligent, articulate and committed leader and she tackled a very challenging task with great energy and resilience, informed by a wide knowledge of the advancement of the arts internationally. The University is grateful for her many initiatives and achievements, including achieving major support to secure the future of the Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development, and building partnerships with the Royal College of Music London and the Shanghai Conservatory through the recent Global Ensemble project at the Shanghai Expo, and locally through the relationship with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other professional arts organisations. Her vision for the future of the Southbank campus as a performing arts precinct of international distinction, combining our educational activities with the work of Melbourne’s professional performing companies, is one we will be exploring very seriously.

The changes we have announced today are important ones. I hope they will serve to speed our progress towards achieving a better future for our visual and performing arts programs, one of which we can all be proud.

Professor John Dewar

Acting Vice Chancellor

  • Share/Bookmark

23 Responses to “HOPE RETURNS TO VCA: Dean Resigns / Brumby & Crean Hint At Solution / Uni Release Response”

  1. Oh hell yes! Bye Bye Pretty, you won’t be missed, and neither will your slash and destroy approach to reform. Let’s rebuild whats been cut, let’s bring back the amazing staff we have lost, let’s restore the glory to the institution, and bring Arts Education in Australia to the forefront of governmental priorities! :-) WELL DONE TO EVERYONE, NO MATTER HOW SMALL A PART YOU PLAYED IN THIS MOVEMENT, LETS ONCE AGIN REGROUP AND TAKE THAT FINAL STEP TO



  2. concerned musician

    This is heartening news. A huge step forward for VCA. Let’s hope Premier Brumby follows up on his promise, and soul of VCA can be renewed. As a current music student at VCAM Southbank campus, this is hugely welcoming as all students at both campuses have been adversely affected by the changes over the last 6 months. I also breathe a sigh of relief that any plans to bring in the Melbourne model at VCA have been suspended. Thank you to the tireless efforts of all those involved in saveVCA who have kept up the sharing of this information, to the efforts of staff at both campuses, to John Brumby for your long awaited words, and to University of Melbourne for seeing reason, by deciding to reinstate the VCA and Melbourne Conservatorium as a separate entities. The VCA is, and always should be, the VCA – thank you.

    [SAVE VCA NOTE - the reference the "Melbourne Conservatorium" is a new entity within VCAM which still combines VCA Music and UoM Music and is still soley Melbourne Model based. The University have not proposed a demerger, instead they are separating Music from the other art forms within VCAM. Read the full response for more info]

  3. Sharman Pretty is a disgrace… good riddance. My only hope is that she not only resigns but retires all together. It would be a shame if she was appointed somewhere else and was able to continue to wreak havoc. Anyway great work Save VCA people power wins!!

  4. Perhaps there is a god after all. Or perhaps it’s just that state and federal elections are looming. Either way, that’s fantastic news. Congratulations to all SaveVCA activists and supporters.

  5. FANTASTIC!! Almost unbelievable. Congratulations to everyone involved in getting this far. So premier John Brumby does read the papers after all. Amazing things can happen near an election. I wonder if John rang up Glyn Davis and told him to sort the mess out or else? In any case, Sharman is gone, thank heavens. Maybe now the University Council will do the same to Glyn that caucus did to Kevin Rudd. It would be an appropriate time for ‘regime change’….

  6. Be aware that Melbourne University was Sharman’s boss. She was doing the university’s bidding for the most part. The Music school at VCA will be separated into the new conservatorium.
    The whole process needs to be observed closely.

  7. this is so positive!


  8. Brilliant news, although as a musician, and one who values the differeces between the old VCA Music and Faculty of Music I’m a little disappointed/worried…

  9. So, one more part of the university will opt out of the ‘Melbourne Model’. Medicine was never in it in the first place. The B.Biomedicine is in no way a broad undergraduate course – it is pre-med. Engineering has tried valiantly to keep the old course alive for as long as it could, hoping Glyn would disappear. And now we have the VCA gaining special status.
    Add the VCA debacle to the pressure now being applied to UoM on how it can possibly justify dispensing inflated doctorates for its post-grad courses, and it must be clear to all that the place is being run by a bunch of monkeys.


  10. Musicians take note as above.You are all still going to cop the Melbourne Model under this demerger. that includes Improv students. It’s ironic that of all the disciplines , playing an instrument /singing are the most demanding of psychomotor activities with a need for the most intensive studio training.And it now looks as though of all the arts – only music students will have to cop the breadth component. The influence and agenda of the university has to be removed from the paradigm of this type of learning altogether.

  11. Martin Croft

    There are so many positives about this response. Not the least of which is that all the students who went out on a limb and fought for what they believed in will take this with them for the rest of their lives. If you believe in something, then stand up and be counted, support it and yes change can happen. The resignation of the Dean was absolutely necessary and although I was no fan of her position or the way she went about it implementing change, I do respect the fact that she chose to resign when her vision would not be implemented. There maybe others in positions of authority across the Uni who should take her lead and at least stay true to their vision and do the same as Ms Pretty. What we must all do now and do it strongly, is continue to push home the vision of those of us who truly understand what needs to be done at the VCA. We MUST be included in all decision making–including the choice of the new Dean. Never again can we allow the VCA to be under the threat it has laboured under for the last 5 years. Never again should we feel subservient to beaurocrats who do not understand the Arts and how all its branches should be taught. We as teachers and professionals in the Arts community and you as students are the ones who know what must be protected.We must stand proud and resolute and determined to move forward to a vibrant, secure and respected future. To everyone who helped in this fight and particularly a very passionate and brave core–this is just fantastic and the Australian Arts Community and the culture of this country is a better place today because of your tireless efforts. We may not have been popular but we have been right!!!!!!

  12. Robert Ray

    As one of the “retired” staff from 2009, after 15 years of service, I am so delighted that Pretty has gone at last. What on earth was Glyn Davis thinking of in the first place? Well done to all the saveVCA people. I have felt so much for the colleagues I left behind: dealing with extreme over-work due to our leaving; but more importantly working under someone like Pretty for whom no-one had any respect. Anne Woolliams, founding Dean of Dance is doing a tour jeté up there in heaven.

  13. This is a massive achievement, rare is it that the university either directly or implicitly concedes its mistakes. As a student at the Parkville campus doing a pre Melbourne Model course, the changes to the music faculty have been devastating there too. It is a ghost town on that campus. I feel this is the first step to a better outcome for everyone involved. Glad to see that serial hatchet woman gone- where to next for that pest?

  14. “I love the smell of napalm in the morning; it’s the smell of VICTORY!”

    Faith in Ziggy justified. Pretty resignation appropriate; admission in VC’s missive that her role was for slash & burn and therfore no longer appropriate. She never did “get it”. Congratulations to well organised Save VCA group and particularly to leading actors (Rush et al) and the magnificent efforts – using their craft and personalities of the students in their various street performance protests. Still don’t understand why music is not an ‘art’. Credit too to UoM for at least listening to reason – especially about the importance of the studio/practise-based training model. More to be done but a very encouraging point has been reached. Ron Dent

  15. yay! Most hopeful news to date! I look forward to real support and reinstatement of lost staff and courses!

  16. Listen to Jon Faine interview John Dewar (acting/UoM) (link above)
    How terribly, terribly embarrassing for the university! Dewar was bravely trying to spin a ‘Dead Parrot’. In fact the script could have been adapted directly from the Dead Parrot sketch to better dramatic effect.
    When it ended I felt so angry that our once foremost university has been run by such people. If Jon Faine could had asked Dewar whether the sun was shining, I’m sure Dewar would have responded about ‘looking at all options…’ (except looking out the window, of course). All very funny, if it wasn’t such a stupid disaster.
    By the way – where was Glyn Davis in all of this? He isn’t taking any responsibility for the results of his policies. The Melbourne Model was his entirely his idea. Introduced by him regardless of anyone below.

  17. Allie Dawe

    So good to hear there has been a stay of execution, for that is what the Melbourne Model is to the VCA courses.
    How many brilliant musicians from the past could have written academic essays about anything, if it were a ‘course requirement’ for being in a great music school. We don’t ask Medical students to write 3000 word essays on the history of modern architecture or bridge design. Academic hoop jumping can be sold as integral to a specialist education but it really a dumbing down process which can blight the self esteem and potential of the most brilliant people in our arts community.
    Melbourne University has appropriated the specialist public esteem of those brilliant specialist institutions it has ‘taken over’ including Dookie Agricultural College and the VCA, and left the community with little but beautifully written articles on websites and Alumni magazines.
    I would happily pay a VCA levy in my tax if it would ensure the original intention and teaching path of the VCA were restored.

  18. David Wilson

    Hooray ! I fervently hoped something like this would happen but never
    dared dream it would.
    Well done everybody, well done !
    But its not over until the erstwhile saboteurs, at all levels, are held to
    account and made to fortify the VCA as their penance.
    David Wilson.

  19. David Wilson

    Hooray ! I fervently hoped something like this would happen but never
    dared dream it would.
    Well done everybody, well done !
    But its not all over until the erstwhile saboteurs, at all levels, are held to
    account and made to fortify the VCA as their penance.
    David Wilson.

  20. All of a sudden Brumby is on board???

  21. I don’t wish to throw cold water on recent good news, but nearly three years on, we’re back to square 1: No dean, no curriculum, and the rather futile hope that two schools will work under one faculty. Although I agree the Melbourne Model is totally inappropriate for the VCA, in this day and age an arts-school training of the highest international calibre cannot consist entirely of performance-related studies. It has to have decent amounts of music theory, history and cultural-related subjects framed in a rigorous academic context. I know many VCA supporters disagree with this point of view, but such a balance is well established at many of the world’s leading arts schools, including the Juilliard. A total arts education in the 21st century is imperative, and we must move beyond the notion of merely ‘training’ musicians.

  22. RE: Nathan. Rather than ‘pouring cold water’, there is a now a fresh and exhilarating chance to get the balance and mix right. Cutting staff, course content and whole courses are not ways to make a great school, nor having a Dean who was hired purely to do these things. Staff could have been consulted on how to improve standards, but the Melbourne Model is all about money, top down management, and gagging staff discourse through fear of losing their jobs. Bravo to save VCA for making Glyn Davis ‘face the music’!!

  23. No one at Melbourne University is ‘facing the music’ – or intends to if they can possibly help it. VCA and Music is now occupied by a foreign culture and only the politicians can do something about it. So write to them!

Leave a Reply

  • Please help this campaign…