It is an uncertain time to be a student of visual arts in Sydney, or indeed Australia. Funding cuts and campus shutdowns send a toxic message to young people whose ambitions and talents lie in the arts. These same young people are now fighting back – the past month has seen sit-ins at the Archibald Prize, citywide marches from all art schools, an ongoing occupation of Sydney College of the Arts, and 138 visual arts students lodging legal claims totalling $4.1 million in damages against the University of Sydney.

n Sydney, the National Art School is hanging by a thread and fighting for its right to remain independent and government-funded. UNSW Art and Design (formerly the College of Fine Arts) is overcrowded and plagued by an ill-fated restructure. In May this year, the government cut significant funding from the Australia Council and subsequently 65 arts organisations lost a four-year round of funding. In Rozelle, the University of Sydney’s Sydney College of the Arts has been troubled since July.

There were plans for the Rozelle campus (and $7 million worth of student fees) to be absorbed by UNSW but the University of Sydney leadership abandoned the agreement. Management maintains the Kirkbride Campus at Callan Park is not viable, and have now released a draft change plan that proposes a move out of Rozelle with no definite home, a 60 per cent cut to staff and the loss of several key disciplines – ceramics, jewellery, glass and sculpture.

The Bachelor of Visual Arts is not open to 2017 enrollments. Existing student will complete their education at a school held in a chokehold. Our eventual qualification will be tainted by a bitter fight against the University of Sydney and the knowledge we will then be working in a society that values artworks, but often fails to value its artists.

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