Concern over theatre programs at the University of Tasmania in Launceston is growing among the city’s art community, despite continued assurances from the tertiary education provider.
Reports were made on Monday UTAS had axed its theatre programs from Launceston after it revealed the Bachelor of Contemporary Art would no longer be offered in the state from next year.
Instead, theatre will now be offered as a major under the broader Bachelor of Arts degree, which the university says would make it available to more students.
However, concern has been growing in Launceston’s theatre community, with Three River Theatre president Cameron Hindrum penning an open letter to UTAS.
Theatre units are offered currently under the Bachelor of Contemporary Arts as a specialisation, but not a major, and theatre is not offered as a bachelor degree in its own right.
UTAS Theatre head Jane Woollard and lecturer Asher Warren said the changes would put the theatre model on a sustainable footing.
“We have been working to improve the program we offer, to grow our student numbers and to open up theatre to many more people,” Dr Woollard said.
“Our students will learn technical skills and will have exciting opportunities to work with festivals and create new work.”
Dr Woollard and Dr Warren said it was crucial the community understood theatre would still be offered and based in Launceston.
All current students will graduate with the Bachelor of Contemporary Arts but no new students will be enrolled from next year.
“We’ve considered the best theatre offerings around the country and consulted with stakeholders as we developed what is a strong, contemporary program,” Dr Woollard said.
“This new model also makes theatre much more accessible because students who want to gain theatre skills and knowledge will be able to do so without taking the major.”
Mr Hindrum said he was “appalled” at the decision, which was one of several that had led to the “disintegration of the Theatre School” in Launceston.
“I am appalled at the highly opaque manner in which UTAS management have overseen the gradual disintegration of the Theatre School. It is impossible to accurately fathom the benefit, the richness, the value or the impact this program has had on the lives and careers of generations of theatre practitioners,” Mr Hindrum said in his letter.
He said no community consultation had been done on the issue, but UTAS said consultation with art stakeholders and the school community had been completed.
“It may be too late to request some transparency or some consultation regarding this decision, but the senior management of the university must not escape accountability for it. They have not acted in the best interests of Tasmania’s ‘flourishing’ performing arts scene but merely in the best interests of their own profit margin,” Mr Hindrum said.