Australia/ 8.3 Arts and cultural education  

8.3.4 Higher arts education and professional training

In 1989, changes in the Australian higher education system saw a range of specialist arts training organisations, such as conservatoria and drama schools, incorporated in the new Unified National System of higher education, usually through mergers or affiliations with universities.  Australian universities now house a range of arts schools and departments, with disciplines ranging from the traditional university pursuits of musicology, composition, visual art history and museology, to new emerging disciplines in the digital arena. %%

According to the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, total enrolments in Creative Arts courses in 2012 were 86,547, which comprised 6.9% of total enrolments.  This was an increase from 2011 when the enrolment figure was 85,078, but this is not overly significant as, in 2012, the Commonwealth government removed the caps, or limitations, on tertiary enrolment, in order to encourage more students from diverse backgrounds to attend university.  Total enrolments in Architecture and Design courses rose from 23,000 in 2011 to 23, 612 – a very low increase under the circumstances, but explicable in part due to the movement of Architecture courses to a postgraduate model, in line with the Bologna model.  For detailed statistics see

Research: The Australian Research Council (ARC)

The ARC is a statutory authority within the Commonwealth government’s research portfolio, currently positioned within the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.  It provides advice to the government on matters related to research, represents Australia internationally on a range of governmental research agendas, and runs the principal non-clinical national competitive grants scheme for the university and research institution sectors.

One of the grants schemes, the Linkage Grant Scheme, supports projects that bring together a research partner from within a university or research institution, and an industry partner from outside the higher education system.  The term ‘industry’ is interpreted broadly to include not-for-profit organisations or institutions such as museums, peak bodies, architectural practices and the like.  The Australia Council and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have also undertaken partnerships with universities under this scheme.  Characteristic of these is one that investigated the use of public space for cross-cultural big screen events, which is a partnership between Melbourne’s Federation Square, the Art Centre Nabi in Seoul and the Australia Council with research being undertaken by the University of Melbourne and the Australia Council.  The Australia Council is currently involved with twelve linkage projects under this scheme.

In 2010 the creative and performing arts, together with design, joined all other university disciplines in undergoing the first national  review of research performance, as part of the Excellence in Research Australia(ERA).  Considerable work went into establishing criteria that would determine research outputs and research outcomes in the arts and cultural sectors that are both assessable and replicable across the system, and there were very positive outcomes for some Australian performing and creative arts schools.  For information on ERA see

Within the Australian higher education system there are some 200 museums and collections, ranging from natural science, visual art, and Indigenous collections to specialist collections of medical specimens.  A Council of Australian University Museums and Collections works under the auspices of Museums Australiato further the development of these museums through provision of information and advocacy to university managements, and general facilitation for the sector. 

National professional training institutions

In addition to the arts schools and departments of the 37 public and three private institutions in the higher education system that receive their base funding on the basis of formulae initially determined by the Commonwealth Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations, there is another group of training institutions that have remained independent of the university system and which are funded through the Office for the Arts.  These are: 

The Australian Ballet School(ABS) was established in 1962 as a national school for elite training in classical dance, with the aim of seeing its graduates move into the Australian Ballet or other top international dance companies.




The Australian Film Television and Radio School(AFTRS) commenced operations in 1973 and provides advanced training in screen arts and broadcasting, for students wishing to move into cinematography, directing,editing, documentary-making, screenwriting, digital media, producing, costume design, production design, animation, television, screen composition, sound design and radio.  See


The Australian National Academy of Music(ANAM) is a national performance-based training institution that brings young musicians from around the country for an intensive year-long program of study with teachers from Australia and abroad.  Established as part of the Creative Nation policy framework, ANAM was subject to Commonwealth government review, both formally and informally, over a period of some two years, with threats of withdrawal of funding being made by the former Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett.  This has resulted in some significant changes at ANAM and the situation appears to have stabilised and strengthened for the organisation, partly as a result of developing stronger links with other tertiary music schools, and partly through a revamped governance structure.  See


The Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO), which developed from Australia’s first National Music Camp in 1948, has as its focus the training of young pre-professional musicians (ages 12–30) drawn from across Australia at a series of specialised music camps, tours, and other development opportunities.  The AYO also works to develop young composers and conductors and has played an important role over many years in the developing of the next generation of orchestral players, conductors and of composers.  See


The Flying Fruit Fly Circus, founded in 1979,is Australia’s only full-time circus training institution for young people that offers an elite full-time program for school-aged children and provides professional performance and touring opportunities for young circus artists.  See


The National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College arose from the flourishing of contemporary Australian Indigenous dance from the 1970s.  The first formal year-long training in dance for Indigenous students rapidly saw the emergence of a touring arm, the Aboriginal and Islander Dance Theatre (AIDT), that performed both nationally and internationally.  While several Indigenous dance organisations – most notably Bangarra Dance Theatre – grew out of this period of development in Indigenous dance, NAISDA evolved from the skills training side of the program.  NAISDA will accept for audition any Indigenous dancer from between the ages of 18 and 30 for its four-year diploma.  See


The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) was established at Swinburne University of Technology and in 2001 had its first intake of degree students for the Bachelor of Circus Arts, with over 100 people applying from all over Australia for its 23 places.  Funded primarily through DEWHA, NICA graduated its first cohort of graduates in 2003 and continues to attract interest from young Australians in its courses.  See


The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) is Australia’s centre of excellence for training in theatre, film and television.  In addition to acting, NIDA also offers courses in cognate disciplines such as lighting, sound, scenery construction, costume making, stage management, and the like.  Graduates from NIDA comprise some of Australia’s best-known actors and directors both nationally and internationally.  See


Chapter published: 27-12-2013