Tuesday 30 August 2016

An Update on AFTRS - The Degree Programs Strike Back

This Film Alert post and this Film Alert post were two of a number on this blog which drew attention to the state of the Australian Film Television & Radio School (AFTRS) and the educational direction it had been pursuing by the time that the appointment of CEO Sandra Levy, from 2007 to 2015, came to an end. In brief, during Levy’s term, AFTRS abandoned the Bachelor and Masters Degree Programs which had existed at AFTRS from 1984 to 2009. 

However, by the end of Levy’s time there were reports of some consternation being registered about what was happening at the venerable institution. In the absence of any expressed vision from the school itself, the consternation had begun to focus especially on what AFTRS has actually been doing over the last decade when it abandoned the aforesaid Degree Programs, and whether it had allowed standards to slip, lost sight of its primary objectives, failed to produce any film-makers of note and degenerated in its teaching into a soft TAFE-like institution offering courses of high cost to the taxpayer but low value to the industry and the society into which the scores of certificate holders head.

That post finished with a list of films made by graduates. It was intended as a shorthand way of taking a serious look at just what AFTRS did in the distant past and what it was up to at the very moment a new CEO had arrived.

Neil Peplow, AFTRS CEO since September 2015
Confirmation of AFTRS new direction under CEO Neil Peplow seems to have been revealed in two scoops in the online film news site Inside Film. The first is an interview with Peplow which says in part:

What’s the third prong?
After the BA there’s the Graduate Certificates as well as the discipline-specific MA.
There’s been a gap there for a couple of years.
Effectively it’s back to the future. The MA Screen 2017 will have 11 disciplines, and there’ll be six students in each discipline. Highly merit-selected. 
Are those streams different in any substantial way to the old discipline-specific MA offerings?
We’ve recognised that collaboration is increasingly important in the way that people are producing content. There’s more fluidity between disciplines. Previously they’d all been delivered in a siloed way; the head of discipline developed the course and it was delivered. Whereas now there’ll be one person in charge of the entire Masters’ program and then we effectively deliver the disciplines within that. So that’s the major difference. It’s not eleven separate courses. It’s one course with eleven specific disciplines within it. We’re now hiring discipline heads, and those heads of discipline will inform the curriculum at each level. So previously they’d only inform one course. But [now] they’ll inform the MA, the graduate certificates, the BA, the diplomas and even the Open short course program. They’ll have an overview of their discipline across everything we’re delivering. So they can control the gradient. 
To reinforce this, Inside Film has a follow up story announcing the first occupants of a double figure number of new senior appointments, with a likely cost to the taxpayer of close to a couple of $mill per annum. You can read about it here.

Keen and optimistic observers are currently happy to accept the CEO’s word that it’s back to the future. 

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