Student anger is boiling over after continued threats to the preservation of the Victoria College of the Arts (VCA) amid impending funding cuts.

Students and staff say they are the forgotten ones in the saga, and have started an online campaign, -˜Save the VCA’, urging the federal and state governments to save the renowned arts college from destruction if further cuts to staff and courses are made.

The VCA’s 2005 merger with Melbourne University has not been an easy one, with reports the faculty Dean, Sharman Pretty, has to slash $11 million a year from the VCA budget.

Claims Melbourne University has pushed aside previous agreements with staff and students have angered many, with staff unable to speak out for fear of job loss. The new music theatre and puppetry courses have been suspended from 2010.

VCA Masters in Film and Television student Alice Foulcher said the campaign is gaining support. Almost 1300 people have signed the online petition.

Foulcher said many students and staff feel powerless and fear the VCA’s international reputation won’t withstand the severe budget cuts.

-œ[VCA] has such a reputation within the arts industry for producing quality artists, she said.

-œIn the future when you say, -˜I graduated from VCA’, it’ll mean nothing at all. At the moment, VCA’s one of the few schools that the Cannes Film Festival looks at every graduating film, because they know the quality of our work -” that won’t exist in the future.

Concern has also been raised at the introduction of the -˜Melbourne model’ for VCA students -” a three-year undergraduate generalist degree followed by two years postgraduate study.

-œMost people can’t afford it anyway, but dancers don’t want to do an arts degree when they could be training to be a dancer, Foulcher said.

VCA student Justin Olstein said a climate of fear and future uncertainty is affecting staff and students.

There have been reports at least 12 casual staff positions have been recently cut and a staff hiring freeze is in place.

-œIn class it’s petty dire . The general morale is pretty low and it’s not exactly the perfect environment for making films, he said.

-œTeachers who are usually active and involved and passionate are concerned about whether they will have a job.

Olstein said he is concerned important practical elements of his course, such as director workshops, will also be cut.

-œIt’s like they’re saying you can run the race but we’re going to cut your legs off, he said.

Victorian Actors’ Benevolent Trust spokeswoman Bronwen Fallens said the trust has concerns about the impact a shrunken VCA will have on the state’s future actors.

-œVictorian actors will have to look to other Australian states and institutions such as NIDA and WAPA to find similar training, taking talent away from Victoria rather than keeping the talent pool local, she said.

-œTo lose the prestige and history of anything that supports the best in the Australian arts and entertainment industry would be a great loss to the nation.


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