Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Don’t buy the numbers

You probably already know the Ministry of Education sorts the tertiary education available in New Zealand into 12 categories.  Anyway that’s the basis of a rather lame report they released the other day titled What are they doing? (seriously). The bit you will all be interested in (we're using the term 'interested' kind of loosely here) belongs to category 10 ‘Creative Arts’. This involves ‘The study of creating and performing works of art, music, dance and drama. It includes the study of clothing design and creation and communication through media’. If you want to find out stuff about the visual arts it’s in a subset called ‘Narrow fields’.

As you might expect, nowadays most of the Visual Art education happens at degree level and most of the students (around 72 percent) are female. This might make you wonder why the heads of Ilam and Elam, Massey and Whitecliffe are all guys (Otago is an exception) and why Ilam’s academic staff is under 20 percent female, or maybe not.

In all we have 473,000 domestic tertiary students of whom only 2,850 (0.6 percent) are working toward degrees in the visual arts, and that figure has been decreasing slightly over the last five years. But hang on, why does this report only cover domestic students? In doing so it fails to take into account what has got to be the biggest driver of change over the last five years in tertiary education: the influx of paying international students. Why did they even bother with this not-very-useful-to-say-the-least report? We smell delivery on KPIs (the bureaucratic measurement Key Performance Indicators) the Government Department equivalent of PBRFs.