Student loans cut to creative courses

Circus arts, acting and jewellery-making will no longer be eligible for student loans as the federal government focuses on higher education reforms.
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Student loans will no longer be available for those wishing to study for a Diploma of Circus Arts. Image: NICA 2016 second year show Empty Bodies (photo via Facebook).

A number of arts diplomas – including circus, screen acting, stained glass, art therapy and jewellery-making – will no longer be eligible for government subsidies as part of the Turnbull Government’s ongoing reforms of the tertiary sector.

In total, 478 vocational courses will be dropped from the list of subjects eligible for taxpayer funded support in the form of student loans; 374 courses will continue to be supported.

Of 70 creative arts courses previously eligible for funding, only 13 are now available according to the government’s new criteria.

The eligible courses which remain are:

Diploma of Live Production and Technical Services
Diploma of Graphic Design
Diploma of Music Industry
Diploma of Photography and Photo Imaging
Diploma of Screen and Media
Diploma of Visual Arts
Advanced Diploma of Live Production and Management Services
Advanced Diploma of Graphic Design
Advanced Diploma of Creative Product Development
Advanced Diploma of Music Industry
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media
Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts
Diploma of Furniture Design and Technology

Funding for student loans for all creative programs has been capped at $10,000, compared to $15,000 for agriculture and engineering.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the changes were made in order to remove ‘lifestyle-related’ training courses and focus on those which would benefit Australia economically in the 21st century.

‘To develop this list, the Turnbull Government has run a test over all of the different diploma-level and above qualifications that are out there to ensure they are on at least two state and territory skills needs lists, and we’ve looked at other areas of high economic need, such as STEM skills or agricultural skills, to make sure the list represents our national economic priorities,’ he said.

‘Currently there are far too many courses that are being subsidised that are used simply to boost enrolments, or provide “lifestyle” choices, but don’t lead to work.’

All diploma level courses offered by registered training organisations were automatically eligible for student loans under the Vocational Educational and Training (VET) FEE-HELP scheme introduced by the previous Labor Government.

Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s new VET Student Loans program would return integrity to the vocational education sector and deliver a win-win for students and taxpayers.

‘VET Student Loans will only support legitimate students to undertake worthwhile and value-for-money courses at quality training providers,’ he said.

‘Vocational education and training is fundamental to Australia’s future success as we transition to a 21st century economy. It offers skills that are in high demand and provides broad post-school study options for students,’ Birmingham said.

‘We want to ensure that the courses that Australian taxpayers are subsidising and that we are encouraging students to study, will optimise employment outcomes.’

Founder and CEO of the Sydney-based acting school Screenwise, Denise Roberts, said she believes that many aspects of the new program will have devastating consequences for reputable institutions that have successfully contributed to skills training across the Film and Television Industry.

‘The Education Minister is sending out a clear message that acting isn’t considered a viable and important profession, when in fact it has a civilising influence on our society,’ Roberts said.

‘It is quite insulting that quality education providers who are making a huge impact in Australian Film and Television locally and overseas are being pulled into a barrel with the bad apples of the education industry. The government’s lack of consideration for the arts in general leaves myself and our alumni locally and abroad thinking, are we really nothing more than just a bunch of court jesters?’

Read: Arts education cuts leave sector fuming

She also expressed concern that the proposed VET Student Loan reforms will leave genuinely talented students – especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds – with little or no options for study in their chosen profession, which consequently may limit their desire to pursue professions that best suits their skills.

‘What saddens me the most is that whilst our industry has thrived and maintained a passion for nurturing the truly talented individuals of our society, we should not be forced to abandon our values in favour of those who are able to afford courses. Where does this leave the real talent at the end of the day?’ Roberts asked.

The Turnbull Government is seeking feedback on the list of newly eligible courses. You can have your say by emailing Feedback must be received by 23 October 2016.

Courses currently deemed ineligible for funding may be reinstated if they can demonstrate strong employment results.


The full list of creative courses now deemed ineligible for funding, as supplied by the Department of Education and Training, is published below.

Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Musical Theatre
Diploma of Live Production Design
Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work
Diploma of Ceramics
Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Floristry Design
Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Diploma of Broadcast Technology
Advanced Diploma of Performance
Graduate Diploma of Classical Ballet
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Diploma of Fashion Styling
Diploma of Screen Acting
Diploma of Screen Performance
Advanced Diploma of Acting
Diploma of Circus Arts
Diploma of Social Media Marketing
Advanced Diploma of Acting for Contemporary Screen Media
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Creatives
Diploma of  Stage and Screen Performance
Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting
Graduate Diploma of Elite Dance Instruction
Advanced Diploma of Stage and Screen Acting
Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Music Theatre
Diploma of Cinemagraphic Makeup
Diploma of Styling (Fashion, Image and Media)
Advanced Diploma of Commercial Song and Dance Performance
Diploma of Journalism
Advanced Diploma of Art (Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Film, Television and Theatre Acting
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Acting)
Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Theatre Arts
Diploma of Product Design
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Stage Acting
Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Mass Communication
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Fashion Products and Markets
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) (Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Animation

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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