Review - School of Cultural Inquiry

2-3 August 2010

Terms of referenceExecutive summaryRecommendations

As part of its quality assurance of education, the College reviewed the School of Cultural Inquiry on 2-3 August 2010.

Terms of Reference

The School of Cultural Inquiry plays an important role in the College of Arts and Social Sciences in education, research and outreach.

The review will report to the College Dean on the following matters:

  1. The quality, balance and range of the School's offerings in undergraduate and postgraduate coursework education and its contribution to the College's strategic education objectives.
  2. The quality of the School's research training programs.
  3. The quality of the School's research performance and its contribution to the College's strategic research objectives.
  4. The priorities for focus and development of the School's disciplines in the next three to five year period in order to ensure its continuing excellence in education and research.
  5. The appropriateness of the staffing profile of the School to achieve its strategic goals and those of the College research and education plans.
  6. The appropriateness of and quality of the infrastructure and organization of the School.

Membership of the Review Committee:

Director, Research School of Humanities and the Arts (Chair), Professor Howard Morphy

Dean of Arts & Social Sciences (Education), Professor Joan Beaumont

Director of Research, Professor Keith Dowding

Professor Roger Benjamin, University of Sydney

Professor Deirdre Coleman, University of Melbourne

Professor Alanna Nobbs, Macquarie University

Secretariat: Executive Officer, Research School of Humanities and the Arts, Suzanne Knight

Executive Summary

As part of an ongoing program of quality assurance in Education and Research, and in order to set future directions in both Education and Research, the College of Arts and Social Sciences is conducting a series of reviews of academic programs and Schools within the College. Reviews of Schools also consider internal organisation, governance, resources, staffing, staff development, linkages with other areas of the University and outreach to the broader community.

The Panel reviewing the School of Cultural Inquiry considered the submissions by the School, academic staff, students and external stakeholders. It met with the Head of the School of Cultural Inquiry, Dr Jacqueline Lo, the Heads of Programs, professorial staff and many other academic staff of the School. The Panel also met with the Pro Vice‐Chancellor (Research and Graduate Studies), the College Dean and other interested members of ANU staff. The Panel held a meeting with students of the School that included those at undergraduate and graduate levels of study. The Panel undertook a tour of the School facilities, including its teaching rooms, office space, common areas and museum displays.

A wide range of individuals and organisations with which the School has relationships were informed of the Review and invited to make comment.

The Panel was impressed with the engagement of the Head of School and academic staff with the review and their obvious commitment to and passion for teaching. The School shows strong signs of movement to collaborate across disciplines. Students also attested to generally high levels of satisfaction with their educational experience. Students of Classics & Ancient History particularly expressed their appreciation of the commitment to teaching and outreach manifested by staff of that program.

The Panel, however, concluded that the School is experiencing strain as a result of offering an extensive range of courses across an unduly fragmented organisational structure. The School is developing a positive attitude to the potentials of its new constitution but it was felt that there was insufficient vision in the submissions to the review as to how to leverage the School's unique interdisciplinary mix for educational and research advantage. Despite its commitment to interdisciplinarity there is limited articulation of School‐wide unifying themes and integration between disciplinary groups. In addition, the research activity of the School is uneven and in many instances lower than desirable, particularly in terms of attracting external research funding. With these issues in mind the Panel makes some significant developmental recommendations involving staffing and the consolidation of programs.


Recommendation 1.1

It is recommended that the proposed major in Film and New Media be reconsidered to create discrete minors in each of the constituent disciplines, with commitment to the University's future undergraduate education plans.

Recommendation 1.2

It is recommended that the Classics and Ancient History offerings be more fully integrated into other majors offered within the School.

Recommendation 1.3

It is recommended that Gender Studies be reconceptualised as a College‐wide initiative, drawing on disciplinary expertise within and beyond the School of Cultural Inquiry, and that the issue as to where the management of the program should be located be resolved by the CASS Executive Committee.

Recommendation 1.4

It is recommended that the School develops a standard model for Honours programs so as to reduce offerings and ensure critical mass of teaching, with three main Honours programs (broadly conceived) being offered; one for each of the three recommended pillars of the School (see Recommendation 4.1 below).

Recommendation 1.5

The Panel recommends that the School invest in postgraduate coursework programs in the following ways:

  • Further develop courses which can be offered in existing programs within the ANU such as Graduate Studies Select;
  • Collaborate with colleagues in the School of History and the Centres and Programs unit of RSHA to develop a Master of Creative and Life Writing for offer no later than 2012;1
  • Exploit the potential of the Classics Museum for teaching into the Master of Liberal Arts (Museums and Collections) possibly by offering intensive courses;
  • Continue the online development of postgraduate coursework offerings in art curatorship.

Recommendation 2.1

The Panel recommends that the School increase its HDR load by identifying untapped supervisory potential and increasing the participation of Early Career Researchers in mentoring and team supervision.

Recommendation 3.1

It is recommended that the School develop strategies for increasing publication output, with efforts being made particularly to publish with A‐listed publishers and journals.

Recommendation 3.2

The Panel recommends that the School needs to ensure that publications are properly lodged and should work with the CASS Research Office to ensure that HERDC returns are accurately coded.

Recommendation 3.3

It is recommended that the School use Statements of Expectations to encourage all staff to apply for ARC Discovery and other nationally competitive grants and seek assistance from the CASS Research Office to apply for seed funding to support the development of research applications.

Recommendation 3.4

It is recommended that the School implement formal research mentoring across the School to assist in improving the research performance of all staff and in particular the research management of early career researchers.

Recommendation 3.5

In addition it is recommended that the School develop a 3‐5 year School research strategy which includes better planning for OSP, heavy to light teaching for staff in alternate semesters and other strategies for staff to ensure time is set aside to devote exclusively to research.

Recommendation 4.1

In order to achieve more focus, integration and coherence in curriculum and research, the Panel recommends that the School and its staff be organised around three areas; 1) English broadly conceived to include Drama, Film, Gender and New Media Arts; 2) Art History; and 3) Classics and Ancient History.

Recommendation 4.2

It is recommended that the College establish a discipline committee for Art History and Art Theory that cross‐cuts the School of Art and the School of Cultural Inquiry, along the same principles of collaboration as the cross‐College disciplinary committees, and that this inter‐School committee be charged with reporting to the CASS Education Committee on progress made in developing a more integrated curriculum in 2010‐2011.

Recommendation 5.1

It is recommended that strategies for succession planning in Art History and Classics & Ancient History be developed and completed by mid 2011.

Recommendation 5.2

It is recommended that the current contract position in Classics & Ancient History be advertised internationally as a continuing position with one criterion being the ability to contribute to other disciplines within the School.

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