"Our Small Crisis"
Inside the cancellation of the Creative Industries major
Debate can reveal that university staff chose to cancel the Creative Industries major instead of hiring contract teachers, following an unexpected staffing shortage at the start of last semester.
Documents released to Debate under The Official Information Act show an email chain circulated amongst AUT staff with the subject “Our small crisis: closing CI”.
In an email dated February 18, which was just one week from the start of semester, Deputy Head of School, Frances Nelson said hiring contract teachers to teach third year Creative Industries papers was considered, but ultimately decided against.
“The most elegant way to deal with closing the major down would be to allow students to graduate with a generic BCS. This is not ideal, but it is practical,” she wrote.
Dean of Design and Creative Technologies, Guy Littlefair wrote in an email, that the decision to close the major had been made that same day “given some very significant staffing shortages in CI.”
The following day, Nelson sent an email to staff announcing the cancellation of level 7 papers within the Creative Industries major.
“Please know that this decision – which resulted from much deliberation with members of the school and the faculty’s senior management – has not been made lightly,” she wrote.
The decision left students planning to take the major shocked and scrambling to make a new plan.
One student, Ben Fitchett, started an online petition to restore the major which amassed over 2000 signatures.
In the petition’s description, he said students were being forced to make impulse decisions that could affect their future careers.
“This is so unfair on our behalf to make this change six days out from starting as it leaves students no time to decide on where they want to lead their studies or whether they would like to transfer to a different university,” he said.
The announcement also appeared to take some staff by surprise, with faculty registrar Alison Gale replying to the email chain saying: “Thanks for forwarding . . . Be good to know the background/context. It’s the first I have heard of it.”
Head of Faculty Operations, Sophie Hayman sent an email to Littlefield suggesting the cancellation of the major be framed as a lack of demand when notifying AUT’s Academic Board.
“It would be preferable not [to] say we won’t be delivering the major as we have no staff, it needs to be framed outlining the decision to close the major on the basis of demand,” she wrote.
While the sudden cancellation of the major was jarring, students appear to have found satisfactory alternatives – either in other majors or through completing a generic BCS.
One CI student, Aimee Tibbots told Debate that although she is happy working towards a major in Public Relations, she does wonder how Creative Industries may have turned out.
“I guess everything happens for a reason, but Creative Industries still does stick at the back of my mind and I wonder how different my uni semester would have gone,” she said.