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EIT’S Reshaped Arts Degree Attracts Wide Acclaim

September 11, 2012

Dr Suzette Major (standing) with visual arts and design students Lisa Feyen, left, and Amy Greaves in the print studio at EIT.

EIT’s radically restructured Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design is triggering strong interest from would-be students drawn to its project-based approach to learning.

The Eastern Institute of Technology is catching the first wave in a global sea change for creative practioner education in launching New Zealand’s first project-based arts and design degree.

“From next year, our restructured Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design will enable students to learn how the creative industry works in practice,” says head of Arts and Design Dr Suzette Major who is leading the Hawke’s Bay institute’s far-reaching change in direction.

An expert in arts marketing, Major says EIT is already fielding many inquiries about the degree – ahead of applications opening in Mid-September.

“People wanting to enrol will be required to submit a portfolio of work and there will be interviews for the limited spaces available. In the last two years, all the places were filled before Christmas and obviously demand is going to be even stronger for the restructured degree, so those interested should get in early.”

An expert in arts marketing, Major believes it’s vital that fledgling designers and artists master the wide range of skills needed to survive and thrive in the creative industries.

To that end, students starting the degree at EIT next year will undertake a series of real-life projects designed to develop their practical skills, techniques and theoretical knowledge while equipping them with the know-how required for working in, and developing and managing, their own practices.

The project-based approach to learning continues to gain traction with educators worldwide. It has been adopted by Harvard for its MBA programme, for example, and is being introduced across a range of disciplines.

EIT’s initiative has attracted favourable comment from industry players including Jane Sutherland of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldide, who says the repackaged degree is “relevant, highly contemporary and forward thinking”.

The New York-based director of contemporary arts projects compares the “innovative programming” with leading US art/design institutions Parsons/The New School in New York, MIT in Boston and CalArts.

EIT’s aim is to produce graduates ready to go when they join the work force. For that reason, Major says, the degree also encompasses career and business management learning and allows for an intern work experience for final-year students.

“In the real world, practitioners have to be able to pitch their ideas, manage their creative processes and work collaboratively on projects. They are often juggling a number of projects at any one time. What we will be offering new students is a far more holistic, in-depth way of learning aligned to these needs.

“We are a small enough school and have an experienced team to do this fairly easily within the existing degree structure.

“And we didn’t have to write the degree from scratch – what we are teaching now is intuitively project-based, though we’ve never used that term,” she says, pointing to a futuristic project students did for Napier’s Marine Parade and involvement in a real-life branding exercise for the Lake Tutira arboretum in northern Hawke’s Bay.”