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Wheels in motion for SCA merger with UNSW

Alexandros Tsathas and Sam Langford report

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The University of Sydney has taken the first step to amalgamating its fine arts faculty with UNSW, an email sent out Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) students announced this morning.

The two universities have signed a “Heads of Agreement”, a formal but non-binding commitment to proceed with merger negotiations.

If the amalgamation proceeds in its current shape, USyd’s fine arts faculty will be folded and from Semester One 2017, UNSW will be the sole deliverer of fine arts courses across the two institutions. Students halfway through a degree at USyd will complete their remaining units through UNSW’s Art & Design school (formerly CoFA), and be given the option of graduating from either university.

The fate of the SCA has been in limbo since November last year, when the University announced it would vacate its historic Callan Park campus. “Financial sustainability issues” were cited as the reason for the offload.

It is unclear whether the merger will mean staff lay-offs, and whether the total number of fine arts course positions will remain the same.

President of the USyd branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, Michael Thompson, called the University’s consultation with SCA staff “less than genuine”.

“We are concerned about what this means for job security, current entitlements and working conditions, and are planning on meeting in the coming week to get feedback from members”.

Lack of proper consultation was also a criticism of current SCA student Rebecca O’Callaghan, who holds positions on a number of consultative committees and has seen the proposal  through its various stages.

“The University’s attitude towards consultation was ‘we should ask the student body, but we know what we’re gonna do anyway'”, she said.

A final decision on the merger is expected later this year, pending the outcome of further negotiations between the universities.

If the merger does not proceed, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tyrone Carlin said “the University remains committed to plans to bring SCA onto the Camperdown campus under the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, as part of the implementation of the University’s new organisational structure.”

Further details are expected to be made available over the coming weeks.