You may have heard the surprising and sad news that the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Industries has decided to cease offering the Natural History Illustration degree. They have announced that no new admissions will be taken into the program. The current students, including those in their first year, now have only until 2024 to finish their studies despite the university’s advertised eight-year maximum completion timeframe. For all students, the promised option of doing an Honours year has been retracted. There was no consultation with students prior to the decision and the news was delivered through personal rather than official channels, without respectful warning to students or staff.
The Natural History Illustration degree is unique, being the broadest and most comprehensive scientific illustration course in the world. At a time when communicating scientific research has never been more important, the specialized forms of observation and illustration that are taught in the degree produce highly skilled graduates who help people to understand the natural world and care about it. The interest in Natural History Illustration is huge, as evidenced by the 93,000 people from all over the world who have enrolled in the online course designed by staff of the Natural History Illustration degree.
We, the Natural History Illustration Club, who are mostly current students of the degree, are advocating for the best possible outcome in the current situation and we would like your help.
Please let the University know how you feel about their decision by writing to the decision-makers:
Alex Zelinsky – Vice-Chancellor
John Fischetti - Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Education and Arts and School of Education
Paul Egglestone – Head of the School of Creative Industries
Thank you for your support,
Natural History Illustration Club on behalf of all students of the Natural History Illustration degree
Dear Professor Zelinsky, Professor Fischetti & Professor Egglestone,
I have recently learned of the University of Newcastle’s decision to cease offering the Bachelor of Natural History Illustration and BNHI Honours programs. I am taking this opportunity to express my disappointment in this decision, and my support of the students and staff, past and present, who have undertaken the program.
What is your involvement with natural history illustration? How has it influenced your work? (e.g. Illustrator/artist, teacher, author of books featuring NHI, user of NHI as a learning or teaching tool in the sciences or elsewhere). Feel free to detail your credentials, affiliations and career accomplishments.
Natural history illustration is considered by many to be a niche field, however it spans an enormous range of real-world applications. Natural history illustrators work at the cutting edge of science and medicine, using their unique skillsets to bridge the gap between arts and science, visually describing concepts, organisms, procedures and conditions; these works then used by researchers as learning and teaching tools in their efforts to evolve our understanding of the world around (and within) us. Natural history illustrators contribute greatly to our culture and everyday lives, their work finding a home anywhere and everywhere, from gallery walls, to textbooks, to cups and saucers.
Until now the University of Newcastle has been alone in offering a full suite of undergraduate, honours and PhD programs in this field. Nowhere else in the world was a program offered that covered natural history illustration so comprehensively or presented by such exemplary staff. Students from across Australia and the world came to Newcastle to receive world-class training in this profession. The loss of this program is a blow not only to the worldwide STEM and arts communities, but to the University of Newcastle, as it discards an exceptional and unique part of itself.
I hope that the University will honor the agreement it entered into with the current students when they signed on to the degree by offering them all the resources and opportunities that were advertised to them when they began, including the chance to complete an Honours in NHI, rather than Design or Fine Arts. I hope that this letter will resonate with you and convey the disappointment with which I and others in my field have received this news.
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