Many of you, particularly our members and friends in Australia, will be aware that NICA, the National Institute of Circus Arts, has been in the news recently.
Plans for NICA to become independent of its founding parent – Swinburne University of Technology – were abruptly abandoned at the end of June with a statement from Swinburne University of Technology that said: “Swinburne University of Technology will continue to be the home for circus arts offered through the National Institute of Circus Arts, following a decision that NICA will no longer pursue activities to become an independent performing arts training organisation.”
Since early 2012, NICA, which was founded by Swinburne in 1999, has been working with the university on an exit strategy that would have seen Australia’s only world-class circus training institution become an independent entity in July this year. Swinburne, however, on June 25 announced that it no longer supported the separation and said that “NICA was not yet in a position to become independent” and that it would directly manage NICA from July 1. The same day, a new Director/CEO was introduced at NICA, replacing the institutes former Director/CEO, Pamela Creed, whose contract expired on June 30 and was not renewed.
Following Swinburne’s initial statement NICA’s Board of Director’s released their own statement:
…we were shocked to be advised that SUT has announced that they have ceased all action regarding independence and now propose an alternative course of action to directly manage NICA.
SUT have not indicated in any detail what their alternative plan is.
The independent Directors were not consulted, nor consented to, the proposed course of action that SUT is unilaterally seeking to impose on NICA.
Directors believe that SUT should resume negotiations to enable an independent NICA to be achieved.
The abrupt change to plans and the removal of NICA’s now former Director/CEO has been met with resistance and concern from many in the circus community, who also have a myriad of questions about the future of NICA. The apparent anxiety over the matter is most likely what prompted Professor Linda Kristjanson, Vice-Chancellor and President at Swinburne University of Technology, to publish an open letter about the university’s decision on its website:
NICA was established by Swinburne in 1999 and has been associated with Swinburne ever since. For the last year, Swinburne has been working closely with NICA with the aim of achieving independence for the institute by July this year.
Despite some encouraging progress, Swinburne took the view that NICA was not yet in a position to achieve full independence. Having nurtured NICA for the past fourteen years, it would not have been responsible for Swinburne to allow NICA to strike out on its own, only to see it fail if it was not yet ready…
NICA students are and have always been Swinburne students. They graduate with a Swinburne qualification and go on to great success as circus performers around the world.
NICA’s signature program, the Bachelor of Circus Arts, will continue to be available and auditions will be held for the next generation of aspiring performers in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne from September this year.
For more information, see:
July 5: Open Letter to Community Regarding NICA by Professor Linda Kristjanson, Vice-Chancellor and President, Swinburne University of Technology
July 4: Head Over Heals for the Big Top, The Age
June 26: NICA Director’s Shocked as Independence Plan Scuppered, artsHub
June 25: NICA’s Freedom Denied in Swinburne Backflip, The Weekly Review
March 14, 2013: Commonwealth Support for Circus Arts (Press Release from Swinburne)
November 2012: NICA Circus Showcase, photo gallery by the Peninsula weekly
March 2012: An interview with Pamela Creed by artsHub
July 2012: Circus School Juggles Swinburne Split by The Age