Art school rates above all Australian Universities

Gina Fairley

The National Art School has been rated number one in Australia for overall educational experience.
Art school rates above all Australian Universities

Image courtesy National Art School; photo by Ella Dreyfus

It is a gong expected of one of Australia’s blue chip Universities, but the National Art School (NAS) in Darlinghurst, Sydney, has outranked them all, scoring the win of Number One educational facility in Australia.

Each year the Australian Government Department of Education and Training releases a National Report analysing student satisfaction data (collected through surveys of students in Higher Education Institutions Australia wide). The results of the 2016 Student Experience Survey (SES) have recently been released.


‘We have recorded the highest result of any Higher Education Provider in Australia in 2016 for overall quality of educational experience!’ a NAS spokesperson said.

NAS received the score of 96.9%, the highest student satisfaction rating of any Higher Education provider in Australia.

It was also ranked #1 Art School in Australia for overall educational experience in the 2015 and 2016 QILT at 92%.

NAS also achieved student satisfaction rates of over 15% above the national average in Teaching Quality, Learner Engagement and Student Support.

In 2016, the overwhelming majority of students, 80%, rated the quality of their entire educational experience positively, dipping down to 62% for Learner Engagement.

‘We attribute this outstanding result to our commitment and focus to our studio based teaching model, small class sizes, high contact hours and excellent faculty and are incredibly proud that our students are satisfied,’ NAS told ArtsHub.

Numbers support the fight

Sydney art schools have been struggling lately, a kind of David and Goliath story between big business university models, government proficiency measures, and recognition that diversity drives innovation and creative cities.

Last year, students at two of Sydney's major art schools protested as the future of fine art education remained uncertain with a speculated merger and relocation plans mooted.

In August, NAS students and supporters marched down Oxford Street to deliver a petition of more than 13,000 signatures to the NSW State Government, requesting to keep their independence and that the NAS receive a long-term lease for its site, the former Darlinghurst Jail.

Across town, students at the Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) in Rozelle, part of the University of Sydney, occupied a key administration building in protest at the proposed relocation of the art school to the university’s Darlington campus. The move has been ‘delayed’ but is still imminent.

Read: Students occupy SCA, and NAS protests

The merger's cancellation has not allayed fears that NAS will be subjected to the NSW Government knife. 

Former NAS Director Michael Snelling said: ‘The economy of NAS can be sustained. We can run this school for the same amount of money that it would cost to put it in a university, but we can run it better with more one-to-one teaching, smaller class sizes and higher rankings.’

Michael Lynch who was interim director until Steven Alderton took up the role in February this year, said: ‘I would like to see the people who make the decisions embrace the idea that $6M dollar in the scheme of things - given the benefits created and legacy created at NAS – is an easy one. They need to get that into some sense of proportion.’

Read: An art school is not greyhound racing

The numbers in this months SES Report would support that argument.

#1 Overall quality of educational experience in Australia in the 2016 QILT (96.9%)
- 96.9% Teaching Quality Satisfaction rate
- 93.6% Student Support Satisfaction rate
- 92.3% Skills Development Satisfaction rate

#1 Publicly Funded institution for overall quality of educational experience in Australia in the 2015 & 2016 QILT (92%)
#1 Art School in NSW for Teaching Quality in the 2015 & 2016 QILT (93.2%)
#1 Art School in NSW for Learner Engagement in the 2015 & 2016 QILT (81.6%)
#1 Art School in NSW for Student Support in the 2015 & 2016 QILT (90.4%)

The 2016 SES Report

All 40 Australian universities are included in the 2016 SES, as well as 55 NUHEIs (non-university higher education institutions).

The five categories surveyed are: Overall Quality of Educational Experience, Skills Development Satisfaction, Teaching Quality, Learner Engagement, and Student Support.

The largest difference between NUHEI and university students across the five focus areas remains in Learning Resources, with NUHEI students rating this aspect 13 percentage points lower than university students.

However, NUHEI students gave higher ratings than university students in other focus areas such as Student Support, Skills Development, and Teaching Quality.

When comparing results for university and NUHEI students there are several important caveats to consider, including the narrower range of study areas for non-university providers and different population characteristics.

The report and the survey are conducted by the government agency, Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT). Click here to read the full report.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.