Photography in higher education and industry in Australia: a mixed methods study to explain the alignment between the sectors

Gauld, Robin D. (2013) Photography in higher education and industry in Australia: a mixed methods study to explain the alignment between the sectors. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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This thesis examines the teaching of photography in Australia at higher education institutions offering the subject and investigates both the commercial and the domestic sectors of the photographic industry from the point of view of professional practitioners. Baseline survey data was collected from responding teachers of photography at Australian higher education institutions offering this area of practice and from 393 practicing professional photographers. This was followed up with case studies of photography teaching in higher education and the professional photography industry. The analysis clearly shows how both education and industry are adapting to the challenges introduced by wide spread technological innovation.

The findings reveal three misalignments between the teaching of photography and the requirements of the photographic industry. While curricula vary, it can be argued that all have some common weaknesses that, in the interests of students' career options, could be addressed. Firstly, the universities and the vocational college in the study provide an education that is broad, includes specialist options, and has a strong vocational focus. While employers may have some misunderstandings about the skill-sets of current graduates they believe many, who present for employment, are poorly prepared for the industry. This discounts the efforts being made by higher education institutions to equip their students with many generic skills regarded as necessary for work. This thesis also analyses which skills are deemed more important than others for a long term successful career in the industry.

The second finding shows business and marketing skills is an area where there were significant differences between intended graduate outcomes and the real world requirements of commerce. Industry recognises the importance of these skills but for various reasons, many higher education providers fail to address this in a relevant and meaningful way. This thesis explains the reasons why many schools find it difficult to engage students in these studies.

The third area of misalignment concerns domestic photography, which includes for example, wedding and portrait photography. While this area of practice offers significant opportunities for graduates in all regions of Australia, higher education providers appear do little to cater for and direct students to this sector. Curricula appears biased towards the commercial/advertising, photojournalism and art markets and to a large extent ignores the conceivably lucrative but possibly less glamorous domestic sector. This may disadvantage many students who cannot break into other market sectors or who live in regional areas where there are limited opportunities to practise other disciplines. This thesis considers the reasons why curriculum designers generally avoid this career option.

Finally, it is a proposal of this thesis that all sectors of the photographic industry, with the exception of those covered by trade union representation, should consider establishing one major unified representative peak industry body. This is a vision supported in various degrees by most practitioners and organisations but has not been realised. This thesis analyses the many reasons that surround the vexed issues of unification and the advantages it may hold for the industry and education.

Item ID: 27238
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Australia; careers; curricula; curriculum; education; graduates; higher education; industry; learning; photographic industry; photography courses; photography; qualifications; students; teaching
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2014 04:26
FoR Codes: 19 STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING > 1905 Visual Arts and Crafts > 190503 Lens-based Practice @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950205 Visual Communication @ 100%
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