Circus school juggles Swinburne split

THE only school that offers degrees in circus performance will split from Swinburne University, which is expected to leave its Prahran campus.

The National Institute of Circus Arts will seek accreditation to become a private education provider.

NICA has shared the campus and maintained a partnership with Swinburne for the past 10 years. It has produced countless graduates who are now working as circus performers.

Swinburne announced last week it would close its Lilydale campus, cut TAFE courses and make 240 jobs redundant.

NICA is expected to stay in Prahran even though Swinburne has flagged its intention to move out of the campus. NICA chief executive Pamela Creed said securing accreditation as a private provider was challenging but she was confident it could be achieved.

NICA is the only institute to offer a Bachelor of Circus Arts, which is accredited by Swinburne. ''I feel confident that while there are some challenges at the moment around the decisions the university is making, the passion and drive to maintain a national centre for excellence is alive and well,'' she said.

''Swinburne has nurtured the development of NICA and the partnership has been positive.''

NICA receives most of its funding from the federal government although it has lost about $220,000 in the state government's cuts to TAFEs.

NICA graduate Vaughan Curtis, 27, said the institute played a crucial role in educating performers. ''It's very important,'' he said. ''People are much more likely to hire someone who has three years of training from an elite institute behind them.''

Swinburne vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson said NICA's split from the university had been planned for the past year.

She said the university would also ''pursue the relocation'' of its design faculty in Prahran to the Hawthorn campus. The university intends to move the remaining TAFE courses to other campuses.

However, the university has yet to make a final decision on the move. ''Teaching will continue as planned at Prahran for 2012 and 2013, while this planning takes place,'' Professor Kristjanson said.

Australian Education Union TAFE vice-president Greg Barclay said the campus' creative culture would be lost to the local community if Swinburne left Prahran.

b.preiss@theage.com.au

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