The importance and loss of studio-based education in Australian universities

Document Type

Journal Article


Australian Graphic Design Association


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Newcombe, A. J. (2010). The Importance and Loss of Studio-based Education in Australian Universities . visual:design:scholarship, Research Journal of the Australian Graphic Design Association, 5(1), 1-17.


Physical, studio-based skill learning is being curtailed in Australian universities and studio activities are being lost across the university curricula. Indeed, academic managers are constantly reducing the time spent in skill-based physical activities by expanding compulsory student time spent in textual and digital communication activities. Sensorimotor or bodily-kinesthetic development and cognitive or spatial development are inextricably linked. The manual skill of holding a marking tool and learning spatially to write defines the entire edifice of academic thought and communication. The simplistic notion that we only have to write about something misses the profound importance of learning complex bodilykinesthetic, visual, phenomenological, interpersonal and creative skills. In this paper I argue the need for visual and physical studio-based units to be included across the academic sector and explore why academic managers have so poorly served manual learning activities, beholden as they are to working and communicating from a computer. This lack of care and awareness from academic managers is leading to a lack of understanding and respect within contemporary Australian academe to the essential and central importance of non-textual knowledge constructs and literacies. The thrust of this argument is directed at the entire undergraduate curricula. I assert that the integration and implementation of creative and visual studio-based units across the undergraduate cohort would have resounding impact on the work of postgraduate students. It would also open up whole areas of active research. As an essential part of this work, I also address the impact of digital technology on the university curriculum and posit that the all-invasive use of the computer is causing remarkable shortsightedness in what is regarded as legitimate academic activity.

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