NSCAD overcomes 'bad publicity' to focus on future

Officials at NSCAD University are trying to illustrate the school's affect of Nova Scotia's cultural and creative economies.

The university is moving forward 3 years after widely publicized money troubles and declining enrolment

Dianne Taylor-Gearing has been president of NSCAD University for nearly three years. (CBC)

As NSCAD University puts a string of headline-making problems behind it, its president says the Halifax school must find ways to remain sustainable.

It wasn't long ago that NSCAD — Canada's oldest independent arts university — found itself in major financial difficulties and talks swirled about it merging with another post-secondary institution.

There's no doubt those problems affected student enrolment, said Dianne Taylor-Gearing, who took over as the school's 22nd president in August 2014.

Overcoming 'reputational damage'

But in the three years since the board determined the school would remain independent, Taylor-Gearing said NSCAD is now in a balanced operating budget position with a balanced operating result.

"We've increased our student application numbers this year and we've really overcome some quite bad publicity and PR and reputational damage," she said.

To that end, the school is now looking to illustrate the positive effect its graduates have on the province's creative and cultural sectors. Earlier this month, NSCAD issued a tender for an institutional impact assessment and market research.

Meeting student needs

Taylor-Gearing said this work, along with an academic program review, is about ensuring the school's continued relevance.

"There are some new areas that are emerging, particularly with the digital creative industries and perhaps the breadth of the kind of work that our students are looking to do in terms of a creative career," she said.

"So we're looking for that market intelligence on that so that it begins to inform our future programming ideas and changes in delivery."

NSCAD University plans to move out of its downtown Halifax campus by 2019.

Part of the work requested in the tender will be examining where students are finding success.

Taylor-Gearing said almost 80 per cent of NSCAD graduates are employed in creative industries affiliated with their area of study within four months of graduation.

Plans to move

In 2015, the school's board of governors voted to vacate its campus between Granville and Hollis streets.

Taylor-Gearing said the goal remains to be out by 2019, at which point they hope to have a new campus alongside the existing port campus on the Halifax waterfront.

A decision has not been made yet about the future of the Academy Building on Brunswick Street, which also offers NSCAD services.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca