US arts college eager to hire locals

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 June, 2009, 12:00am

The American arts college awarded tenancy of the historic North Kowloon Magistracy says it hopes to recruit local teaching and administrative staff for the opening of its first Asian branch next autumn.

Savannah College of Art and Design, which will convert the historic building into a campus for its Hong Kong branch, will begin with about 60 staff members, including 25 faculty members, college senior management said.

Savannah chief academic officer Tom Fischer said recruitment of teaching staff had not yet begun, but faculty members at campuses in Savannah and Atlanta in the US, and Lacoste in the south of France had expressed overwhelming interest in teaching in Hong Kong.

'Hong Kong is a great attraction because everyone knows that Hong Kong is looking into developing a creative economy,' Mr Fischer said, adding that many teaching staff members had previously worked in Hong Kong and hoped to return.

Mr Fischer said that once the curriculum was approved by the Education and Manpower Bureau, the college would officially begin a search for teaching staff, and it was hoped some would be found in Hong Kong.

He said the Hong Kong curriculum would match those at other campuses. He said cultural factors would be important and that staff with Asian backgrounds, particularly those with a good knowledge of Hong Kong, would be welcome.

Savannah executive director of strategic initiatives John Rowan said a ratio between local and overseas staff members had yet to be set, but he hoped there would be as many Hong Kong members of staff as possible.

During its first year, the Savannah College of Art and Design will offer eight majors: animation; advertising design; graphic design; illustration; interactive design and game development; motion media design; photography; and visual effects. The college will also offer sound design as a minor.

Mr Fischer said recruitment of students had not begun, but he expected the numbers would be relatively small, with class sizes no larger than 20. He was confident that the college would attract students from throughout the region as the majority of the college's international students, accounting for more than 20 per cent of its graduate programmes, were north Asians.

He expected that other than traditional courses such as graphic design, digital media-related courses would be popular.

'The future of animation and film is not in Hollywood but here,' Mr Fischer said, adding it was hoped that such courses would prepare students to enter the movie industry.

He said students' works were promoted through events such as the college's first community photo exhibition, Silver & Ink, of creations from the past academic year, which would end at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei on June 21.

Overseas students will have to rent their own accommodation rather than live on campus during the first years of the Hong Kong college. Mr Rowan said the college would help students find budget apartments if required.

Future possibilities included collaboration with nearby Mei Ho House, which could become a Youth Hostels Association lodging under the revitalisation scheme. But nothing had been decided.

The awarding of a historic building to a foreign institute stirred controversy when the news was announced in February.

Mr Rowan said that since the college had registered as a non-profit-making NGO, its operation would be monitored just like other non-governmental organisations. Tuition fees at the college would be US$27,000.