Arts college lacks students

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 April, 2012, 12:00am


A US-based arts college, which sparked controversy when it won the right to use a heritage site ahead of local groups, remains short of its recruitment target, 18 months after it opened.

The Hong Kong campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design, housed in the former North Kowloon Magistracy building in Sham Shui Po, cited an initial target of 300 students and an eventual enrolment of 1,500 in bidding for the site.

But it opened in September 2010 with just 141 students and now has 243, with a current capacity of 1,100.

SCAD-HK was among the first batch of projects approved by the Development Bureau in a partnership scheme with non-profit organisations to revitalise heritage sites. It beat other bidders including the Chinese Artists Association to be awarded the site in early 2009.

The winning organisations are required to submit mid-year progress reports and annual reports to the scheme's secretariat which in turn reports regularly to the Advisory Committee on Revitalisation of Historic Buildings, charged with monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of approved projects.

'The committee is aware of the student intake [at SCAD-HK], which falls short of the original estimates and that the institution has been taking measures to reach out to the community,' a bureau spokesman said.

She said the advisory committee would continue to monitor the college's performance.

SCAD-HK's vice-president John Paul Rowan attributes the limited enrolment to the college's stringent admissions criteria.

'We accept the most talented students who meet our selective admission standards, so we expect that, as happened with our SCAD Savannah and SCAD Atlanta locations. Our SCAD Hong Kong student body will continue to grow over time.'

The college set its sights on becoming the leading place to study digital media in Asia. But most of its overseas students, which make up 40 per cent of the student population, are on exchange from its US main campus.

Other students could be deterred by its annual tuition fees of US$29,000 (HK$225,193). Ann Chih, a second-year photography major, said the hefty cost was students' biggest complaint: 'It costs you a million to finish a four-year degree.'

Associate director of Baptist University's Academy of Visual Arts, Dr Lai Ming-hoi, questioned the cost effectiveness of running a large campus with a small student population. Local students who could afford the tuition fees might opt to study abroad instead, Lai said.

Unlike other local institutions, SCAD-HK runs classes only four days a week. Fridays are reserved for studio work, collaborative work or consultations with teachers.

Rowan is adamant about the type of education offered. 'Class schedules, collaborative projects and internships are designed to teach and model real-world experiences. While SCAD is focused on helping students develop professional knowledge and master skills, the learning environment offers a full university experience to equip students with a comprehensive understanding of the world around them.'