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Two of Sydney’s iconic educational institutions, UNSW and the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA), are strengthening ties to boost artistic collaborations and joint research projects.

UNSW’s President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs and NIDA Chair, Ms Jennifer Bott AO, reflected the collaborative nature of the relationship in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed this week.

“NIDA is Australia’s leading institute for education and training in the dramatic arts and it has strong roots at UNSW having been housed on the UNSW campus in its early years of development,” said Professor Ian Jacobs. “Since then both UNSW and NIDA have grown to become iconic institutions in their own right and we are now looking to build on these individual successes in a new partnership.”

Established in 1958 through an arrangement between UNSW, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, NIDA’s first home was on the UNSW campus, relocating to the White House and the Old Tote Workshop and Theatre in the early 1960s. In 1988, NIDA moved to its current location on Anzac Parade.

“This new Memorandum of Understanding is about what we can achieve together,” Professor Jacobs said. “It will be a step-change in the relationship, exploring a range of possibilities to boost excellence in research and teaching, and artistic collaboration.”

NIDA Chair, Ms Jennifer Bott, said she was excited about the opportunities set out in the MoU. “We are identifying a range of activities that we can support and drive together,” she said. “I am particularly pleased to see increased opportunities for joint artistic projects within UNSW's iCinema, as I know the two organisations have already been successful in attracting funding for these kinds of joint proposals.”

Ms Bott said the activities would also include staff professional development and opportunities for UNSW lecturers to boost their teaching performance by taking part in NIDA’s innovative short courses and corporate training programs.  

Some of the collaborations currently in planning are with the GLAM Plus Alliance, a consortium of cultural institutions and leaders working together to cement the value of culture in Sydney’s future. Led by UNSW, the Alliance aims to bring substantial benefits and new cultural opportunities through collaborations within the arts, academia, business and technology.

Collaborations between the School of the Arts and Media and NIDA will focus on research and cultural events to build audiences and increase engagement with arts and culture.

The iCinema project, entitled iDesign, led by NIDA will develop new visualization methods for artists, designers and performers to virtually interact with and manipulate a design prior to physical construction and production. With application in the areas of installation and performance art, opera and theatre, the project will create an intelligent 360 degree 3D virtual reality visualization system.

Other joint initiatives will involve research with the Black Dog Institute to harness the arts to help improve mental health outcomes.

Also set out in the MoU is the provision of a number of services, including access to performance spaces and other assets.

UNSW continues to have a representative on the NIDA Board of Directors, currently Professor Prem Ramburuth. UNSW can also nominate a representative to NIDA’s Academic Board.

Also attending the signing were Professor Ramburuth; Mr Neil Morris, UNSW Vice-President, Campus Living and Community Engagement; Dr Melissa Laird, NIDA Director Education and Graduate Studies; Ms Jennie Lang, UNSW Vice-President, Advancement; and Professor Ross Harley, Dean UNSW Art & Design.