MFA (Cultural Leadership)
For further information on the course, please contact Karilyn Brown, Course Leader:
T: 02.9697 7645
- About the course
- Admission criteria
- How to apply
- Our team
- Course accreditation
About the course
This course challenges you to question and debate the role of the cultural sector in our society and your own place within it.
It is designed specifically for those who already have active roles in the cultural sector who aspire to facilitate resilient, new leadership models. Our cohorts reflect the diversity and intersectionality of lived experience in Australia and course content draws on a diversity of knowledges, research, case studies and leadership practices.
Through part-time online learning and face-to-face intensives at NIDA in Sydney, you will be encouraged to exchange and collaborate in innovative approaches to creative and professional practice. Topics covered include governance, cultural policy, entrepreneurial thought leadership, communication, advocacy, cultural transformation, sustainability, and research generated through practice.
Throughout the course you will develop into a future-focused arts leader. You will be taught by experienced cultural leaders in the arts industry and supported by senior NIDA academics.
A highlight of your course is a tailored placement with a prestigious international cultural organisation to enhance your networks and put your knowledge into practice.
The MFA (Cultural Leadership) is currently only offered in part-time mode only, over a 30-month period.
In the first 12 months of the course, students undertake the following subjects:
- Leadership and Governance (20 credit points)
- Cultural Policy and Practice (20 credit points)
- Communications and Persuasive Presentation (10 credit points)
- Generating Research through Practice A (20 credit points)
In the next 18 months students undertake:
- Cultural Transformation and Sustainability (50 credit points)
- Generating Research through Practice B (10 credit points)
- Communications and Advocacy (5 credit points)
- Evalutation Methodologies for Cultural Leaders (10 credit points)
- International Case Study (35 credit points)
The course is structured to enable students to participate on-campus through four intensives (which last four or five days each and include weekends) each year and via supported online learning throughout the year. Travel and accommodation to attend intensives is at the expense of the student.
Online learning and teaching will take place between the intensives. Students need to be available to engage on a regular basis and will be required to equip themselves with the necessary technology to participate in online forums such as Zoom.
2022 course intensive dates
Leadership and Governance (20 credit points)
CUL9104 Leadership and Governance examines models of governance within the context of the cultural sector, and how Board and executive leadership intersects with sound governance to realise organisational and creative goals.
A comprehensive examination of the legal, organisational and operational frameworks of cultural organisations will be investigated through perspectives of power, values and ethics. This subject assesses and analyses the styles of leadership of cultural organisations, and how cultural organisations are governed, including the roles and responsibilities of the Board of Directors and their relationship to the Senior Executive Team and the organisation as a whole.
The cohort will assess and determine the essential characteristics of leadership necessary to build resilience and maintain a priority focus through times of uncertainty and challenge.
Communications and Persuasive Presentation (10 credit points)
Recognising the importance of cultural leaders as front-line advocates for the sector, you will learn to articulate complex ideas with clarity, confidence and credibility across multiple media - written, live, and recorded. Storytelling structures and principles will be taught by practising professionals to assist you to create engaging presentations. You will also learn to lead and facilitate groups in creative dialogue, employing techniques for fuelling and directing conversations.
Workshops will support you to assess and develop individual communication styles and competencies through practicing interactive scenarios, presenting to camera, exploring techniques to develop vocal and physical presence, networking and engaging in techniques of persuasion. Practical work will be underpinned by examination and critical analysis of major communication theories and evaluation of case studies of successful communicators and advocates. You will assess and determine those elements that will enhance your own abilities as leaders to articulate ideas, to advocate for the arts and cultural sectors, and to influence outcomes.
Generating Research through Practice (30 credit points)
This subject introduces you to a diversity of research frameworks that directly support and inform your practice within the arts and cultural sectors, underpinned by academic research protocols including ethics. A variety of research strategies will support you in a multimodal approach to your investigations around practice, with a focus on methods inherent in practice-based research. In this subject, you identify a research topic and design to support your chosen research project, applying the methods and processes you have explored in order to generate new findings. The key concept behind Generating Research Through Practice is praxis: the interdependency of theory and practice with one mutually informing the other. The subject culminates in a research output related to your practice.
Cultural Policy and Practice (20 credit points)
Cultural Policy and Practice covers both the practice of cultural policy and planning, and its relationship to arts and cultural practice. It reviews public policy theory and analyses cultural policy from international and national levels to local community planning. It takes into account the contributors to the cultural policy and planning cycle: policy makers, planners, university researchers, independent think tanks, industry leaders, arts and cultural organisations and individual artists.
This comprehensive approach provides a diverse panoply of experiences and perspectives. including exploring whose voice is included and whose is excluded. It enables the identification and analysis of policy characteristics and offers a hands on approach to developing and implementing policies and plans. It compares and contrasts the key attributes of the Australian model with approaches from the international arena, with particular reference to contemporary developments in the Asia Pacific region.
Cultural Transformation and Sustainability (50 credit points)
The conditions and drivers of contemporary society are in a state of rapid transformation. It is not only important that arts and cultural leaders stay abreast of these challenges, we have the opportunity to lead the transformation of this dynamic global environment.
There are several areas of transformation that this subject will focus on; who is leading organisations and the necessity to have diversity in positions of power; the imperative of the arts to provide access to cultural activity to a broad range of society; and how the arts intersect with environmental substantiality.
CUL9101 Cultural Transformation and Sustainability will give students a theoretical and practical scaffold that can be applied to their own leadership. Students will investigate change implementation, entrepreneurship and sustainability. The subject requires students to draw on case studies from the sector and personal experiences, in order to review current practices and make recommendations for change. The subject culminates in the articulation of a nuanced argument detailing the students own professional recommendations on an area of the arts and cultural sector requiring transformation.
Communications and Advocacy (5 credit points)
CUL9106 Communications and Advocacy recognises the importance of cultural leaders as front-line advocates for the sector. You will develop the skills and strategies to promote effective arts advocacy arguments and campaigns. You will learn how to analyse and evaluate advocacy arguments and campaigns; analyse case studies drawn from a range of media contexts; and develop effective campaign practice and strategical skills.
Evaluation Methodologies for Cultural Leaders (10 credit points)
CUL9107 Evaluation Methodologies for Cultural Leaders will build on the research methodologies that you will have engaged with in other course subjects (including practice-based research, social impact studies and systems analysis).
You will engage in applied research with a particular focus on social research techniques and theory, including the efficacy of measurement metrics. It will foster evaluative thinking and offer opportunities for you to work with others in the cohort on co-designed research approaches.
International Case Study (35 credit points)
The International Case Study is a unique opportunity for you to deepen your knowledge and frame of experience through an immersive period of work experience overseas. You are encouraged to undertake a placement in an area of the arts and cultural industry that will challenge you beyond your immediate practice. The key objective of the placement will be to undertake a defined case study of an aspect of leadership within the host organisation. The case study will be framed by bespoke learning objectives and outcomes defined to enhance leadership capacity. The experience will include the delivery of a case study report as the outcome of action research. The case study, its core research question/s and the methods to be used will be negotiated in advance, in consultation with you and your nominated host organisation.
The placement occurs over 4 weeks*, during which you will have the opportunity to participate in the day to day working of the host organisation from the perspective of leadership, as well as undertaking the case study. The placement will be with an organisation that extends your international experience. It may also be appropriate for students to undertake a placement with an international organisation based in Australia. Each placement will be negotiated individually to ensure that it meets your requirements. You will maintain an online journal for the duration of the placement for the purpose of self-reflection and for sharing your experiences with the cohort. This journal, together with feedback from the supervisor at the host organisation, will form key elements of the assessment process. However, the primary outcome will be the case study report.
*Please note: The impacts of COVID-19 have necessitated the implementation of alternative methods for students to deliver their International Case Study course outcomes.
Essential requirements for admission
Applicants must have:
- All applicants applying for a graduate course at NIDA must have completed an undergraduate degree (in any area) OR at least five years’ documented professional experience in the arts, cultural, creative or other relevant sector/s, including evidence of sector leadership experience.
- Students must be proficient in written and spoken English, with international applicants required to have an English language proficiency equivalent to an overall band score of IELTS 8.0. Information on IELTS and testing centres in your country is available at http://www.ielts.org/
NB: The Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership) is only available to study part time. As such we are not able to enrol international students at this time.
The scheduling and delivery of this course each year is subject to minimum enrolment numbers.
Cultural Leadership - Selection of students
We select applicants who demonstrate commitment, capacity and willingness to advance their practice by:
- Working with innovation and a future focus
- Collaborating through inclusive practice
- Demonstrating a range of relevant skills and strategic abilities
- Providing evidence of intellectual interrogation and reflection within their work
- Communicating clearly
NIDA encourages applications from students from diverse backgrounds, with different levels of experience in performing arts, visual arts, museums, libraries, local government, independent practice, festivals or other areas.
Due to the volume of recruitment interviews undertaken, we are unable to provide you with individual feedback. The decision of the interview panel is final.
It is not possible to defer an offer of a place at NIDA.
How to apply
Domestic and international students are required to pay tuition fees by the due date each semester.
The tuition fees are reviewed each year and if you enrol you are liable for the additional tuition costs if the tuition fees rise during the course of your enrolments.
Domestic students are Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and New Zealand citizens.
Current students: Download the Domestic Graduate Student Fee Schedule 2022.
Fees and financial assistance vary for international students see International Students for full details.
Domestic tuition fees overview
|Degree||Course duration||2022 Annual tuition fee $AUD*||Estimated total course tuition fee*|
|Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership)||30 months||$16,075.00||$32,220.00|
Domestic tuition fee details
Year 1, 2022
|Subject code||Subject||Credit points||EFTSL**||Tuition fee*|
|CUL9105||Communication & Persuasive Presentation||10||0.069||$1,790.00|
|CUL9104||Leadership and Governance||20||0.139||$3,580.00|
|COM9103||Cultural Policy and Practice||20||0.139||$3,580.00|
|COM9102A||Generating Research Through Practice A||20||0.139||$3,580.00|
|Total for Year 1||70||0.486||$12,530.00|
Year 2, 2022
|Subject code||Subject||Credit points||EFTSL**||Tuition fee*|
|CUL9101||Cultural Transformation and Sustainability||50||0.347||$8,950.00|
|COM9102B||Generating Research through Practice B||10||0.069||$1,790.00|
|CUL9106||Communications and Advocacy||5||0.034||$895.00|
|COM9107||Research Methodologies for Cultural Leaders||10||0.069||$1,790.00|
|CUL9108||International Case Study||35||0.243||$6,265.00|
|Total for Year 2||110||0.762||$19,690.00|
|Total Estimated Tuition Fees*||180||1.25||$32,220.00|
*The tuition fees are reviewed each year and you are liable for the additional tuition costs if the tuition fees rise during the course of your enrolment.
** EFTSL - Effective Fulltime Study Load: indicates the relative study load of a subject against a full time study load of 1.0 for academic year.
The Cultural Leadership course is structured to enable students to participate through in-person intensives and online learning. All students will also undertake an international case study during the final six months of the course. NIDA will make a financial contribution towards international engagement opportunities when travel, accommodation and related costs are to be incurred.
Online learning and teaching will take place between the intensives. Students need to be available to engage on a regular basis and will be required to equip themselves with the necessary technology to participate. Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership) students may participate in online sessions via video-conferencing or in person at the Kensington campus. (One intensive per year may be delivered interstate.)
Use a broadband connection (256 Kbit/sec or faster—this will ensure that you can view videos and online presentations) through USB wireless modem, ADSL, T1/T2, fibre optic or cable.
Compatible browsers include:
- Google Chrome 32 bit version 38 or later (recommended for optimal compatibility, this has been thoroughly tested on Windows)
- Safari 8 or later (recommended for optimal compatibility, this has been thoroughly tested on Mac)
- Mozilla Firefox 35.0 or later
Note that add-ons and toolbars can affect any browser's performance. MS Internet Explorer is not recommended.
Collaborative Online Platforms
Please note that students may need to utilise enterprise collaborative tools from within the Google+ suite. Students will be issued user accounts for use in these instances.
Intensives are arranged as four four– and five–day periods each year and all students must be available to participate for the full period (including evenings as required).
Travel and accommodation to attend intensives is at the expense of the student.
During on campus intensives students will have access to the graduate school and all facilities that are provided to all NIDA graduate students.
Fellowships and Awards
Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship in Cultural Leadership
NIDA is pleased that through the generosity of the Luminis Foundation, we can offer the Luminis Foundation Indigenous Fellowship in Cultural Leadership for each annual intake. This Fellowship will support the successful applicant by funding 50% of their MFA course fee.
Lynne Williams Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Leadership
Lynne Williams was CEO/Director of NIDA between 2008 and 2016 after an already successful career in education and theatre. In 2019, Lynne was recognised for her work in the performing arts with an appointment as a Member to the Order of Australia.
The NIDA Foundation Trust recognises Lynne’s contribution through an annual award for a graduating MFA (Cultural Leadership) student who has achieved at a consistently high level across all subjects, presenting work that was insightful, considered, well-researched and highly articulate. The award money of $5,000 is to be used by the recipient towards further professional development and/or further international opportunities.
Australian citizens and holders of permanent humanitarian visas are eligible for an Australian Government FEE-HELP loan for all or part of their tuition fees. For more information about FEE-HELP please read the information below and visit Study Assist.
FEE-HELP is the Australian Government loan scheme that assists eligible students to pay their tuition fees, so that students do not have to pay tuition fees up-front. FEE-HELP can cover all or part of a student's tuition fees. In 2019, the FEE-HELP limit was $104,440 for most students.
The government pays the amount of the loan directly to NIDA. Students repay their loan through the tax system once their incomes rises above the minimum threshold for compulsory repayment.
For more information go to studyassist.gov.au
Who is eligible for FEE-HELP?
You are eligible for a FEE-HELP loan if you are either:
- an Australian Citizen; or
- hold a permanent humanitarian visa.
The following students are NOT eligible for FEE-HELP:
- New Zealand citizens - refer to the Study Assist website
- Australian permanent residents
- Overseas students.
Cultural Leadership Testimonials
The MFA (Cultural Leadership) at NIDA has allowed me to connect to an incredible network of peers and mentors working across the arts in Australia. The intensive nature of this course – enabling the participation of a national cohort – also allows for the flexibility essential for continuing to pursue career opportunities whilst studying.
Arts and Cultural Development Coordinator at City of Ryde
Recipient of Lynne Williams Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Leadership
It is an absolute privilege to undertake a course that provides learning experiences that add to and enhance my years in the cultural sector. What is extraordinary about NIDA's Cultural Leadership's course material is that it can be adapted to your field, making everything you learn relevant. The information exchanged by peers from all over Australia in a variety of practices, is just the cherry on top.
Manager, Ernabella Arts, Central Australia
Recipient of Luminis Foundation, Indigenous Cultural Leadership Fellowship
I very much wanted an opportunity to look at the bigger questions in our world and how arts and culture could contribute to creative solutions, and discuss these ideas and strategies with colleagues. The MFA has delivered this to me. The teaching staff are well networked, insightful and of the highest calibre. The debate and research have been enlightening and exciting and inspiring. And I've made some wonderful new friends too.
Creative Director, Metro Arts, Brisbane
NIDA graduate school staff has taken great care to design a course which not only engenders many practical "real world" leadership skills, but also content that enriches the person.
Audience Engagement Manager, The Australian Ballet, Melbourne
Nowhere else have I been given an opportunity to speak with honesty, rigour, and passion about my experiences in working in the realm of arts and culture. Sharing thoughts, fears and speculations with others have stretched and expanded my vision in ways impossible to imagine previously.
Community Arts Officer at Yarra City Council, Melbourne
The course has empowered me to think broadly about leadership in an arts context and discover where I fit into the conversation. This is a rich and vital course for those who wish to take their practice to the next level.
Live Programs Officer, Belconnen Arts Centre
Recipient of Lynne Williams Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Leadership
The Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership) encourages students to access a deeper understanding of their own context within a broader landscape. Through associations with creative, progressive and sometimes fearless academic staff and students, current and future leaders are enabled to reach beyond their own sector for ideas, information and personal catalyst for change. During the course, comprehensive instruction guides students towards peer respected qualitative and quantitative data that broadens curiosity, creativity and ambition for further learning, self-reflection and service evaluation.
Co-Director, Collusion Music and Dance Ensemble, Brisbane
Head of Strings, Melbourne Grammar School
The MFA (Cultural Leadership) course has empowered and emboldened me to think more broadly about leadership and the bigger questions and creative solutions around and arts, culture and community development. The impact on me both personally and professionally, as a Cultural Engagement Consultant and newly elected City Councillor, is inspirational and significant. As a regionally based practitioner the course provided a national and global perspective that has expanded my thinking and vision, and gifted me with an incredible network of peers, mentors and wonderful new friends.
Cultural Engagement Consultant, Mildura
Thank you so much for providing the MFA (Cultural Leadership). I spent many years looking for the right course that suited my needs and allowed me to continue working full-time. The course opened my eyes to new concepts, amazing guests from across the industry and outstanding lecturers who are leaders in the arts. I am very thankful for this opportunity.
Manager Arts and Culture at Moreland City Council
Recipient of Lynne Williams Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cultural Leadership
This course encouraged me to think critically about our sector, our future and our roles within it. The access to leaders within the industry was exceptional, and lecturers and staff were supportive of students managing our full-time jobs with study. Master’s degrees are often seen as an essential to build the next stage in your career, and if you are wondering what’s next for you, I feel this course combines the essentials of an MBA with an active network of cultural industry professionals.
Senior Communications Officer, Fundraising
National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)
2021 Online Info Sessions
27 July 2021
6 August 2021
Our graduates are actively engaged in a wide range of contexts including arts festivals, performing arts companies, local government and arts funding bodies, libraries, performing arts venues, independent artists and producers, museums and galleries, creative industries and cultural service organisations.
See NIDA's list of Alumni.
NIDA’S Registration Status
Registered as a Higher Education Provider by TEQSA
|Registration Renewal Date|
25 June 2025
This allows NIDA to enrol international students on student visas into CRICOS approved courses.
Self Accrediting Authority*
Yes – partial self accrediting
Registered Higher Education providers may be authorised by TEQSA to self-accredit courses of study.
|Course name||Status||CRICOS Code|
Master of Fine Arts (Cultural Leadership)
TEQSA Accredited until 01/12/2021