Art For Sale – Student Uprising at the Glasgow School of Art

The commodification of education is a tragedy, but if that is the way that things stand, then should students not be afforded the same consumer rights as, say, someone buying a defective product?

The pandemic has made life problematic for everybody, but its impact has been more severe on some areas than others. The delivery of higher education has been fraught with difficulties, with practical courses perhaps suffering the most. Students around the UK are not happy, understandably so, with many feeling that they have become collateral damage.

This is especially true of art schools, whose students have need of access to spaces in which to be creative, specific facilities and the opportunity for creative cross-pollination and collaboration, in order for their arts education to be adequate. The inability of art schools properly to provide these in light of this year’s events has prompted the establishment of Pause or Pay UK, an action group made up of students from four art schools who seek an amelioration of their current situations.

Their demands include protection of international students with regard to visas, guarantee of a physical degree show, and importantly, either a pause for students who desire one (without penalty) or a refund of fees to reflect the loss of the education that they might have expected.

The one Scottish participant in Pause or Pay UK is Glasgow School of Art. GSA, like all higher education institutions, is a victim of the commodification of education. Free education seems a distant memory, but it has been only ten years since the Liberal Democrats reneged on their campaign promises to abolish tuition fees by agreeing to triple them instead: betraying students as a cost of coalition and destroying their reputation for a generation.

Free higher education for Scottish students remains a flagship policy of the Scottish National Party, but English and international students are exempt from this and have to pay over £9k a year. (Perhaps it is for this reason that GSA upped their student body population by 25% between 2016 and 2018, whilst making no apparent efforts to increase studio space or per capita funding).

I am a recent graduate of the Glasgow School of Art myself (can you sense the underlying exasperation), and I have to say, I found a good deal of my experience pretty unsatisfactory. I made the most of it, but I was certainly not alone in my frustrations with the school; indeed it seemed that everyone around me had major complaints about the way that things were run. GSA boasts the lowest student satisfaction rate out of all universities in the UK. And that was before COVID-19 threw a giant spanner in the proverbial works.

Pause or Pay UK ‘Solidarity with GSA students’

“The answer to the question ‘what has been lacking’ is pretty loaded, it might be easier for me to list what it is students at GSA have had access to, to which the answer is an overused Zoom account and an array of empty promises. For any art or design course, studio and workshop access are imperative, and while some courses have transitioned to online learning better than others, we are all struggling just now,” says Sculpture and Environmental Art student Kate Wilson Hilferty.

The extraordinary circumstances of 2020 could potentially have offered an opportunity for GSA to pull its socks up and find imaginative ways of supporting its students. I have spent the last month talking to a lot of them and the impression they have given me is that GSA, instead of entering into a helpful dialogue with its student body, has preferred to crawl under a rock and stick its fingers in its ears.

Hilferty continues: “Losing access to my spaces, and contact with my community, has hindered my ability to be creative and proactive no end. With the exception of some tutors working overtime, my classmates and I are feeling entirely unsupported. It’s simple, if we don’t have resources, we can’t make work. No matter what promises are being made for discussions on ‘future access’ or ‘future degree show planning’, the problem still stands. We are now four months into the year and have received a maximum of six studio days each, alongside no workshop access. Where is the accountability for this?”

When I asked Penny Anderson, a disabled MLitt Sculpture student (whose disability support worker was furloughed without her being informed!), what restrictions had been placed on her study as a result of COVID, her response was telling. “Restrictions? Study? We had no teaching or proper contact, other than from marketing really, for three months. No workshop access.”

One student kindly provided me with a table that they had gone to the trouble of collating, charting studio and workshop access at all art schools across the UK over the last term. It alleges that, for example, Goldsmiths in London was still offering studio access everyday. Closer to home, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee was offering access all day Monday to Friday to its fourth year students. Even when in Tier 3, GSA appear to have been offering studio access only one day a week.

Students have done their best to protest their situation, including with a peaceful protest and an open letter with 629 signatures. The letter stresses that, while the pandemic and the resulting strains on higher education are the fault of nobody, the institution had over five months to confront the fact that students would be returning to campus in September.

It says, “Neither studios, nor workshops, nor library were prepared for a socially-distanced return to action at the start of the semester. This is unacceptable and symptomatic of an institution that is understaffed and lacking the integrity to deal with the situation while providing the necessary emotional and practical support to its students and staff. The notion that it is acceptable to continue charging full price for a practice-based fine art course that is no longer studio and workshop-based, and which provides no financial or physical alternative for students to access the aforementioned missing components, is immoral and indefensible.” (As this is an official complaint that is currently being investigated, GSA were unable to comment on any specifics).

There is also @nostudiostories. No Studio Stories, an instagram account where students are invited to send in photographs of their current working spaces, was created in response to a series of films that GSA were bringing out with a weekly newsletter, called ‘Studio Stories’. The instagram account’s creator, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “The trailer felt like propaganda – Penny MacBeth (GSA’s director) sitting in the Reid (the design school) proclaiming how well things were going with the return to campus. It felt so alien to all of us – stuck at home. I wanted to create something that a) showed the reality of the situation and b) was an open, honest and free form of communication, rather than something curated by senior management.”

The reality of the situation, from the look of it, is pretty dire for many. Photography students turning their bathrooms into makeshift dark rooms (complete with hazardous chemicals). DIY kilns setting kitchens on fire. Silversmithing students operating open flames two feet from bedding. Dissertations being written without adequate access to a library. Students working outside of locked studio windows, in the cold, in order to access the school’s wifi. International photography students with no access to computers, scanners or indeed any vital facilities – and, may I remind you – being charged £16k for the privilege.

As one student plaintively mourns, “I have been able to paint here at the risk of turps-poisoning and on the river Kelvin when we take our easels out and work ‘plein air’ until our fingers freeze.”

That might sound pleasingly Death of Chatterton-esque, stirring romantic visions of the impoverished art student suffering nobly for their craft. But, as Hilferty points out, “There’s a weird form of fetishisation that is coming out of this situation, the glorification of struggle in seeking the challenge ‘to work to the limits of your creative boundaries’. Suggesting we consider our situation as a new creative challenge is a way of refraining from the responsibility that the school should be supplying us with a creative realm to work in … It is nothing but perverse to suggest we use this situation to our advantage. How? With what resources? Our creativity requires our wellbeing and stability. That should come first.”

This might not be the place to rehearse the arguments about the financial discrimination inherent in charging tuition fees; what is undeniable, surely, is that the present situation for students at GSA has a graver impact on poorer members of the student body. Those from wealthier backgrounds might have the funds to purchase facilities that were promised as part of their education, such as scanners, software and cameras – some are even able to rent private studio space. Those from poorer backgrounds don’t have that option, with their financial situation directly impacting the quality of the education they are receiving and the quality of the work that they are able to produce.

The pandemic will have caused frustration to students everywhere and it must have been difficult for university authorities to react to the ever-shifting situation. However, this last year has highlighted the extent to which universities are now dependent upon the money generated by the numbers of students they have, and the willingness of those students to go into debt, in a way which is prejudicial to the delivery of education.

Glasgow School of Art have kindly provided me with a response to allegations made in this article. They said  “It is important that you are aware that between June 2020 and the start of the first semester in September that GSA was in regular contact with both returning and new students providing up-to-date information on how our hybrid model of learning, (which reflects the practice-led, studio-based nature of our disciplines), would be delivered in the context of UK and, specifically, Scottish Government Covid-19 guidelines and instructions.”

“Studios on our Glasgow campuses remained open until Glasgow was placed in Local Protection Level 4 restrictions by the Scottish Government on 20 November 2020. Clearly it was disappointing that the studios needed to be closed, but this was a requirement under the Level 4 restrictions. Whilst we had hoped to reopen studios and increase student access in Semester 2, the introduction of a UK-wide lockdown and stay at home order in January 2021 has, for the moment, meant that this is not possible … we are committed to facilitating access as soon as UK and Scottish Government policies allow it.”

“Since the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year, staff have been working with students who have had many opportunities to raise any issues of concern, and there have also been dedicated meetings with Class Representatives. Further, Student Services have been offering a wide range of student support including mental health, financial support and support for digital inclusion.”

Photograph taken from twitter

GSA claim that they have kept open lines of communication with their students; I have spoken to dozens of their students, however, and dissatisfaction with communication has been a recurrent and constant theme. What has really stood out to me is the lack of morale. Correspondent after correspondent talks of despondency, demotivation, depression and pessimism about future prospects. Students have tried hard to achieve what they felt their courses owed them, but many have been left feeling defeated, uninspired and unsupported – surely the exact opposite kind of energy that art school should give you. 

As one international masters student said, “Imagine you sell all your things, you put all of your savings into coming here, then you receive only online “classes”, for 60 people with 0 engaging methodologies, for almost £19,000. How would you feel? It is not just my creativity, it is that if I go out and try and find a professional opportunity I don’t have the proper knowledge that I should have.”

Architecture student Freya Bruce told me: “Last academic year I fought particularly hard to either receive equal quality of study OR a reduction in fees. I feel like this is a perfectly reasonable ask! After such a struggle, I lost my faith in the university system entirely. The main issue has been the absolutely dire communication.” Freya has now moved to do a Masters elsewhere, she says: “In my new, small institution I feel heard, motivated and part of a symbiotic partnership, in my view, this is how education should be.”

“To be completely honest, I don’t think they care about our experience; I think they care about money. They have statements and justifications for everything, but none of these are designed with our wellbeing in mind – they are designed to keep them from getting into trouble. There has been no transparency and no dialogue,” says one anonymous MLitt student.

Luke Andrew, a fourth year Sculpture student agrees: “Money is driving the Glasgow School of Art and in turn they have sacrificed their student’s education. Tutors are doing their best under the current circumstances, but due to the incredibly short hours in their contract it seems the art school has also abandoned them and again the people trying to carry the art school’s reputation are being thrust aside.”

Meme made by GSA student Briony

What is resoundingly clear to me is that the Glasgow School of Art has a lot of work to do if it is going to regain the trust of its student body. As previously stated, GSA has the lowest student satisfaction rate out of all universities in the UK – and yet they also often appear on lists of the world’s best art schools. I am personally not sure exactly what causes this disparity, but, I am sure that when your reputation is so exalted, some of the world’s best art students will be applying to your school.

It seemed to me when I was there that we were expected to be grateful, to feel ourselves fortunate to be students at such a prestigious school. Well, I think that GSA should feel grateful and fortunate to have the students that it has. The school’s continuing reputation rests on their shoulders.

Most of GSA’s students will be commencing their adult lives heavily indebted as a result of the fees incurred by attending the school – and as that is the case, surely these students deserve, at the very least, the practical and educational course that they were sold, along with the facilities promised. I think that the commodification of education is a tragedy, but if that is the way that things stand, then should students not be afforded the same consumer rights as, say, someone buying a defective product?

I concede that GSA are victims themselves of both policy and circumstance, but there should be mechanisms in place to compensate the dissatisfied, and these mechanisms should be transparent. If you are offering neither a pause until a time when full services can resume, nor any form of refund or compensation, then you are essentially holding your student’s futures hostage.

Comments (32)

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  1. Foghorn Leghorn says:

    It’s only fair, you would think, that GSA’s customers should have their service paused or refunded. The company is clearly, in the present circumstances, incapable of delivering the learning support services its customers are paying for. Those customers should check their contractual and statutory consumer rights, to see to what compensation they’re entitled, and pursue them. Citizens Advice should be able to… well, advise.

  2. Blair says:

    Iona, what a good description of the problems today.

    Huge imbalances, greed and the law of the jungle rule, infiltrating the very eco systems which support life.
    The more we are educated, the further we are from resolving the issues and the further we are accelerating the destruction of our planet.

    The answer to resolve lies in creation. It requires a different way of thinking about process: it requires an inbuilt natural ability to learn, adapt and improve. Younger generations are being hindered by older generations who keep to their standards.

    In the past 30 years, our Millennial generation has had access to a whole new way of learning, working and playing online. They do not need the ways of old, they just need the older geration to adapt. It is they that need the development.

    Our world governments are more interested in retaining power and creating wealth and have lost the very art of survival through development, learning through watching the young.

    Adults believe mainstream politics and press about my generation and possibly the next as being ‘a lost generation’, when in fact it is the pre Millennial generations that are lost in time like dinosaurs. It is the older generations that are instilling their biases and prejudices on us by the power of their money, the control over work and by the power of their collective vote!

    If our world is to be protected from further damage, we need to be creative, using our online skills, we need to educate our politicians and our parents the ways to renew.
    We could do it for free, but in a world that loves the stupid economy what price is knowledge worth in our Knowledge Economy.

    Governments believe in IoT, so do we, just that we are more familiar with tools required to progress and become independent of their old ways which are inducing a habitual habit and inability to see that debt, food banks & poverty doesn’t balance the books.

    The church, all faiths, may God help them for as much as God gives new life, in the hands of the old they too have just been equally complicit in guiding them in error to true enlightenment and a more natural and conservative way of life , with open choices and True Open Governance to create real independent minds.

    With an I on a ‘Christina Project’ perhaps there is a leeway of future hope?


  3. Alyssa says:

    Good god, this is some of the most terrible, unoriginal excuse for art ever. I’ve seen my four year old niece do better, and that’s saying a lot. This “art” sucks worse than Nickelback, Creed, Disturbed, and the St. Anger snare. Combined.

    1. Iona Lee says:

      What art would you be referring to? There is no art shown in this article… ‘I’ve seen my four year old niece do better’ is a pretty unoriginal excuse for critique, however.

    2. What on earth are you talking about?

    3. J. Duffus says:

      Indeed. What is your rant referring to?

  4. Christine says:

    Thank you for your article, sums it up pretty accurately. I am a current GSA masters student, and have given up any expectation at this point of facilities and classes, or indeed any compensation, or any alternative resources being made available. It is very disheartening given other art institutions are providing studio space for their students.

  5. Laurence Elliott says:

    I applied to the MLITT Painting course for studio space and the facilities as much as any professional guidance. I’ve been livid with them since September 2019. Being awful with technology meant I could only access a lot of my emails after the lockdown with a LOT of help from my partner, finding out vital course content too late, despite attending as much as possible prior to lockdown. I was in a cupboard from September to January, then got a brilliant space from January to lockdown, after making an official complaint. That’s not a master’s degree experience. At all. The good things were being able to use the wood workshop twice & use the library & meeting other practicing artists. It was endless admin. If they fire ALL senior management & empower the course leadership & facilitation with the saved money, that’ll be a good starting point. Everyone on the MLITT wants their heads.

    1. Lucy says:

      I am so sorry that you are all experiencing this .
      I do not understand why the art school is not enabling students to take a pause . It is utterly bewildering .
      I undertook a post grad course in sculpture in 1986 – 7 there were 3 of us and even then there were issues , lack of communication and tuition .
      I just got on with my work .
      I did my degree at Wimbledon school of art which was amazing , the head of our department paid for our materials – metal , stone , wood , clay , plaster etc .
      He said that no student should have to compromise their learning through lack of financial resources .
      We were so lucky .

  6. Niemand says:

    I work as a lecture in HE in a creative / practical arts subject so have some insight into the current situation though have no specific knowledge of GSA. It does sound like GSA could have been doing more to enable safe access and more engaging online learning, though it is actually pretty hard to judge the circumstances from the article. Where I work, even now, access to studio spaces, alone, is permitted providing the student is actually in the local area (though our studios are small and mostly designed for single use anyway), though in fact students have been very reluctant to actually come in. I have been teaching face-to-face twice a week for the whole of last term, sometimes in studio spaces and it felt safe as the right precautions were provided by my institution. But no staff were forced to do this (I chose to) and so the other question is how much staff were, or were not pressured to still work in person because this has varied hugely across the UK. It is arguable that forcing staff to go into work is as egregious as the lack of access for students that would require some staff presence. It is a no-win situation.

    The other factor is that it is all very well saying ‘there should be mechanisms in place to compensate the dissatisfied’ but unless there is spare money to do that (or direct government support), an HE institution would be bankrupted really quickly by mass refunds as their finances are massively reliant on those fees, every single year which amount to hundreds of millions of pounds (I have been a budget holder so know how frightening a drop in student numbers is). It is always worth remembering that despite the marketisation of HE, the vast majority of universities are not profit making organisations and there are no shareholders or anything like that. Competition is based on reputation, course content and facilities, location etc, not what it costs. So in fact, it is a fake and failing ‘market’ in any real sense of the word The LibDem / Tory coalition had the ludicrous idea that some universities would charge a lot less than 9k pa forgetting about the fact that there is no attractive cut-price institution – who wants a degree from ‘Netto College’? No-one does at all so all universities ended up very quickly charging the full amount so as not to seem second-rate. So talk of students as ‘customers’ being provided a ‘service’ by a ‘company’ is basically bogus and unhelpfully simplistic. And this is compounded by the fact that actual ‘for-profit’ institutions get the same access to students loans as the rest, which is crass.

    The whole thing is ridiculous really and made even worse in Scotland by the ludicrous regime of English and International students being charged fees. and EU and Scottish student getting it free. This is now coming home to roost for the GSA who as I understand it have a large cohort of English students, presumably as they bring in more money per head. It is interesting there is no mention here of what is presumably a major divide between those students who are not paying any fees to be refunded and those that are, and what those proportions are.

    If I were a student I would be pretty pissed-off, of that there is no doubt. As a member of staff I am! What’s the solution? Frankly I have no idea though it is certainly possible for it be managed better than the way it appears to have been done here: lots of smaller things can mitigate it which so far, has been my experience where I work. Much of this comes down to individual acts by teaching and technical staff but for that to happen you need staff who are motivated and support each other as a team. I cannot claim any love for the senior management where I work, far from it, but that does not stop colleagues from pulling together but that requires a healthy department culture.

    Failing that we should go into suspended animation for the next 6 months, waking only to get our jab.

  7. Delia Forrest says:

    This is so sad on two counts. One, it is not how Scottish tertiary education is meant to be. And two, it is not the GSA I used to know which was place of high regard with an amazing reputation beloved by so many for so much. I hope you all graduate well and it would seem that will be by students’ determination and talent rather by support from your institution during such a difficult time.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    It is not just the GSA. It is happening everywhere. I recently quit the MA painting course at the RCA. It was a continuous round of Zoom lectures that were sad and draining. I won’t go into the other problems, but I didn’t feel I could continue, so left, and got a refund.

  9. Chantal Short says:

    Thank you for writing this. I am a Master’s student at the Edinburgh College of Art, and I have total affinity for everything you’ve mentioned- the situation here is shockingly similar, and our affiliation with the University of Edinburgh has only made it more complicated, as our school has little ability to make choices that are not blanket applications for the whole University. Solidarity to GSA students- looking forward to meeting you on the other side.

  10. J. Duffus says:

    What an excellent article. Any news of Murial Gray? Yes her and her followers who put many a back up canvassing on expenses paid world wide tours, for money, to finance the first GSA fire, which was all to be paid for by insurance. What happened to such money? I sympathise greatly with the students. But in reality there was never much in the way of tuition or support, tutors preferring to waft into class, drop a box of charcoal and drift out exhaling the suggestion, ‘explore…investigate!’ Such problems must all be led from the TOP. A complex position, but one crying out for robust and viable leadership.

    1. Hugh Mungus says:

      What utter crap “J. Duffus”. I am imagining you got a third then?
      All I see here are the same old voices shouting into their echo-chamber.

      1. J. Duffus says:

        ‘Utter crap?’ Perhaps you might enlighten as to what part of my statement you have trouble with? All of it?

        1. Artemisia Gentileschi says:

          I think they are referring to your stupid trope of the wafty fine art tutor. Let’s go instead with the arrogant architecture tutors who still think it takes 7 years to learn Auto-Cad or the aloof design tutors who are more interested in the students than their work.
          Art and design education has moved on since the 1980’s. Though from what I hear GSA still has some old relics in there ‘teaching’.
          The situation is awful, and I wouldn’t like to be on either side of this particular divide. It seems no-one can win.

  11. Henry Holland says:

    Best of luck, Iona Lee, and all others taking part in your entirely justified campaign. Can only wish all fortitude in refusing to be held hostage, neither financially, nor artistically. Have you considered crowdfunding for a legal fund with which, for example, 5 GSA students paying fees at the 9000 or 16000 pounds p.a. level could take the GSA to court and win a refund? Might that generate greater publicity for your cause – and if a court were to order a refund to even 2 students, surely GSA might cave in to public pressure and introduce substantial reforms? Lastly, does your conclusion in which you “concede that GSA are victims themselves of both policy and circumstance” differentiate enough regarding the people who actually run GSA? Should people like Tom Inns and Seona Reid really be put in the “victims” category – or are they highly paid leaders, from whom all students and people in wider society have every right to have high expectations? (Good luck! Went to Art School myself in a different century – 1994/95 at the ESA.)

  12. Zoonotic Huawei says:

    Hi Iona, the situation you are describing at GSA was created by Tory government lockdowns and media scaremongering over covid. The website you are writing for (Bellacaledonia) supported those lockdowns and contributed to the scaremongering.

    1. Niemand says:

      Scaremongering or not, it is Scottish government lockdowns in this case, not ‘Tory’, and which have been even more strict in Scotland.

      1. Zoonotic Huawei says:

        Fair enough Niemand. It seems that Sturgeon (centre), Johnson (right) and Drakeford (left) all have a taste for authoritarianism.

  13. Wul says:

    It’s not just GSA. They are all at it.

    I have a nephew at Strathclyde University. After 12 weeks locked in student halls at £600/week ( part paid by his Amazon warehouse summer job) he returned home.

    4 months into his studies he has not met, or been introduced to, a single other student on his course. University advised students to “meet up on Facebook” but refused to give out names of other students on the same course to their peers (“Data protection”). No on-line events to allow students to network and find peer support. No Student Advisor contact ( think “guidance teacher”) given to students, no email addresses for lecturers given out, no friendly phone calls, no personal, supportive communication (“how are you doing?”) all contact is via four different “apps”. An utter abrogation of their duty of care for young people.

    The lecturers are doing alright mind; sitting at home on £40k – £50k/yr plus, building up surplus disposable income, but too busy to answer emails from the “customers” putting food on their table with loans they will be paying back for decades.

    Universities have been big in recent years on telling us how they “are a business” nowadays ( they even have Chief Executives). These businesses deserve to go bust.

    1. Niemand says:

      I find that quite incredible Wul. No lecturer emails released? I don’t think there are any data protection issues with student university emails either as they are institutional, not private, so in Outlook all you do is start typing the name and it autofills.

      I communicate with students directly on a daily basis via email (I’ve just sent one right now at 10.30pm and they can contact me that way any time), have weekly drop-in Zoom sessions for my first year personal tutee groups (and fortnightly for subsequent years), and send regular emails to module cohorts. Our course leader communicates with students about latest developments on a weekly basis (and he can be contacted by email directly also as well as Zoom), and we have a non-academic support person who tries to contact students in whatever ways possible we are especially worried about in terms of non-engagement. We have a student panel that meets regularly on Zoom to raise concerns. I could go on, so just putting forward the side of things where efforts are being made at some universities.

      1. Wul says:

        I said lecturer’s emails “not given out” i.e. no list circulated at start of term. Yes, they can be found on web site and lecturers communicate outwards using their own emails (when it suits them)

        But little or very slow response to emails from students when seeking help. And no signposting i.e. “Here is where to go for help”, “Here is your course administrator”, “Go here for timetable help”, “Here are some student mentors in 3rd year of your course”, “Here’s the student counselling service” etc. etc. No pro-active measures that say “We care about you”. Just left to get on with it.

        On-line lectures are attended by students from a variety of disparate courses; so no way to identify your “class mates”. As anyone knows, peer support is the most vital thing for a person in a new situation. But zero effort made to help these students to bond. A recent test was missed by 50% of the students because they didn’t know it was happening. And these are supposed to be clever people?

        1. Niemand says:

          Yeah, it all sounds woeful to be honest and totally the wrong way of trying to mitigate these awful times.

          I don’t know why it is like this at Strathclyde. University senior management teams are often woeful though and sometimes this filters down to teaching and admin staff, not as ‘we’ll do a good job regardless of them’, but ‘who gives a shit then’? This happens when department cultures are also bad because in my experience, when departments pull together it is often in spite of senior management nonsense.

          Modules that are full of students from lots of different courses happen of course but if it happens a lot that is simply a money saving exercise so you don’t have to have separate classes for specific cohorts, which where you can, you obviously should. It is something I have fought for again and again.

          If you can, I would make a complaint yourself to senior figures. Threaten to go to the press. They really will not like that.

    2. Roberta says:

      Lecturers are not doing ok .
      I have been working at GSA for the past 2 years .
      No courses were run from my department – adult education as it was not deemed viable .
      We do not get paid if the courses do not run which is awful

      1. Graham Ennis says:

        Good to hear what you say Roberta.

  14. Graham Ennis says:

    Hello, and its NOT just “GSA”. Here in Brighton England, I have just done in one year Diploma in Art, (Cut down from the usual two) and this was at a large local college here in Brighton. It was absolute hell, and this was before the arrival of the Virus. Everything in Art is now commodified, and costed. Staff on zero hours contracts, thinly resourced facilities, over worked tutors, and a debt of nearly £3000 to the student loan fund. Course came with a guarantee of a degree place at the other campus. (Which turned out to be bullshit). My experience is that the whole thing was mis-sold and misrepresented. This is a fairly typical “Industrialised” type of operation, which is even worse than in Scotland. ART is not a commodity. It is a Human Right. (Writers and Artists share the same problem. Before you get to the nasty bits, the whole educational process has been commodified and cut to the bone. The spiritual aspects of ART education in the UK has been strangled and commodified. All that COVID has done is bring out into the open what has happened to Art and cultural education . I think that next year we are in for a French Style 1968 Student Mass revolt. Enough is enough.)

  15. Graham Ennis says:

    The more I look at Scottish institutions the more I shudder.
    I start to think of the writings of the Algerian intellectual Franz Fanon. He survived the brutal Algerian revolution and liberation struggle.
    He had a core point, in the book. That you can liberate yourself physically, and find that psychologically and culturally, and spiritually, you are still a prisoner of a foreign country and culture. The tragic outcome of the Irish Civil War is an example.
    The Scottish cultural institutions need a Maoist “Long March” through themn, beginning with GSA, After the mysterious fire, that is still under investigation, it can never be the same. The best idea is to restore it and turn it into an Art museum, and to start afresh on a new site. All senior management made to reapply for their jobs, if they are non-art officials, early retirement options for those that want in the cadre. There neads to be a voice for the students, that demands total reform.
    in its present stsate, it is not fit for purpose either physically morally or intellectually. The new school needs to be larger, open to international architectural competition, and also with a radical plan of “Art to the people”. It really does need a top to bottom change in culture.
    Power to the “inmates” and the workers, not the management. Comments please.

    1. Graham Ennis says:

      Oh dear, not a single comment on my spleenish writings on the Glasgow School of Art scandle.
      Franz Fanon was right. Its his “Black Skins, White Masks” situation. Anglo-culturisation of the school, and its operations.
      Very, very little on old and ancient Celtic art, whjich is essentially ignored, and with it, the cultural pride and past of the scots.
      That there might be, and should be, a program of heritige art and culture, and Scottish identity. It has all been fed into the cultural meat grinder, and homoginised.
      The GSA should have as its core the mainfesatation of a vigerous national art, that borrows freely from international trends, as well as developing its own.
      So sad. The anglisization of the GSA is rather obvious. I amz not asking for art commissars in Scotland, but a free and powerful look at its heritige, self identity, and vigerous movements in an international global art. No more “Tweeness” please.

  16. John Rock says:


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