Glasgow School of Art faces student revolt

Students have faced major upheaval since a fire at Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building.
Students have faced major upheaval since a fire at Glasgow School of Art's Mackintosh building.
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Students at the Glasgow School of Art are to stage a one-day boycott of their students and a public protest about the way the world-famous institution is being run.

Management are facing claims that the quality of teaching and facilities is suffering at the expense of a drive to increase student numbers by 25 per cent in the next two years.

Organisers of a planned demonstration at an undergraduate open day later this week say increasing importance is being placed on the “brand” of the art school, which they claim is now operating more and more like “a financial services institution.”

The campaign is being launched months after art school chiefs announced an £80 million overhaul of its main campus, including a move into the former Stow College building, which students are due to move into next year.

Work is already underway on a £25 million restoration of the iconic Mackintosh Building, which was badly damaged by a devastating blaze in 2014, although it is not due for completion until 2019.

Posters being circulated for the demo, which will be staged outside the art school’s new Reid Building on Renfrew Street on Thursday, accuse senior management of ignoring a host of concerns.

These include how to accommodate the expansion in student numbers, the number of teaching staff who are already said to be “overstretched and frustrated”, and insufficient workshop facilities.

A statement issued by the organisers states: “The Glasgow School of Art seems to value its brand more than the education of its students without whom there would be no art school. It is expanding year on year and increasing student tuition fees, yet the services, studio space and student/teacher ratio is not reflecting this expansion. We are fed up. What are we paying for?

“At no point should the long term structural and operational decisions be conducted with the blatant disregard for the quality of education and provision of services to the existing students.

“Rather than prioritising the brand name and operating like that of a financial services institution, the primary aim must be to protect and preserve the level of service once offered to students and realign student learning as the primary objective.

“We have tried repeatedly over a number of years to have our voices heard through the existing channels of formal communication with the GSA directorate and senior management. To date this has largely proved ineffective at producing meaningful or effective results.”

A spokeswoman for the art school said: "We encourage our students to be engaged and we have a number of more formal routes than the one chosen for raising concerns and for working constructively with us in both defining and implementing change which we believe will enhance the student experience.

"Our planned growth in student numbers is being met alongside significant strategic investment in our campus, in our staffing and resources, not least the restoration of the Mackintosh Building and the Stow Building as a new home for the school of fine art.’