Glasgow School of Art (GSA) students are holding a protest this morning [Thursday] over their concerns that the institution ‘seems to value its brand more than the education of its students’
The demonstration in Renfrew Street is being led by architecture students, and is timed to coincide with the school’s undergraduate open day. Hundreds of students are expected to boycott their studios.
Students argue the school’s services, studio space and ratio of students to teachers are not keeping pace with its expansion at a time of increasing tuition fees, and that there is a lack of workshop facilities. They claim a protest is necessary because there is no dialogue between senior management and students on the issues.
The school’s strategic plan for 2015-2018 includes a desire to grow the student community by 25 per cent over the three years and a commitment to invest £65 million plus in its campus.
Page\Park is currently engaged in a £25 million project to restore the school’s grade A-listed Mackintosh Building after it was ravaged by fire in 2014.
In a statement, the students said they recognised the school was undergoing ‘a period of transition and reflection’ and that ‘financial restrictions’ and setbacks such as the fire had ‘impacted the continued legacy of progressiveness and creation that GSA prides itself on’. They said they wanted to work with senior management to resolve issues.
But the statement added: ‘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 of the Glasgow School of Art.
‘Rather than prioritising the brand name that is GSA 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.’
Euan Hardie, a stage 5 student at the Mackintosh School of Architecture who is supporting the protest, said students could not see the school’s claimed investment ‘on the ground’.
‘It’s meant to be one of the premier experimental art schools, in the world maybe,’ he said, ‘but at the moment the students’ problem is the management direction of the school doesn’t seem to match with the aspirations of a creative institution.’
A GSA spokesperson 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.’
Christopher Platt, head and professor of architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, did not respond to requests for comment.