Glasgow art school accused of putting growth over education

Students at the Glasgow School of Art are to demonstrate tomorrow over the way it is being run, accusing it of acting like a financial services institution.

Protesters say the quality of teaching and facilities is suffering at the expense of a drive to increase student numbers by 25 per cent by 2018.

They plan to demonstrate during an undergraduate open day. A statement issued by organisers of the protest says: “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?”

Posters being circulated for the demonstration, which will be staged outside the school’s Reid Building, 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 said to be “overstretched and frustrated” — and insufficient workshop facilities.

A spokesman for the demonstrators said: “Rather than prioritising the brand name and operating like 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’ve tried repeatedly over a number of years to have our voices heard through the existing channels of formal communication. To date this has largely proved ineffective at producing meaningful or effective results.”

The protests are being launched months after the announcement of an £80 million overhaul of the school’s main campus, including a move into the former Stow College building, where fine art students are due to relocate next year. Work is already underway on a £25 million restoration of the Mackintosh Building — built between 1887 and 1909 but badly damaged by fire in 2014 — although it is not due to be completed until 2019.

The school said: “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.”

Glasgow School of Art was founded in 1845. It has produced five Turner Prize winners, including Duncan Campbell and Martin Boyce, and 25 per cent of the nominees since 2005.