Magazine article Art Monthly

Art School Occupation

Magazine article Art Monthly

Art School Occupation

Article excerpt

Following news of student occupation of Parsons School of Art in New York (see Artnotes AM323), for nine days from February 18 student protestors at Byam Shaw School of Art in North London occupied their school, spending the nights in various rooms around the main building (see Letters). The protest was driven by student anger at the way the school was being absorbed into Central St Martins (CSM) and the wider University of the Arts London (UAL).

Byam Shaw is a relatively small art school--fine art is its only subject--that survived for almost a century as an independent institution. However, since the mid 90s it came under severe pressure to see its courses validated through an accredited university. In 2003 it aligned itself with Central St Martins. Historically, Byam Shaw's scale and independence allowed it to retain traditional art school characteristics: a small number of students, generous studio space, high level of individual tutor/student contact, and a large internal gallery for frequent student exhibitions and group critiques. No doubt these factors helped the school receive high marks for overall satisfaction in the 2008 National Student Survey. UAL, by contrast, has for the past three years received the UK's lowest marks in the same survey--precisely because of its aggressive reversal of those very same art school characteristics (see the education special issue, AM320). Instead of learning from the survey results and adopting Byam Shaw's proven practices across CSM, middle management at CSM has continued to press ahead with the absorption of Byam Shaw--it is known within the UAL as Byam Shaw at Central St Martins--forcing the art school to adopt the same student/ space/staff ratios that CSM suffers, largely through a three-year programme of cuts to staff funding. …

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