UCL art students organise creative protest to demand compensation for lack of studios

‘My bedroom studio cost me £9,250K+’

Arts students are calling upon UCL and the Slade School of Fine Art to provide a solution for not having access to studios throughout the 2021 academic year.

A protest with the message “Relocate or Compensate” was organised on Tuesday to demand compensation from UCL in the form of reimbursement or reallocation to alternative studios.

According to protesters, the Slade department had initially promised to provide extended access to studios over the summer, however, this has also since been denied.

Slade students came together to peacefully protest the lack of access to studios

Students of all years protested by collaboratively making banners and placards to re-create the communal environment of an art studio. The banners were later tied to the railings of Slade buildings.

The London Tab spoke to two Fine Art students, Joy and Niamh, about their reasons for protesting.

“Most students are unable to afford studio spaces outside of the university, and many also do not have suitable environments to work in their living spaces,” said Niamh. “This has led to a massive disadvantage that affects grades, productivity and wellbeing.”

Joy explained that, as students of the fine arts, their time is mostly spent in the studio, with very little face-to-face teaching. This has meant that the widely employed online format of teaching this year did not efficiently translate to their creative degrees.

“Despite this, both UCL and Slade have failed to understand the necessity of studio access and we cannot help but feel short-changed by the institution,” continued Joy. “International students have also been completely let down by UCL, paying extortionate fees whilst not having access to essential parts of the course, with no real aid from the department and little pastoral care.”

Slade students are demanding compensation for lost time at studios

Several open letters have been sent to the department of Fine Art, however, according to protesters, no agreement has yet been reached.

The students, who do not receive free art supplies or materials, also demand transparency from Slade “in regard to what our money is actually funding and how this benefits students.”

“In the wake of the Government’s proposed plans for 50 per cent budget cuts to the arts, it is now more evident than ever that we cannot rely on these institutions to support us,” Niamh and Joy told The London Tab. “We would encourage all students, especially those on practical based courses, to check out PAUSE OR PAY UK, who have inspired us to demand more from our university.”

The UK Government has recently proposed a 50 per cent cut to funding for art degrees

In response to the protest, Kieren Reed, Director of the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, said:  “We are sorry to hear about these concerns and I have personally arranged to meet these students next week to better understand the issues raised.

“Most of the Slade staff are artists themselves and therefore fully understand the importance of being able to access space to make art. During this challenging year, we ensured that all on campus students were able to access studio spaces and technical facilities as soon as Government guidance allowed them to do so.

“To ensure all social distancing guidelines were followed, UCL Estates also provided additional studio space in the form of a then empty Halls of Residence and are continuing to work on finding further alternatives should the need arise in the next academic year.

“Throughout this time, the health and wellbeing of our students has been paramount. Both the Slade and UCL provides support services which have been increased and extensively communicated to our students throughout the pandemic.”

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