On Thursday 19th March an emergency meeting was held at London College of Communication to discuss the news that UAL management allegedly propose to cut over 800 places on Foundation courses which will leave staff are at risk of redundancy from September 2015. These plans are being pushed through with no consultation and no mandate. It was therefore decided that, due to the urgency, action need to be taken straight away… So students proceeded to occupy a large area of Central Saint Martins (CSM) in protest against these cuts!
On on the second day of the occupation at CSM, Kings Cross, I represented UAL African Caribbean Society by leading a workshop on institutional racism and ways we can fight it within UAL. It was an opportunity to speak about my own experiences as a black female student who until very recently, had little or no representation within the teaching staff of my course who would fall under the “pale, male and stale” campaign.
Statistics shows that *Black students are an estimated 23% less likely to achieve a 1st or 2:1 degree than their White counterparts, despite entering the institution with the same FE qualifications. On Foundation, Black students are more likely to achieve a high grade. Shelly Asquith, SUARTS President, shared some important points for a comeback on “The 10 steps to tackle attainment” that were circulated earlier by a UK University. The first being, UAL needs to accept it is institutionally racist. “Once you can accept that, you can start to unpack it, but while the university is in denial, change will not come.” Other points include anonymous marking, liberating the curriculum and Widening Participation targets to recruit Black academics in supervisory roles.
Foundation courses in Art and Design are a pre-degree, multi-disciplinary course designed to prepare students for Higher Education. They allow students to explore artistic practises, experiment, and make mistakes before embarking on a chosen pathway. Many renowned artists and designers have passed through UAL through a Foundation course. As a student ambassador I had the opportunity to help out during the Foundation Course enrolment at London College of Communication earlier this academic year. I remember how excited, nervous and anxious most of the student were to start a new chapter of their student life. Most of all there was a strong sense of ambition enrolling on a Foundation course gave them. Many Foundation students come from working class backgrounds, and these courses offer art education to many that would otherwise not access it. Cutting Foundation courses would hinder access to Higher Education for so many students who’s only way onto a BA course would be via a Foundation course.
UAL should be about education, not profit-making. And it’s import in this discourse about cuts, that BAME attainment and retainment is also prioritised, as should be the support Black students’ are rightfully entitled to, otherwise the cycle will be never-ending.
SUARTS sabs and Arts Attack ask UAL management (Nigel Carrington, Natalie Brett, Jeremy Till, Chris Wainwright and Philip Broadhead in particular) to reconsider their proposals, listen to students, and INVEST in Foundation courses, NOT CUT THEM. For more info www.facebook.com/FundingFoundation Facebook/OccupyUAL
In solidarity, Kai and the UAL ACS team
(Previously posted on ualacs.org)
Read Why We’re Occupying Our Art School for more on the Occupy UAL demands