Monday, 23 February 2009

Press Release

Occupation of the Byam Shaw School of Art

The Byam Shaw school of Art has provided a fine art education within a stimulating community for 99 years. Throughout a wealth of shifts in cultural ideology, Byam Shaw has managed to hold on to some of the founding principles of educational philosophy; there is a freedom to learn independently through each other and the environment around us.

The students of Byam Shaw have become increasingly dissatisfied with the way that higher education is being delivered. It was felt that joining the University of Arts London and in particular our amalgamation with Central St Martins would provide a way to preserve the identity of the school within a higher education system where independent colleges are fast disappearing. What has instead resulted is a 16% drop in teaching hours, fewer resources, less access to facilities, increased bureaucracy and a lack of transparency within the decision-making process.

Throughout this academic year we have been sending letters, attending meetings and attempting to get our concerns heard. Responses have been dismissive and diversionary. We felt that the only way that we could bring about change and obtain answers to our questions was to go into occupation. This commenced on Wednesday 18th February.

After five days of occupation, we are finally engaging in discussion with the university management but a resolution to the matter is still not in sight. Pertinently, the occupation has served not only to bring out the best in individual students but also to highlight the strengths of our community, producing both widespread debate and a wealth of artwork. The experience has enriched our education immensely.

What has become increasingly clear is that the problems we are experiencing are being mirrored throughout the higher education system. There is a need for a wider debate about whether current educational policy, in both fiscal and philosophical terms, will serve to benefit the students of today and in turn the country as a whole. The disparity between political vision and the emerging outcomes of policy direction needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

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