Students to sue Glasgow School of Art for ‘underprovided education’
One of Scotland’s leading architects has thrown his support behind a class-action lawsuit proposed by students of the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) who have accused the institution of failing to provide adequate tuition during the pandemic.
The group of 35 architecture and design students have enlisted law firm Harper MacLeod to take forward their legal challenge for alleged “underprovided education”.
Known collectively as Art School Racket, the students have criticised GSA for limited communication and a lack of access to essential facilities such as studio space, technical workshops, equipment, materials, specialist software and technology.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched, with architect and former tutor Alan Dunlop donating drawings to fund the legal challenge.
Explaining their story on the crowdfunding page, the students state: “We were six months into a 12-month course when the first lockdown happened in March 2020. GSA chose to cancel the remaining seven weeks of the semester, two days after campus closed. We had no contact from our tutors for 10 weeks whilst other universities (like the University of Glasgow) were tutoring students online within a few weeks.
“GSA management instructed tutors not to speak to us during this time. Course work and essays that were due were cancelled, which meant we lost the opportunity to develop our written work and creative development. We were assessed on work to date, but not allowed to submit new work and received no feedback.
“Online learning replaced our practical arts courses for the final semester. Most of us had no way of making work in our home or bedroom, and GSA simply told us to ‘adapt’. We continued to be charged full tuition fees for studio-based courses with no access to studios and workshops, and charged for seven weeks that were cancelled.
“Our degree show was also cancelled, which meant that we missed the chance to meet curators, galleries, collectors, and art dealers, a pivotal moment for progression into the art world and another key reason for studying at GSA.
“GSA gave us two options, continue with remote learning or withdraw from the course with no assurance of re-entry in the future.
“GSA’s decisions heightened anxieties further as students were already experiencing financial stress and declining mental health due to losing part time work, no furlough due to insecure job contracts or working in high-risk environments as key workers.”
Over the past year the students have appealed to their university through the internal complaint procedure asking for a pause option until a safe to return to campus learning is available and a partial refund of fees, both of which were rejected by GSA.
The complaints were then taken to the educational ombudsmen which found that GSA’s arrangements for managing quality and securing academic standards are currently limited.
It judged that the quality of the student learning experience and the academic standards of the awards GSA offers would continue to be placed at risk if they did not take action.
A selection of Alan Dunlop’s drawings will be auctioned by 32Auctions next month.
Mr Dunlop told SCN: “Donated drawings have now been valued independently by two renowned gallery owners and acclaimed artist at over £500 each. Bidding starting therefore at £350. Both the Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art drawings are originals and taken from my sketchbooks. A3 soft pencil on cartridge paper. The sketch of the east elevation was composed from thumbnails drawn on the morning immediately after the 2018 fire and is unique.
“The Mackintosh drawings were chosen by the students from a selection of other drawings from my sketchbooks, including The Burrell, Caledonian Road Church and St Peters.”