Monotechnic to university: From complacency to conforming controversy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

On 1st August 2011 Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) ceased to exist as a small specialist institution and was subsumed into the University of Edinburgh as one of eleven Schools in the College of Humanities and Social Science.
Economies of scale meant that, in effect, ECA became a School, the Schools became subject areas and the subjects became sub-specialisms. University subject areas, Music and History of Art, were added to Art, Design and Architecture so the ‘new ECA’ was a mix of University and College of Art subjects, staff and students.
The nomenclature of ‘old ECA’ remained as part of the merger agreement with the Scottish Funding Council but, to all intents and purposes, the expectations were that the reformed Edinburgh College of Art would follow the course and programme structure of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Using the transition from an independent art college to a school situated a Russell Group University as context I will examine the purpose and evolving relevance of medium specific teaching in relation to research oriented learning. Critically reflecting on issues related to variances in perception of ‘specialism’ by reflecting on historic assumptions, current realities and future possibilities I will define some of the pedagogical developments through this process of change. I will examine the developments in teaching and learning by expanding on the following points:

• Project based subject specific teaching is often predicated on an open-ended mimetic brief – a mix of what we think artists might do and how we remember being taught.
• Reimagining the Scottish four-year degree structure and the use of ‘projects’ in art and design and questioning the material and process distinctions in a post media context through course development.
• Reconsidering what constitutes subject based curricula and the association of artists to artist-academics, research and an academic and artistic community.
• The benefits of opening up of the curricula to students to study courses outside art and design and to encourage those outside the art college to study theory and practice based courses in our subjects.
• Measuring success and how this impacts on curriculum development, good practice in assessment and feedback and student engagement in course and programme development.
• Challenging issues of technique, not knowing, nuance and intuition in fine art education.

Over the past 25 years educational institutions, particularly art schools, have morphed into brands and established education as a commodity. Myths about being in the right place at the right time, in the on trend art school with a particular peer group, is presented as a key factor in opening access to opportunities and success.

If the specificity of art is an experiential approach to developing ideas, self-organisation, use of reflection and scrutiny to engender new forms and representations then the methodology relies on the generation of different situations that qualify the educational process. This requires partnerships within and outside the academy and an evolving and active sense of constant re-evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2015
EventGLAD: Controversy and Conformity - 25 years of transforming the academy on Friday 27th February 2015. - Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Feb 201527 Feb 2015


ConferenceGLAD: Controversy and Conformity - 25 years of transforming the academy on Friday 27th February 2015.
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • art and design, pedagogy


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