Rant 16: Is an MA worth 5 grand?

Rant 16: Is an MA worth 5 grand? David Johnson, The effect of gravity on the universe, 1982. Steel box, meat, bones, blood, formaldehyde, blackboard, chalk. 155cm x 190cm x 55cm. Credit: David Johnson

As another academic year draws to a close, Owen and Fern are wondering whether we still need institutionalised art schools and their qualifications or whether as an artist you can get more valuable experience from just spending more time with your peers?

Art Schools are becoming increasingly bureaucratic, institutionalised and health and safety crazy, with many lecturers being forced to sacrifice teaching time for administrative duties. As more restrictions, rules and regulations are placed on both students and staff (usually dictated by the non-arts trained managers above) it seems that we are losing sight of the importance of the art school as a space for true creative freedom. 

The challenges of gaining an university art qualification are currently being increased by the debate of raising university fees to an incredible £5000 a year. It comes as no surprise then that many artists, particularly at a postgraduate level, are searching for an alternative to an MA and in this time of credit crunching are furthering their education on their own terms. DIY art practice is continuing to strengthen in the UK, where collaborative groups get together to discuss each other's work (replicating the halcyon times of all-day group discussions in the sixties) and learn from each other's practices. These types of happenings are being labelled as DIY Art Schools where participants create their own structure in which to learn. Paying for guest speakers and forming their own ‘curriculum’ works out considerably cheaper than tuition fees. Islington Mill Academy is a good example, formed by a group of foundation students dissatisfied with the quality of university fine art courses available, and a new DIY school forever academy is currently being developed in Swansea.

The aim is not to de-value university art courses, and BA courses still feel like an important grounding, but perhaps there are alternative ways of finding the structure we are searching for in an MA? Maybe there are better and more exciting ways of learning ‘how to be an artist’, like, for example, by just doing it!? 

Contributed by Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths

Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths are both artists based in Swansea

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The views expressed in The Rant are those of Fern Thomas and Owen Griffiths and forum contributors and unless specifically stated are not those of Axisweb. See our terms and conditions


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