Rant 71: Is part-time lecturing still a viable employment for practising artists?

Rant 71: Is part-time lecturing still a viable employment for practising artists? Juliet Ferguson, Shadow Lines, 2010

Do you financially supplement your artistic practice with part-time lecturing? Artist Jennifer Steele does and has started to question the viability of this career path, and the future of art education, as visiting lecturers' pay and hours are reduced.

Since graduating from an MFA in 2007, I have supported my art practice by lecturing on further and higher education courses at a range of institutions. 

This was a conscious decision; I was attracted by the opportunity to work with adults aspiring to be professional practitioners, for my art practice to be integral to my employment, to develop my passion for fine art pedagogy, and to be financially rewarded for all this. 

Like many artist-lecturers, I gained initial experience lecturing on a foundation diploma course. My own time as a student on a foundation year in the 1990s consisted of experimental, stimulating projects led by a wide range of practising artists and designers. 

However, over recent years I have watched more and more foundation courses cut part-time and visiting lecturers. 

Many programmes are delivered entirely by full-time staff with no current professional practice, using recurring briefs and out-dated references. 

To employ visiting lecturers colleges often use agencies such as Protocol National and Morgan Hunt who pay poorly, especially considering that most visiting lecturers have the requiredpostgraduate teaching qualification, in addition to a BA and an MA. 

Such agencies also require lecturers to pay for their own Criminal Records Bureau check (£44 each year) and an annual membership to the Institute for Learning (IfL) (£38 per year). 

When hourly pay is already low, with unguaranteed hours and each college or agency requiring a new CRB check, I question if this still a reliable and beneficial source of income for an artist.

An artist must undertake work that pays as much as possible in the shortest hours to leave energy, time and flexibility for their own practice. Alongside this teaching brings with it academic capital which is often a great asset to an artist’s career.

But I question whether teaching at a further education level is a sustainable employment when financial reward is often so insufficient?

Contributed by Jenny Steele
Jenny is an artist based in Manchester.  She is represented by PAPER, and lectures part-time on the BA Fine Art (Integrated Media) at Blackburn University Centre.


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