Students at the Glasgow School of Art are demanding tuition reimbursements after outlining unacceptable working conditions and lack of resources. The school’s Mackintosh Building—designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh—suffered its second fire in 2018, which almost completely destroyed the building. A month after the fire, Glasgow School of Art director Tom Inns said the school and city of Glasgow were committed to rebuilding as much of the building’s original structure as possible.
According to a report by the Scottish weekly newspaper The Sunday Post, 29 of the 34 students in the 2018–19 postgraduate course in fine art practice signed a letter of complaint to the school, dated July 10th, detailing complaints of a failure to provide tutors and being forced to work in dilapidated buildings and studios without heat. The Mackintosh Building housed the school’s fine art students and staff, and is located at the heart of campus. After the fire, the students were relocated to either the school’s Tontine building, which the students claim was not properly maintained, or the McLellan Galleries, where the Glasgow School of Art took out a 95-year lease after the first fire at the Mackintosh Building.
The students claim they were not told of the “severity” of workshop closures and other changes instituted due to the fire before starting the course. They are now faced with issues including leaks, broken radiators, unreliable internet, and “unpleasant and unclean” toilets without toilet paper and soap. They claim staff members were stretched thin, often uncommunicative with students, and unwilling to help students with their degree shows. The letter described one student’s mental health suffering after needing to work in the McLellan Galleries, resulting in that student feeling “isolated and detached.”
The Glasgow School of Art is ranked eighth in the world for art and design education, and holds an important place within British contemporary art, with artists like Douglas Gordon and Jenny Saville among its alumni. The school charges international students £19,440 (about $23,600) in fees for a one-year post-graduate course in fine art practice, while U.K. and European Union students pay £7,740 ($9,400). Alistair Payne, the head of the school of fine art, met with the students and offered them tutoring and additional financial support for their degree shows, but the students said they wanted a reimbursement instead, paid according to the amount of tuition originally charged.