It was disappointing to read that the University and College Union appears to conflate a genuine opportunity for artists with continuing (and understandable) concerns about unpaid labour ("Union condemns latest advert for 'honorary' position", www.timeshighereducation.co.uk, 24 October).
Honorary research roles at the Slade School of Fine Art are a very positive opportunity, put in place as much to provide support and mentoring to artists as to benefit the institution. They do not fulfil any core research or teaching requirements: instead they are roles for artists who have a particular interest in engaging with Slade research projects and themes in order to enrich their own practice and development.
Fine art is a resource-intensive discipline, and this honorary role offers significant access to the considerable range of facilities and training opportunities on offer at the Slade and University College London. While the post itself is honorary, for the current postholder it has led directly to a number of remunerated teaching and research opportunities, as well as foreign travel, exhibitions and publication.
An art school with a world-leading reputation, the Slade has a highly engaged, imaginative and active body of students and staff. Far from being exploitative, the honorary role provides an opportunity for the postholder to benefit directly from, as well as contribute to, this vibrant research culture.
There is a long history of honorary positions within the university sector, and by advertising these roles we are hoping to make the opportunities we are offering as accessible as possible.
Susan Collins, Director, UCL Slade School of Fine Art