Fine-art students at the University of Lincolnshire and Humberside are so angry at changes in their degree programme that they have founded their own school of art.
With help from staff, more than 40 students this week opened the New Hull School of Art to include exhibitions of their work and live performances as a "symbolic and peaceful protest". They claim the university is guilty of an "abuse of power" in making the changes and believe it may have failed in its legal duty to provide the agreed course of study. A formal complaint is being lodged.
Espen Jensen, a second-year fine-art student from Norway, opted for the Pounds 6,000-a-year degree because it was one of the few non-modular art courses available in Britain.
"Without any consultation, the university imposes a new modular structure that forces us to pass different units whether we want to or not," he said. "This is not the way artists develop, it is a deluded bureaucratic structure. It is an attempt to please the government and the higher education authorities."
Rob Gawthrop, university head of art, said the students' action displayed a "commendable commitment" to both their practice as artists and to their education. "If all students were as committed as those who have set up the New Hull School of Art then a modular structure would not be needed," Mr Gawthrop said.
He said there was national concern that the Quality Assurance Agency's procedures treated all subjects the same. "The university staff concerned with art and other creative subjects have no choice but to comply with the QAA and their employers. To do otherwise would jeopardise respective positions on teaching quality league tables," he said.
Pro vice-chancellor Derek Crothall said: "We are sympathetic to the idea that art and design students have to experiment, but we believe that the modular structure is more flexible and fairer to students because their assessment no longer rests with one end-of-year show."
He said there was full consultation with staff and students before the changes were introduced.