Disquiet over plans for Portsmouth’s School of Art

A Turner Prize-winning artist has criticised a decision by a university art school to concentrate more on digital-based courses in a restructure that threatens around a dozen jobs.

November 13, 2011

Grayson Perry said he wanted to see the University of Portsmouth’s School of Art, Design and Media keep its workshops in small metals, glass and ceramics as computers had a “certain deadness to them”.

The artist – who did a degree in fine art at the university’s precursor institution Portsmouth Polytechnic - told local newspaper The News: “The workshops are very important.

“To make good objects you need to have a relationship with the material. When I was a student we were allowed to use any department – woodwork, ceramics, painting.

“I was inspired by the processes I had a go at and now I use many different processes myself which is a testament to that.”

The proposed restructure, which threatens 10 academic and six technical support posts, follows the closure of two degree courses, including the university’s programme in fine art.

A consultation over job losses recently closed but provoked anger among staff who claimed managers had tabled redundancy packages that did not take into account all their years of service.

Some of the affected staff at the university have worked for the institution – or its predecessor colleges – for more than 20 years, yet it is claimed some proposed severance payments under estimated lengths of service due to lost employment records.

Portsmouth, whose vice-chancellor John Craven told staff as recently as last month that the university was in a “strong financial position”, is believed to be in discussions to resolve the problem.

Meanwhile, there has also been controversy over the decision of the university to terminate the internship of former student Claire Heath, who had been campaigning against the cuts.

Ms Heath said she had been used as “scapegoat to perhaps vent off some anger of the campaign by management”.

A university spokeswoman said Portsmouth had a “strong record of supporting the arts” and was continuing to offer students facilities in hand-made disciplines as well as recently launching a new contemporary fine art programme.

In relation to Ms Heath, she said it was “felt that there was a conflict of interest between [her] position here and the campaigning role she had assumed”.

simon.baker@tsleducation.com

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