University of Leeds



For What it's Worth: the Relevance of Art Education Today

Titled “£383,911.73”, the University of Leeds Fine Art degree show is accompanied by a symposium on the subject of the arts and education. £383,911.73 is the sum total of participating students' tuition fees to the University of Leeds, a figure that will treble within two years.

Our time at university, beginning in 2009/10 has coincided with the massive changes affecting education and the arts implemented by the ConDem coalition government. These include the trebling of tuition fees to up to £9,000, a 100% cut to the block funding of higher education arts courses, the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, cuts to arts funding at a local and national level, and the proposed introduction of an EBacc in which arts subjects are excluded; this has now been removed.

These changes reignited discussions on the value of art. They also triggered protests across England, from the mass demonstrations at Millbank to occupations at several universities including Leeds. Some artists and academics have initiated a variety of self-organised alternatives to traditional higher education, while students and academic staff at universities continue to engage with their subjects under changing conditions. What is the relevance of arts education today and how will it change in the future?


12:00 - 12:45Talk: Andrew McGettigan
12:45 - 13:45Panel discussion: Andrew McGettigan, Tina Richardson, Claire Harbottle
13:45 - 14:30Break for Lunch
14:30 - 15:00Free University of Liverpool
15:00 - 15:30Poly-Technic (Kate Genever & Steve Pool)
15:30 - 16:00Grace Harrison
16:00 - 17:00Panel and questions

The symposuim will be held in the School of Fine Art, Old Mining Building, Woodhouse Lane.

Richard Bell

Richard Bell is the head of Fine Art at Leeds University and has taught and engaged in every aspect of education since 1986 from primary and secondary school, through to special needs and adult education. His scholarly research includes Fine Art pedagogy and also TQEF, a learning and teaching enhancement funded project, which develops alternative collaborative methods of assessment with studio practice.

Andrew McGettigan

Andrew McGettigan is a writer and researcher based in London. He runs the Critical Education blog, which focusses on developments affecting the arts and humanities in higher education and has taught at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and Westminster and Middlesex universities. He is author of numerous articles and papers and the book, The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets & the Future of Higher Education, which will be available from 20 April - details here.
He completed a PhD in philosophy at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy and co-runs Big Ideas, the London philosophy in pubs group.

Tina Richardson

Tina Richardson is completing her PhD in cultural studies and psychogeography at the University of Leeds School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies. Her research is based on the postmodern university and how it operates under neoliberalism. In particular she is examining how the university has historically negotiated the space it occupies. Tina has had a number of articles published and taught at Leeds and other universities in the UK. She runs Leeds Psychogeography Group.

Grace Harrison

Grace Harrison is an artist and social researcher who chose to pursue an alternative means of learning to the higher education system. She currently works in several collaborative projects across Liverpool, London and Leeds. With much cross over between these, there is a focus on discursive exchange, public educational platforms and the mapping of currents in creative and political discourse.

Claire Harbottle

Claire Harbottle is a freelance photographer who completed an MA in Fine Art at Leeds, where she also worked as a technical assistant from 1997-2010, until she took voluntary redundancy. She is currently training to be a midwife and is receiving an NHS bursary.

Kate Genever and Steve Pool (poly-technic)

Kate Genever and Steve Pool launched the Poly-Technic in 2012. This collaborative arts project aims to provide a melting pot for ideas and explore how knowledge can be found in places and people as well as books and the internet. The Poly-Technic offers art related courses, art based opportunities and forums open to all. This alongside the production of research papers and publications. The Poly-Technic and its associated Ruskin Studio has grown out of an Arts Council award called The Business of Life which looks to the Victorian artist and critic John Ruskin's ideas of art and social justice. Kate is an artist and farmer based in Lincolnshire and Steve is an artist based in Sheffield.

Free University of Liverpool

The Free University of Liverpool was formed in 2011 as a protest against the trebling of tuition fees and the 100% cut to block funding of arts courses at universities. It is run on the basic principle that higher education is a right for all and not a privilege of the few. The university is run collectively by its students and tutors, all of whom are volunteers, and offers a Foundation Degree in Culture and Performance, described as 'a six month course in changing the world', and a BA in Cultural Praxis.