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Your Access to Studios: Update

Hear from CCW Officer Lexa about the latest updates to our work on your access to studio and workshop spaces across UAL.

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Background

At the beginning of the 2023/24 academic year, Lexa Barbulescu, Arts SU’s Camberwell, Chelsea, and Wimbledon (CCW) College Officer, identified lobbying for improved studio access as part of her Priorities, alongside community building, the CCP Unit, and Arts SU’ visibility and student engagement.  

As a result of the Cost-of-Living crisis, students have continuously provided feedback that many have challenges in access spaces, less space available for work within their private accommodations and for some, are having to seek alternative spaces off campus for this. 

Studio access is a vital resource needed by many of our students to create high-quality pieces of creative work. Ensuring studio access particularly during the breaks between term-time would help minimize the impact of the Cost-of-Living crisis on their academic work, health, self-esteem, and financial well-being. 

It is important to acknowledge that, while multiple conversations and actions are ongoing still, closing the feedback loop and updating the student body on developments is an important part of representing the student voice. As such, this article aims to highlight recent conversations undertaken by on Studio access. 

 

Pilot Study: 9th October – 6th November 

In term one 2023/24, we launched a trial survey in CCW to better understand the impact of the lack of studio access during the Winter and Spring breaks on students at UAL, as well as the communication, signposting, and compensatory measures taken by students. 

Given the reduced sample size in restricting to CCW students, Lexa presented a summary of this focused on feedback from students at the college’s Student Experience Forum in December 2023, a meeting attended by student-facing staff from Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon. The presentation was met with high interest from CCW staff and raised awareness on the challenges faced by students during the breaks, as well as support the need for further investigations across the UAL student body. 

The findings have also been shared in an Instagram post on the CCW College Officer’s account, which you can find here

Studio and Workshop Access Survey: 19th February – 8th March 

In January, Lexa met with Mark Crawley (Dean of Students) and Heather Francis (Chief Operating Officer) to discuss the feedback and concerns brought by students, to share the plans for a UAL-wide survey, and to investigate the procedures followed by the University. Given the imminency of the spring break, Mark reached out to the Director of College Administration in each College to relay feedback and ensure clear communications about access was shared with students. In addition, further information on access procedures was gathered from a college perspective, highlighting the challenges in establishing access to studios and other making spaces outside of term-time without the presence of academic or technical staff, which will ultimately be fed into the research report. 

Expanding on the results from the pilot study, in term two we launched all student survey which approached studio and workshop access holistically, delving deeper into students’ use, patterns and challenges in accessing spaces across UAL during both term-time and vacations.  

With the survey having closed just at the beginning of the third term, Lexa is now working with Calum Sherwood (Arts SU Senior Policy and Research Officer) and Union staff on analysing the feedback and creating a report to present its findings to the University ahead of the summer.

Next steps

Once the Survey Report is finalised, the paperwork will be submitted to the Education Enhancement Committee, due to meet at the end of May, and to the Academic Board, which will take place in late June. These meetings will allow a conversation on the findings of the report, as well as recommendations from the Students’ Union on appropriate measures that the University should take, informed by student feedback.  

The Survey Report will also be shared in a university-wide meeting attended by key central and college-based stakeholders, highlighting the importance of enhanced access to learning resources in ensuring the completion of quality academic work.

 

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