Leeds Bretton Merger
Leeds Fine Art in the 1950-60s : one of the 5 old University Fine Art Departments - 1950s . (Reading, Newcastle, Aberystwyth, Edinburgh): Studio practice with a background of historical studies. Entrance with good "A" levels plus a good portfolio of practical work. Stable throughout the 1970s -1990s :
Overall position in first round of RAE: a "3" Department in RAE; a staff of around 10, and Undergraduate body of c. 27 students per annum divided: 12 studio, 12 Art History and 3 Fine And Decorative Arts, one MA in Social history of Art, a few Ph.Ds.
1980s-90s: Significant expansion of MA and Ph.D provision - BAs stayed more or less stable - rationale to expand from a "3" to a "4" to the current ‘5" in RAE - (successful) - appointment of new staff – rising staff costs, but seen as global investment overall - Problems - UG area frozen - new MASN didn’t materialise - MA income volatile; Prudent tactic was to significantly increase UG area to provide secure basis for sustaining high level PG and research culture;
- "5" department - 23 out of 24 for QAA, national profile for excellence in the arts - "Leeds 13" international press and media coverage - national acclaim and many thousands of pounds worth of PR for the University. One of highest MA (48) and Ph.D (50) recruitments in the Arts., Difficulty of securing high level research funding compared to the Sciences (although even here Fine Art has proved highly effective against the funding odds: AHRB Centre £500k - the sole centre to be awarded to a single institutional bid in this round)
Staff are very RAE active - all produce several times the minimum RAE requirement per annum, and all are currently rated 4 or 5 in RAE terms.
Fine Art applications: before the ending of the binary divide, Leeds pooled its applications with the 5 Universities and at times the Slade Schol of Art in London - At times this resulted in 2000 joint applications for our 15 places. We were looking for reasons not to take students and were turning them (and their fees) over to our competitors.
This despite rising staff and overhead costs, which left the Department permanently starved of resources. As the research culture has improved within the Department and our PGT and PGR students have increased, so too have our staff and space costs, but the UG area has remained the same.
The two strongest areas for expansion are: Fine Art practice, and Cultural Studies - have both consistently recruited well: The UG course in Fine Art consistently reaches its UG MASN target, despite the competition for places resultant from the end of the binary system; and it still recruits "passively" without the need for any major new initiative in recruitment up until now) ;
The postgraduate area of Cultural Studies - already this is our strongest area with 11 Ph.D students and 17 MAs- this without a BA programme to act as a ‘feeder’ - with the new BA , as well as the additional income frem the BA we stand to augment our MA and PhD recruitment in this key area - our in-house magazine of cultural studies, ("Parallax" ) edited and produced by our postgraduates, is now a highly successful publication, vaunted as ‘the’ magazine in the subject in the USA.
Jewish studies Already established with its own Centre, and already successful in attaining significant amounts of outside sponsorship, these MA and Ph.D Programmes only stand to gain by the addition of a BA strand, which would also benefit the multiple Joint Honours pathways in French, Spanish, Theology etc which it will open up to the University as a whole.
The Vision in Brief
The proposal put forward by Fine Art for the merger of the Leeds and Breetton Departments is relatively straightforward in its broad outline: Leeds is a very successful department which needs to expand, and has been prevented from expanding in certain areas, which it both wishes to and which serve its long term didactic, strategic and financial ends. Over the years, for a variety of reasons, the historical and theoretical studies side of its provision have expanded, whilst its studio side has been forced to remain stable, despite significant demand for student places. Historically we have been forced to turn away students to our competitors, whilst at the same time we have found it increasingly difficult to pay our overheads and other staff costs.
Bretton Fine Art is a more practically oriented, traditional, art School with a lower "A" level requirement, at present - where Leeds offers something like a 50% 50% ‘Joint Honours’ theory/practice Art eduction which appeals to bright "A" level students with a good practical portfolio, (through Route A); Bretton offers something more like a 80% 20% Practice Theory course. It recruits well from a different pool (Route B) and offers contextual and historial studies by staff some of whom were trained at Leeds, in the Fine Art Department;
The Leeds course fits a special demand and is highly unusual and demanding in its intellectual requirements - it is not every fine art student’s ‘cup of tea’. In the past we have had to be highly slective about those students we take on baord, and turn away all others. Bretton affords us the possibility of offering two distinct pathways for students. All will follow the same or similar Art History and theoretical studies - only in differing proportions: (at Leeds 50:50, at Breton 70:30). Those students drawn to a more theoretically intensive course will opt for Fine Art at Leeds which will be gradulally increased in numbers over the ten year time frame, in keeping with predicted demographic changes in population growth, leisure time and quality of life issues in the next decade. Those at Bretton will follow a more practically oriented course, but this will be enhanced or enriched by the additional provision of Art history and contextual studeis provided by the Leeds brand name. There will be scope for flexibility and transfer between sites and schemes as students become more or less committed to theory or practice, but the point is that we are able to provide a wider range of courses than at present, to a widening access, and that either way, Leeds Fine Art retains the fee income, instead of passing it to our competitors.
1. Critical Mass: the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at Leeds would become one of the largest and most significant providers of HE art education in the country, but in addition it would expand its range with undergraduate degrees in Jewish Civilisation, Cultural Studies, Fine Art (Cultural DIversity) a positive space for art practitioners of differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds to engage with critical art practice and theory. The department, though extremely successful in terms of quality (QAA 23/24) and research (RAE 5) has nevertheless been hampered by a historically small UG MASN alllocation, despite considerable demand, and this has been set against an increasingly senior and therefore costly core staff. There already exist key areas within our provision and that of Bretton, as well as much of the necessary infrastructure for expansion, which is timely, well considered, rational, and beneficial to both sites.
Plan: after an initial reduction in numbers to compensate for the delay in reaching a decision on merger , stabilise numbers at Bretton with the addition of the new Digital Media course
Gradual phased increase of existing Leeds courses over the three –five year start period
In addition New UG Programmes in : Cultural Studies Jewish Civilisation and Fine Art and Cultural Diversity plus additional Joint Honours numbers
PGT and PGR are set to increase, in part as result of these new BA streams acting as ‘feeder’ streams to existing MA and Ph.D programmes, in part as a result of new MA programmes coming on stream within the time frame anyway (Architecture and Material Culture)
The expansion of the UG area in Leeds and Bretton provides both a coherent and interrelated portfolio of programmes, but also serves to consolidate areas such as Sculpture studies - combining the existing Bretton UG and Ph.D programmes with the existing Leeds MA (funded by the HMI) and Ph.D work in this area, with all the benefits of the Bretton practical studio space (which Leeds does not have for Sculptural practice) and the Sculpture Park as well as the considerable teaching and research resources in sculpture existing at the Bretton site.
Joint Honours in Art history, cultural studies and Jewish civilisation will provide extra income to those partner Departments like English, French, Philosophy , Communications Studies and History which in turn will increase the statistical likelihood of increased MA and Ph.D work in these areas.
Bretton is an already existing Fine Art school with a broad range of facilities programmes and staf, and some considerable successes nationally and internationally in terms of exhibitions, conference participation and publications. (Currently rated "3A" it is expected to attain a" "4" in the current RAE. As an Art and Design submssion, the RA income multiplier is considerably greater than the Leeds Art History submission). There have been, and continue to exist, historic links between Leeds and Bretton staff for many years through programme moderation, examining, co-supervision of PGR students. The current, highly regarded Professor of Art History at Bretton is a Leeds Graduate from the Fine Art Department, whose recent Professorship was fully endorsed by the University and the Department.
The programmes at Bretton will continue with an enriched component of Art History and theory provided jointly by Leeds and Bretton Staff to ensure quality and comparability across both sites. There will be no attempt to ‘duplicate’ the Leeds Fine Art programme, which remains a 50:50 Practice/Theory degree with a high "A" leve Score - This is a specialist course, and not it should be said, suitable for all fine Art students. Programmes at Bretton, while sharing some of the same Art historical component as the Leeds programme, will be more practically oriented, allowing for a degree of flexibility across and between both sites to better map changing and developing student aspirations.
The infrastructure for the proposed new BA schemes is already largely in place with existing Leeds MA and Ph.D programmes and staff.
The Bretton merger will thus both expand our Fine Art practice provision and make this more flexible, but also draw from a wider pool of applicants, enabling us to offer places to students with good portfolios in a more flexible way rather than donate them to our competitors.
2. Breadth of Provision:The new BA programmes in Cultural Studies, Jewish Civilistaion, Digital Media and Fine Art Cultural Diversity exploit both existing and new markets for a wider range of provision in art and cultural theory, whilst simultaneously addressing key access agendas. Our current BA in Art History provision has recently been restructured to maximise flexibility and accessibility across Leeds and Bretton in order to benefit from economies of scale. In addition, we are expanding our provision through both existing and new joint honours schemes. The School is already renowned for the high quality of its reseach, as witmess the recent AHRB Centre. It would aim to extend this to establish a University of Leeds Fine Art Summer School at Bretton both to feed our own programmes, and as a commercial activity.
3. Quality of Students: In the immediate first years of merger, Bretton students will be drawn from a historically less academic background. Nevertheless, following a careful appraisal of Fine Art Foundation studidesequivalences, and the implementation of higher admissions criteria for the current BA programmes at Bretton, future admissions will aim to significantly increase the current admissions expectations.
4. Quality of Staff: The School will impose the same criteria for staff inherited from Bretton as for current Leeds staff in allocating staff to posts in the merged school.
5 Space Work scheduled to begin on the Staff Social Club site at Leeds in December 2000, will be complete by April 2001, which together with a complete reappraisalof space utilisation within Fine Art will represent considerable economies of space anad costs. There are varying opportunities for space usage in Bretton, most of which in Fine Art is very large and flexible. Proposed rationalisations of Bretton space usage are also well advanced.
6. Research: Bretton will remain under the Art and Design rubric for RAE for which the multiplier is significanltly higher than for the Leeds History of Art submission. There is the possibility of flexibility between sites to increase the School’s overall RAE performance and financial benefit.
Over the ten year time frame, there will be a gradual renewal of staff as senior colleagues retire and younger collegaues are appointed. In addition the merged School expects to make a series of high-profile research appointments which would reinforce its position at the forefront of research activity in both the Art and Design and Art History submissions. Leeds is currently rated 5, and expects to maintain or improve this rating in RAE 2001. On the staff at Bretton, there is already a Research Professor, appointed according to the University’s own criteria, as well as several promising recent PhDs. The School intends to capitalise on the unique qualities of the site by developing the strong links with the HMI and the Sculpture Park in conjunction with the existing Betton Centre for Sculpture Studies. The Centre is in a strong position to tap further funding from the Arts Council and from European sources.
7. Benefits to the wider university community: The new Joint Honours programmes will add significant income to our partner Departments, as well as devloping MA nd PhD work in thes areas. Benefits would accrue to resource centres across the campus. More broadly it is in our view that a strong presence in the Performing Arts at the University of Leeds has many unquantifiable benefits for the University at large, especially as we enter an age where the balance between work and leisure, and between economic activity and quality of life for many people will be adjusted.