Conference: What's The Point Of Art School?

“What’s the Point of Art School?” At a moment when art and design education is being potentially threatened at school level through changes to the curriculum and exam structures, and at university level through new funding regimes, the need to deliver clear answers to this question is greater than ever.

The conference took place on 14 May 2013 in the Platform Theatre. 

You can view the conference recording by session.

"Art and design education is continually reinventing itself, and today’s conference is an opportunity to take stock of where we are and where we might be heading. The intent is not to arrive at a single answer, but to develop responses that celebrate and articulate the key role that art and design education plays in the cultural, social and economic life of the world."

Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins, Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London


9.30am - 10am
The Relocation Of Venus
Performance by BA PDP Students

10am - 10.10am
Nigel Carrington, Vice Chancellor University of the Arts London

10.10am - 10.40am
Opening Speech
Kim Howells, Alumnus Hornsey School of Art, MP Pontypridd (1989 – 2010), Minister for the British Labour Party (1997 – 2008)

10.40am - 11.35am
Utilitarianism & the Art School in Nineteenth-Century Britain
Dr Malcolm Quinn, Associate Dean of Research, Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Art.

How nineteenth century public-funded art education relates to art education today.

11.55am - 1pm
Panel Discussion: Institutional Elitism – Access to Art & Design Education


  • Shelly Asquith, President-Elect of the Student Union, University of the Arts London
  • Jess Draper, PhD Student, The Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art
  • Neil Griffiths, Founder, Arts Emergency
  • Aisha Richards, Founder, Shades of Noir, University of the Arts London
  • Chair: Osei Bonsu, Student, BA Criticism, Communication and Curation: Arts and Design

Art schools are often recognised as being diverse institutions, but are they becoming more exclusive and less diverse?  In the context of rising fees and frozen grants, fewer students from lower socio-economic backgrounds are applying to art school, the attainment gap for black students is growing and many are seeing academic institutions as a ‘safer’ alternative as huge cuts to the arts threaten every aspect of the industry.

2pm - 2.30pm
In Conversation
Johnny Vegas in conversation with Suzanne Moore

  • Johnny Vegas, Actor, comedian and director
  • Suzanne Moore, Writer and award-winning columnist for The Guardian

2.30pm - 4pm
Panel Discussion: What’s The Point Of Art School?


  • Professor Ute Meta Bauer, Dean of Fine Art, Royal College of Art
  • Natasha Chetiyawardana, Creative Partner & Founder, Bow & Arrow
  • Bob and Roberta Smith, Artist
  • Sally Tallant, Artistic Director & CEO, Liverpool Biennial
  • Chair: Suzanne Moore

4pm - 4.20pm
Closing Speech
Professor Jeremy Till, Head of Central Saint Martins, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of the Arts London

4.20pm - 5.30pm
Silent Walks  

The art school is in a physical and social context that provides source and testing ground for creative practice.  A silent walk through our immediate neighbourhoods is intended to highlight this condition. By paying attention to our everyday we embrace uncertainty and foster praxis, things to be defended and celebrated in art school.

A series of Silent Walks led by AIR project studio, Central Saint Martins