What is an Art School? On a basic level, a school is obviously an establishment that provides learning and you would believe from the prefix 'art' that it would provide facilities that relate to that subject. But over the years, the methods of teaching art has changed and evolved. From the restrictive Art Academies, all the way through to the relaxed teaching environment of the 1970s.
In the 1970s, the departmental structure of Goldsmiths was abolished, meaning that students were free to attend any art class being held, and they were no longer restricted to a particular subject. My mother started her Art degree in ’74. She said that the classes had no structure to speak of other than half-termly tutorials with a lecturer. They were given set projects but their was no formal teaching as such, so although this created a relaxed atmosphere, for students to find their own creative style, none of the students really knew how well they were doing until they received their final grades. So although my mother achieved a 1st, she believes that was because she was more self-motivated than some of the other students. She also believes that grading was pretty subjective, with no strict guidelines on assessment across the board. The boundaries between student and lecturers was also less formal than they are today. Students and lecturers often socialised with each other in the pub and at parties, where they often continued to discuss art and ideas on art. I all sounds very bohemian and almost more of a sub-culture than being an art student today.
Since then, the departmental structure has been put back into place (although we do have the opportunity to attend the occasional workshops in art areas different to our own) meaning you have to commit to what area of art or design you want to study, I suppose that’s one of the reasons that you can study an Art Foundation course before you start your degree. Also lecturers today have to be much more professional than in the ‘70s. Not only is there strict assessment programmes to work to, for both students and lecturers, (to make grading fair across the board) the divide between student and teacher is very clear, probably owing to college and university safeguarding policies. Perhaps this divide is particularly defined on our course, as we are studying with FE students on our campus, and do not have a Bar on campus (which most Universities have) for HE students and lecturers to socialise in.
I understand the need for clear guidelines on assessment and I think that my course offers me more or less the right balance of structure and creative freedom. But as the only mature student in my year I do feel like I have more in common with my lecturers, and I think it would be beneficial to my 'unconscious' learning to be able to socialise with people that have the same interests in the subject that I am studying.