Safe work space and appropriate support for students of Technical Arts and Special Effects
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This is an open letter regarding the Technical Arts and Special Effects restructure initiated by Wimbledon College of Art as part of University of the Arts London.
Year 3 students of the Technical Arts and Special Effects programme are issuing this statement to express our very real concerns about the current provision, poor communication and clarification within the course.
We strongly believe that the recent changes under the new Production Arts for Screen pathway based at Wimbledon have had a detrimental impact on the TASE programme. Communication has been poor and lack of clarity has left us feeling inadequately listened to and without support. It is our impression that the changes made to the programme have been driven by economic and other pressures, and that these are detrimental to the quality of programme delivery. It's important to note that the only support that we have got has been from our Technical Arts and Special effects pathway leader and technician. Unfortunately, the problems that we have are beyond their control.
We ask for a response, in writing to each of the following points:
· Tutor hours: In the first month of term the figurative tutor taught a group of 36 for one hour. The tutor left and was not immediately replaced, for which there was no explanation. We understand that our new tutor is only due to teach us for 3 more days. While we accept that there may be challenges for the University in filling this role, it is reasonable for us, as students, to expect a far greater level of commitment and support from the educational establishment in this matter. A reasonable quantity of tutorial support is a fundamental element of this programme.
· Working environment: Contrary to the emails we received which stated that we would be working in the 3rd year studio, we have been situated in what used to be the TASE 1st year room. The working environment is inadequate in terms of space and unsafe. There is no extraction (the extraction fans have been stuffed with bin bags and unplugged). Students have respiratory issues and eye irritation. No working heating (the portable heaters provided are insufficient). Space assigned is insufficient and different to that provided to students previously and the space that we were led to expect that we would be provided when we applied for this programme. We are working in an environment which does not give everyone an equal amount of space or safety.
· Validation documents: We would like to see the validation documents for our programme and assurance (in writing) that the provision meets the validation requirements and adheres to Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) standards.
· Course title: We expect to qualify with the award title of the course that we applied for; we would like confirmation that this is the case as it seems difficult to obtain clarification.
· Personal data: A request for a copy of an original application form has been denied. We believe that we are entitled access to our own data under the Data Protection Act.
· Clarification to any queries in writing: We have received promises, verbally and via email, regarding studio space that have subsequently been reneged. This is a cause of stress and anxiety that has led to a breakdown in trust between students and academic staff. We feel that we cannot have a reasonable discussion to resolve issues, as responses have been defensive and confrontational.
We are in the final year of a prestigious programme. Our physical and mental health has been impacted greatly due to the unnecessary stress. Given the challenges being presented to us outside of our control, there are many of us who worry about our chances of completing the programme. This is not helped by issues with the support available to us at WCA.
The reasons for this are that:
· Most counselling services are situated in High Holborn, 11 miles from our WCA. This is not practical for persons suffering with mental and/or physical illnesses and also has financial implications for students already struggling.
· The disability support provision located on the Wimbledon campus has left many students feeling worse than they did before they asked for help. They have experienced a lack of compassion from disability support team.
We feel that the quality of our degree programme has significantly deteriorated. Commitments made to us over the past two years, including when we visited open days and enrolled on the course, are not being met. We assert that this contravenes the Consumer Credit Act of 2015 as it applies to Higher Education.
In addition, we assert that the conditions that we are working in contravene Health & Safety regulations and are not fit for purpose.
As committed and conscientious students who are passionate about this programme, our learning and personal development, we know that we deserve greater care and consideration. It is not unreasonable to expect better in terms of both provision and communication from UAL.
This has forced us to consider legal action. This is not something that any of us wish to do. Having spent two years and accrued not unsubstantial debt we would rather concentrate on working towards graduating with the best degree classification that we can, in the degree that we applied for.
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