Demand WDKA improve the organisation of the university and the Illustration course

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I am a second year Illustration student from Leeds Arts University. My experience at WDKA has been abysmal, and I am determined to have my voice heard. This university has systematically broken down my faith in my own creative ability, my interest in Illustration and my dedication to self-motivate.


I am disappointed and disgusted with the organisation of this university. I am usually a highly motivated student who makes a consistent high level of work. I have found in this university, whenever I want to work hard, I have been told not to. I have been encouraged to slow down, focus on “concepts” or hindered by lessons that are completely irrelevant to the current brief. As a creative, you do have to learn to work independently. However, in a learning environment creatives should be encouraged to grow. Here, I have like my growth has been stifled.


Because it is difficult to balance self-led projects that you want to develop in your own practise and work that seems to consciously work to slow you down as a creative, WDKA has made me lose the faith that I can be self motivated. I doubt I am alone in this.


On a more personal note, as an Erasmus student, it feels like you are completely disregarded by the university. In a new, unknown environment your introduction to the university should put you at ease. The other students in my class have been welcoming and helpful, but that is where the positive points end.


I am lucky I can return to a university that will continue to creatively nurture me, but for the students who are on this course full time, they know no better than the subpar experience that is provided for them. I hope someone will listen to this letter and address my concerns for future students.


COMPLAINTS:


Organisation:

 

  • The practises are so disorganised that many students have no idea what their classes were, where they are supposed to be, or indeed if they had any classes at all. 
  • Many students complained and asked for WDKA lifecycle to fix the timetables so they could see when their lessons were. First, their emails were widely ignored for a long time. Secondly, when the timetables were “fixed”, they continued to display no information. Students found their classes by emailing the head of practises or word of mouth, and this is unacceptable.
  • The brief and deliverables at the start of each practise are not always clear. In terms of marking, there is nothing more demotivating than knowing that the work you create is of no value whatsoever, especially in 3D orientated practises where materials cost. 
  • WDKA gives students little to no feedback.
  • With about a month remaining of this academic year, most students in Illustration have zero feedback on an essay written in early April, and no confirmation on when they will receive a grade.

Motivation:

 

  • The practises themselves are 3 weeks long- certainly long enough, with the right organisation and encouragement, to make a full body of work. However lessons seem to be designed to waste time, and if you are a student who wants to work hard to create work, you often held back. This is incredibly frustrating.
  • It is unclear that the only important thing in the practises is the submission of a reflective document at the end. It is incredibly demotivating to know that none of your work has any value or meaning bar that of a document.

The University:

 

  • WDKA does not care about progress or self-development. It cares about pretending to nurture students whilst exploiting and celebrating the work of students who work independently of WDKA.
  • In addition to this, the staff refuse to take responsibility for their own mistakes. We had a feedback session with the staff, but reports from other students say that nothing changes after these feedback sessions.

Notable examples:

 

  • In the first two briefs for Illustration, it was not initially clear when the deadline was. When we became aware of the deadline, it was suddenly changed to give us a weeks less time.
  • The deliverable of one brief was to present a final poster to Amnesty International in Amsterdam. However, the trip felt useless, the feedback was limited to some students, and no conclusions were come to that we could not have come to ourselves as a class.
  • For one of our early classes, it was completely unclear as to if it was actually a marked body of work. Students had to balance creating 150 drawings and completing two poster briefs. It later became clear we only needed 25 drawings, and that the body of work was not important anyway. Students put less time into creating final responses for the graded brief to focus on these drawings because the presentation of the project was so unclear. It is also demotivating because as a student you are never entirely sure about if your work is actually important or not.
  • One student in Illustration’s process book disappeared after it was handed in to the correct location. A lot of work was put into it, and after asking the staff for advice on how to fix this problem so the work could be marked, the student received zero response from four staff members. This student still has no grade for this quarter and it was not their fault.
  • Another student was not allocated any practises by WDKA lifecycle so had no classes to go to. This was not fixed and because of the error and lack of it being fixed, they have lost credits for this year. This is again an issue of organisation that was not their fault.

As an Erasmus Student:

 

  • When we (myself and the other Erasmus students on Illustration) first arrived, no one knew where we were supposed to report to or what lessons we were to be part of. On our first day, we were bounced around the university from place to place before being told we weren’t supposed to be in attendance on that day.
  • On trips, it is completely forgotten that non-Dutch students have to pay a lot more for travel, and it is expected that we pay it anyway.
  • I’ve been told by word of mouth from other students, NOT from my course leaders or a member of staff, that I have to choose elective projects. These are required as an Erasmus student and contribute credits to pass the year. I only discovered this after the deadline for choosing these, and due to the error of the university, I have zero choice in which elective project I can do.

WE THE STUDENTS DEMAND:

 

  • Organised feedback/criticism sessions to get useful, non-biased feedback on work. Creativity is fuelled by the creatives around you. This is not harnessed by Illustration in WDKA.
  • Workshops that teach you skills, not vague workshops that seem to waste time. Any actual skills learnt in the university are expected to be learnt independently.
  • We demand that our feedback to be taken seriously, and actually impact the course. If there are problems, they must be fixed, or students will continue to suffer.
  • Better organisation from WDKA lifecycle and timetables that work and actively reflect our lessons.
  • At the beginning of projects, we demand to know a clear date for deadlines, mark schemes and a list of deliverables for the end of projects.
  • We demand better organisation to welcome in Erasmus students and not bewilder them. The course outline should be clear when we are accepted on. 
  • We demand more relevant practises that are better organised

These are not difficult demands and I know I am not the only student who is dissapointed with the quality of learning at WDKA. If you agree with my complaints or have your own stories, please sign this petition and add your experiences. 



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