GLASGOW School of Art (GSA) was last night accused of ignoring students as a dispute over its response to the coronavirus pandemic continues.

The world-famous institution has closed its campus during the health crisis in line with government guidelines that have seen the same response across the sector.

But while some colleges have offered students later submission dates and offered them the chance to return to facilities and complete their work after lockdown ends, GSA bosses want their learners to submit final pieces online and hold their degree show on the web after the health crisis forced it to close its campus.

The digital edition would be a radical departure from previous shows, which attract influential collectors and gallery curators.

Graduate students on the prestigious MLitt Masters course have accused the institution of short changing them over the change and previous interruptions to learning. They claim workshops missed during a six-week lecturer’s strike were not rearranged, while building work at their studios frustrated

work at the beginning of the course. The cohort includes sculptors and performance artists who say it’s impossible for them to bring their ideas to life without equipment and studio space.

And, with some having borrowed thousands of pounds to go to GSA, they’re calling for a full refund or an extension until the lifting of the lockdown allows them back into their studios.

In a letter to GSA, they said the pandemic has left many of them in “challenging and precarious situations”, with some having to become carers and others forced to leave the UK.

The letter describes the degree show as “one of the biggest incentives” for joining GSA and calls for a full £8000 refund, stating: “Online studies and grades awarded based on work done so far are not suitable solutions for the nature of this course.”

Last night GSA offered to sponsor graduating students organise their own showcases “over the next 12 months” and give a partial refund to anyone seeking to leave early. Students suffering ill-health, financial hardship or with caring responsibilities have been given the option to extend their studies but “no studio or workshop access will be available after your formal end date of 11th September 2020”.

But Penny Anderson, one of those affected, told The National that “mass disbelief” has now given way to “anger” over a “lack of acknowledgement” of the impact the situation is having. She said: “Students are being treated as cash cows. All of our work is literally locked up. People have taken on debt to do this.

“I’m starting to wonder if GSA know what our course is. The degree show is my motivation for doing this – gallerists come from London and from all over the world if you’re lucky. They might not be there specifically to see you, but they might see your work and it could make you.

“GSA’s web presence is awful – I don’t trust them to have a decent running website and the work should be seen in person.”

A GSA spokesperson said all students have been given options and time to decide what they want to do, adding: “What is incredibly important at this time is not to lose sight of one of the greatest assets of artists and creative people – the ability to not only show but demonstrate empathy. As we address our very personal situations arising from Covid-19 we should not lose sight of this, recognising both globally and here in Scotland, many, many people are having to deal with much more complex situations and circumstances.”

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