In line with Government guidelines on the reopening of universities, Plymouth College of Art has announced its plans to applicants and returning students, to welcome undergraduate students and staff back to its specialist campus from 5 October 2020 and postgraduate students from 12 October. The college’s specialist Art, Design and Media Pre Degree campus, for A-Level-equivalent and Foundation Diploma students, is planned to reopen from 7 September 2020.
As one of the UK’s last truly independent art schools, Plymouth College of Art’s dynamic and agile community was strongly positioned to adapt to change when universities were asked to close their buildings in March to slow the spread of Covid-19. Teaching was moved online immediately with no disruption for undergraduate, MA and A-Level-equivalent post-16 students.
Over the summer, teaching is being redesigned to take advantage of the new hybrid teaching model, supported by one-to-one and group workshops that will happen on and off campus in specialist workshops and live digital platforms. Alongside this, the college has updated its support and training materials, moving academic, pastoral, careers, library and other professional support services online.
"Academics have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our students on the level of support and personal connection that they continue to receive. In fact, many students have reported that they feel like they’re receiving a more personalised learning experience than ever before" — Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Associate Professor and Academic Dean
Reopening access to world-class spaces to make
Plymouth College of Art is known internationally as home to physical and digital working environments that encompass some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems of materials, technologies, processes and practices available in an art school. Access to the right working spaces and facilities is vital for artists, designers and makers, which is why the College plans to allow students to pursue and complete their studies and develop their creative practise with as much space for making within campus-based specialist workshops and studios as possible, subject always to Government guidelines and pandemic controls.
When the campus reopens, students will have access to group teaching with academics and highly-skilled technical demonstrators within industry-standard workshop and studio spaces, alongside live video-based lectures, tutorials, one-to-one activities and integrated offline learning. The college’s main Tavistock Place campus is open six days a week, with late-night access Monday to Thursday. Access to workshops and studios will be regularly reviewed throughout the year according to Government guidance, prioritising as much access for students as possible as the year progresses.
Creating safe and secure spaces to learn
Extensive measures are being introduced across each Plymouth College of Art building to prepare for reopening, from protective plastic barriers for student and visitor facing services, 2-metre distances between workstations, one way systems and optimised timetables with staggered breaks and start times, to enhanced cleaning regimes, staff retraining and access to sanitising stations that will allow students back into workshops and studios, using the equipment and facilities that will prepare them for careers in the UK’s world-leading creative industries.
With new rules in place across every building, Plymouth College of Art will work with the Local Authority and Public Health England to support and promote the Track and Trace initiative. Over the summer, all new and returning students will receive simple guidance on how to return safely.
A new kind of art school experience
Associate Professor and Academic Dean Paul Fieldsend-Danks said: “We’ve said before that Plymouth College of Art is a dynamic, cross-disciplinary community of makers and thinkers for whom creativity is as important as reading and writing. When you come to study with us, you learn through both making and thinking, so it’s no surprise that students and staff alike are incredibly excited to return in person to our studios and workshops.
“We’ve all learned a lot over the summer and I’m incredibly proud of the way our community has responded to the restrictions that lockdown necessitated, from video-streamed guest lecturers by internationally-acclaimed artists and digital roundtable discussions with industry pros to online peer-to-peer crits and technical workshops that have been adapted to use alternative materials and equipment that students could access easily at home. Academics have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from our students on the level support and personal connection that they continue to receive. In fact, many students have reported that they feel like they’re receiving a more personalised learning experience than ever before.
“This year has demonstrated clearly that we can’t take anything for granted, which is why we’ve identified flexible measures to ensure that the work of students and graduates flourishes in a digital environment whilst future-proofing them for long-term success in the creative industries. Whatever happens in the autumn, we’re ready online and on campus to deliver a tailored art-school experience that builds technical skills, nurtures ideas and develops the conceptual and critical voices of our students, connecting them with real-world projects nationally, internationally and in our local community.
“Students benefit from a personal connection with their lecturers and peers, which is why our focus will continue to prioritise meaningful collaboration, group discussions and experimentation. We’re changing the way that we plan for students to access and move around the campus and studios, to ensure that social distancing and safety for all becomes second nature until the global situation improves. We are very fortunate that as a city-centre campus with most accommodation and halls within walking distance, walking or cycling will be a realistic travel option for many of our students.”