Leeds Arts University has been formally recognised as the new title for Leeds College of Art, having been granted full university status by the Privy Council. Having undergone a rigorous appraisal process Leeds Arts University will now be the only specialist arts university in the North of England. Andrew Craske, Head of Marketing and Communications, Leeds Arts University, expands upon what the developments mean for the institution, future projects and new students.
A: What does this re-titling mean to you and for the institution at large?
AC: Receiving university status is a major milestone in the history of the institution, and more truly reflects our position as the majority of our students study degree-level courses rather than further education courses. However, our core offer and values remain the same.
We continue to be student-centred, focused on specialist creative communities and are professional, critical, and progressive in our outlook. The university status is not a change in focus for us, but more a recognition and validation of our contribution to arts education during our 171-year history.
A: This also means that you will be the only specialist arts university in the North of England. Why do you think this is important in terms of building up a cultural hub in the north, and providing opportunities for those based outside of the capital to develop in their practices?
AC: It’s important that we emphasise that we are on the only specialist arts university in the North of England – we are an institution where every student is immersed in the arts, allowing for collaboration between those studying animation, fashion, photography, creative advertising, fine art, graphic design, textiles and visual communication. Next year that list will also include popular music performance, comic and concept art and filmmaking.
Our expanding range of courses increases the opportunities for those seeking careers in the creative arts and we are well-placed to continue building up the Northern cultural hub, with Leeds already having one of the biggest creative industries outside of London. Having a specialist arts University in the North of England will help increase the profile of the creative industries in the North and help retain talent in the region, who may otherwise have thought the only route was to study in London or the south.
A: The university was ranked the top arts university for Design and Crafts by the 2018 Guardian University League. Why do you think these media are particularly relevant, especially in a time of mass acceleration and digitalisation?
AC: Without doubt, traditional processes and methodologies have become popular again. In an age of mass consumerism, where many have grown up using digital media technologies, there has been a return to investigating processes and materials that are more tangible and tactile. And the country needs manufacturers and designers, so there’s an economic need for these skills, whether it be designing sustainable fashion or producing bespoke packaging for luxury goods. The word “craft” has come to symbolise something of quality that has been individually designed or made and is an alternative to buying off the shelf.
A: Do you think many students are returning to these more traditional methods?
AC: Two of our most popular courses are BA (Hons) Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design, and BA (Hons) Fine Art. It’s a bit like the phenomenon of people returning to vinyl records – there’s a desire to return to a pre-digital era, a nostalgia that has been gaining momentum in recent years. There’s also the notion of retaining traditional skills that may have been in danger of disappearing forever.
A: Your former students include Henry Moore, Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth; how do you think the legacy of these iconic figures is represented the university?
AC: Yes, we have some extremely well-known alumni, and we celebrate their achievements and the enormous influence they have had on the world of creative arts. Their success undoubtedly inspires our current students as we encourage them to embrace the 171-year history of creative culture that flows through the institution. The design course that Henry Moore, Damien Hirst and Barbara Hepworth studied became our Foundation Diploma in Art & Design. It continues to be an exciting and stimulating course, preparing students for further study or careers in the creative arts.
A: How do you think this re-modelling of the university resonates with its history whilst looking forward towards innovation and new ideas for the space?
AC: The name change is a significant reflection of the place the institution holds in the history of creative arts education in the region and the UK. Having University status puts more focus on our degree courses, but it should not be seen as an attempt to move away from our past. Far from it – the 1846 date in our logo points back to the incredibly rich history we are able to celebrate. Looking forward, we will continue to evolve and meet the needs of an ever-changing creative industry. Next summer we will open a £22m expansion that will feature state-of-the- art facilities for new degree courses including BA (Hons) Filmmaking and BMus (Hons) Popular Music Performance. We are constantly developing our courses so that the University remains at the forefront in creative arts education.
A: What plans does the university have for 2018?
AC: It’s going to be another exciting year! Having celebrated our 170th anniversary and then being award university status, we now look forward to the completion of our biggest-ever building project. The £22m expansion will allow us to further improve our already award-winning facilities and set new standards for student experience. We will continue to build our postgraduate offer of MA Creative Practice and MA Curation Practices while introducing five new undergraduate courses in BA (Hons) Comic & Concept Art, BA (Hons) Fashion Branding with Communication, BA (Hons) Fashion Design, BA (Hons) Filmmaking and BMus (Hons) Popular Music Performance.
For more information: www.leeds-art.ac.uk
1. Courtesy of Leeds Arts University.