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Like in no other city, many postgraduate institutes 'for fine arts' are active in London. They have bonded with different scenes at different times. The Royal College was important for British Pop Art, St. Martin's School of Art for sculpture in the '60s and concept art in the '70s. Goldsmith College is held responsible for the rise of the 'Young British Artists' at the beginning of the '90s.
The Royal College of Art (RCA), London, GB [http://www.rca.ac.uk]
'The College is a special kind of ideas factory.' (1)
With its approximately 90 students, the School of Fine Art is, along with the Schools of Applied Art, of Architecture and Design, of Communications, of Fashion and Textiles, of Humanities (selection), part of RCA with a total of 800 students. Apart from taking a course in the School for Humanities, which is mandatory for students of all departments, there is little sign for interdisciplinarity between the fields. The division into the traditionally designated departments painting, photography, sculpture, printmaking (without new media) may be one of the reasons why RCA has a more conservative reputation.
Compared to other schools, the acceptancy policy is nationally oriented. For a student from overseas, the tuition fee of £ 12.000 is an impediment, since Europeans 'only' pay £ 4.000. The institute offers no scholarships for foreign students. The working conditions in the painting department are rather constricted: during the first year of study, several students work in 20-square-meter compartments subdivided by wooden walls. In the second year, the student has the right to use one of these himself/herself. Each department is headed by a 'course director' and is accompanied by one 'senior tutor' and about six 'tutors'. In addition, there are about five 'visiting lecturers'. The students are only involved in a minor way in planning the yearly programme. Three times a year, the 'head of course', the 'senior tutor' and two students meet to talk about the organisational structure - the so-called 'course monitoring meeting'.
In quite a clear way, the Royal College, independent since 1967, but with university status, points out its attachment to industry and commerce: 'The objects of the college are to advance learning, knowledge and professional competence particularly in the field of fine arts, in the principles and practice of art and design in their relation to industrial and commercial processes and social developments and other subjects relating thereto through teaching, research and collaboration with industry and commerce.' (2) In correspondence to this statement, the final exhibitions which take place in the first half of the year are keen on attracting a large audience: 'Attendance levels for the 1999 Show reached record levels with 47000 visitors in just one month. With free admission and over 4000 objects exhibited, most of which are for sale or commission, this year's Show will be no exception.' (3) A similar rhetoric of competition, as is the case with RCA as a whole, accompanies the School of Fine Art: 'The sculpture course is now well-established in its premises in Battersea and is regarded as the best Sculpture studio in any education institution in the country.'(4)
'The nature and status of the Royal College of Art ensures that it is a pluralistic institution where many opinions and skills are represented.' (5) RCA formulates in regard to the teaching methods: 'Students set their own agenda. There is no typical product or house style: diversity is at the heart of the course.' (6) A student describes the situation: 'There is, at any rate, an aversion to text, trash and concepts... There's a curriculum, meaning that lectures must be attended and a dissertation must be written by a certain date. Apart from that, it is up to the students what they do, how many tutorials they 'take' and how often they're in the studio, but ... attendance and absentee is monitored, not rigorously though, and commented on.' (7)