Edinburgh College of Art facilitates the collision of great ideas with outstanding infrastructure in an inspiring culture. It is a place of possibilities that encourages innovation and fosters interdisciplinarity, and we want you to be here to experience that with us. Whether your studies require access to libraries and study spaces, or access to studios, workshops and other technical facilities and equipment, we have been preparing for all of these resources again to be available at scale in September.
Whether you are new to Edinburgh or returning to your studies I first wanted to say that my colleagues and I are really looking forward to welcoming you onto our campus and we are working hard to make sure that everything is ready following an unpredictable and challenging year. Throughout this past year we have established strong channels of communication and engagement with our students to help us remain connected in both online and on-campus environments, and we are determined to build upon these even as things get back to something more like normal.
The University of Edinburgh is planning to resume campus-based activities from September onwards, and to re-establish the city and our wonderful buildings as the core and centre of gravity for all our activities. Notwithstanding the positive things that we have learnt about online and hybrid education through the past year we are still committed to the ideal that your university education should encompass far more than academic study alone. We value and support the development of important social and interpersonal skills that are often best cultivated through negotiating relationships and encounters in-person. We are also fortunate enough to inhabit one of the most beautiful and inspiring cities in the world, a globally renowned UNESCO world heritage site that has stimulated the passion, intellect, and imagination of students for many centuries.
We are optimistic about the way things are going with the pandemic, and about the efficacy of the vaccination programme across the UK, but of course we remain prudent and determined to safeguard the health and safety of our staff and students. So while we are looking forward to a return towards what we might think of as more ‘normal’ conditions in the coming year, returning students will find some changes to the ways in which they might have experienced the campus before the pandemic, designed to facilitate the flexibility we will need to adapt should circumstances change through the course of the year.
While we are planning for individual and smaller group teaching to take place in person and on campus, large lectures that would normally involve 40-50 or more students will largely remain online, supplemented by in-person seminars, tutorials, and other teaching activities. To this end we have identified a number of spaces on our estate to equip with great teaching infrastructure to enable diverse approaches to learning and teaching.
Where your studies involve studio-based activity, we have carefully prioritised studio spaces on a dedicated programme and Subject Area basis. All our studio-based programmes use studios in slightly different ways, some allocating individual spaces for the duration of the year, and others using the studios more flexibly, always reflecting disciplinary needs. Your programme teams will be in touch soon with more details about the approach to studio usage within your studies.
In addition to these dedicated studios we have identified a number of spaces across our estate to serve as more openly bookable studio and study spaces, available for a range of group-based learning and teaching activities and independent student-led practical study.
We are looking forward to reopening a comprehensive range of technical resources to support your studies and are working through the mechanisms we will have in place to make sure that these resources can be used effectively and safely. Adapting access to our resources during the pandemic has in many cases enabled greater visibility of these facilities to students, as well as enhanced booking systems for access to workshops, technical studios, rehearsal rooms, and loanable equipment. We have also made significant investment in digitally based resources, all of which we will retain moving forward. So while you can expect a wide range of access to on-campus spaces and facilities, you will also have the opportunity to continue to explore the many possibilities afforded within the digital space.
Libraries, and their diverse range of associated services and resources, are an important part of many programmes across ECA. Edinburgh has an extensive range of general and specialised libraries, including a number containing key archives that support ECA’s diverse range of disciplines. Our libraries also support student study spaces, reprographic services, and over the past few months a hugely expanded range of other digital services. Libraries across ECA and the wider University have had to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic over the past year, just as with all other areas of the University – but our expectation is that as Scottish Government policies relax we will again be able to offer a comprehensive and engaging range of on-campus library access and services in 2021-22, but with the added benefits gained from our improved and expanded digital provisions.
All of us are excited about the reopening of the ECA café with its friendly staff and delicious offerings, and in addition to this we are investing in our social spaces across our campus, inside and outside for when the Edinburgh sun shines, as in fact it often does! We want you to want to be at ECA and to enjoy the experience of being here, as we feel that this enhances your opportunities to benefit intellectually from the uniquely rich array of subjects that we teach as well as contributing positively to your health and wellbeing.
Student Support and other services
We are working through the lessons learned during the course of the pandemic, and indeed previous to it, to identify where we have made really positive moves in terms of providing you with easy access online services, as well as identifying where we want to provide opportunities for you to meet colleagues in-person in support of your broader needs. We are consulting across our staff and within our Staff Student Liaison Committees (supported by the experienced student representatives within these committees) on these issues in order to optimise the balance between easy to access online facilities and in-person access. We are confident that through these joined up consultations we will enhance our services and support for you in the coming year.
It’s been a really difficult year for everyone and while the world remains in a state that is far from normal, we are confident in our ability to continue to provide a great environment for your studies across ECA’s fantastic Subject Areas – in the School of Art, the School of Design, Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the School of History of Art and the Reid School of Music.
For those of you who are returning students and have access to the University of Edinburgh network, please do keep an eye on the ECA Handbook, which is a great place for information relating to all aspects of your studies, as well as the University webpages that will provide more general information about getting to and living in Edinburgh. New students should watch out for further email updates, as well as browsing the University website.
Finally, I want to take the opportunity to invite you to attend our Graduate Shows, which open online on the 18th June 2021 and at which you will be able to see a selection of work from our graduating students as well as show reels about all of our Subject Areas, and even a DJ set from our famous Wee Red Bar.
Whether you are starting or continuing your studies with us, we really can’t wait to see you here in Edinburgh.
With best wishes,