Dear student,

My name is Dr Linda O’Keeffe and I am the Head of Art at the University of Edinburgh.

On 27 May you received a message from Professor Juan Cruz, the Principal of ECA. As promised in that message, I’m writing to you today to provide more detail about the exciting plans we have been working on for students joining us in the School of Art this September.

Art at the University of Edinburgh

School of Art staff at Edinburgh are highly influential theorists, curators and artists and have connections to some of the leading creative industry spaces across the UK and Scotland. They will shape both your current learning and future careers.

When you come to Edinburgh, you will be working and expanding your art practice in a campus that is home to incredible studio, exhibition and performance spaces and an amazing selection of workshops. Beyond the ECA campus itself, we will support you to quickly begin engaging with the wider city as a site for art making and research, exploring the amazing archives housed within the University of Edinburgh and our international exhibition space, the Talbot Rice Gallery. You will also have access to the University’s expansive libraries. Many of our courses involve outreach and engagement, working collaboratively across the city, its resources and partner arts organisations, and examining art practice beyond ECA campus, introducing you to, and engaging you with, a unique range of potential working spaces not always tied to ECA’s campus.

First-year students joining our Intermedia Art, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, MA (Hons) Fine Art and General Art entry routes all work together on the same projects in the first semester. In the second semester, students choose projects that support discipline-specific agendas and interests. Whatever your entry route, you will have the opportunity to both specialise in your programme area and to work across different mediums and ideas. You will also explore critical theory through lectures and discussion-led seminars and have the opportunity to participate in workshops run by internationally established artists, curators and theorists.

The University of Edinburgh’s distinctive degree structures and academic culture allow you to take elective courses from other subject areas across the University in your first and second undergraduate years. This aligns well with Art’s identity as an outward-looking discipline. Your chance to forge connections with subjects such as philosophy, literature, history, geography, biology, economics and politics will give you new perspectives on how art and visual culture fits within the wider world. 

Our teaching plans for 2021-22

Contemporary art continually revisits or redefines the parameters of established disciplines and develops new methods of thinking and making. At the beginning of your studies you will be encouraged to establish an effective and dynamic working practice where you can respond to projects and tasks on a day-to-day basis. Scottish Government Covid-19 guidelines allowing, you will have access to bookable studio and project spaces at different stages of teaching, with opportunities to work through and test ideas, experiment with the fabrication, installation, presentation and documentation of your practice, and work collaboratively with your peers to give and gain mutually supportive group feedback. Most seminar teaching (small groups of students) should take place on campus wherever possible, Scottish Government Covid-19 guidelines allowing. We are currently planning for large lecture-based classes to be delivered online in order to facilitate safe environments for learning that maximise opportunities for small-group and individual on-campus teaching and learning experiences.

Our current planning for next year’s teaching includes site visits to important art spaces within the UK and visiting lectures and workshops by some of the most important contemporary critical thinkers and artists from diverse backgrounds and practices. You will be taught to work with your peers in peer-to-peer sharing and critique of concepts and ideas and will also work with expert academics and artists who will help inform and expand your understanding of the place of art and artistic research in the wider world.

Access to our extensive range of workshops will be scheduled to allow for your safe use of these spaces. Our team of technicians are currently developing timelines for running introductory sessions for students in different workshop spaces during your 1st year.

ECA supports an extensive collection of software for our students to use in making art, including a copy of the full Adobe Creative Cloud suite to install on your own computer for every ECA student. Our powerful computer workstations are available for you to use remotely from anywhere as well as on campus.

We have developed extensive experience of working and teaching though established and emerging online platforms, working with our students over the past year to develop a personal online presence, both for the presentation of art work and peer-to-peer sharing of practice. Some of our courses will continue to use blogging, virtual exhibitions and online collaboration spaces for teaching and learning in the 2021/22 session. These have proved to be of major benefit to our students, helping them to promote their projects and to think about, and actively create, new spaces in which to make, discuss, and exhibit art projects.

Our Graduates

The School of Art and wider ECA produce internationally renowned artists and researchers whose work shapes what art is. Together, our alumni form a uniquely diverse and talented community of over 24,000 creatives across the globe. As ECA has grown and diversified, so too has our alumni community. Recent years have seen us witness the success of, among others, British Fashion Awards winner, Holly Fulton; Oscar nominees Sara Ishaq and Nuria González Blanco; BAFTA-winning animator Will Anderson; and internationally acclaimed artists Katie Paterson, Takahiro Iwasaki and Rachel Maclean.

Graduating students from across our School have the opportunity to publicly exhibit their work as part of the ECA Graduate Show – the diversity of amazing work exhibited in these Shows by our students is always a highlight of the year. Over the past year we have expanded these exciting annual events to include a greater digital presence, and I would warmly invite you to take a look for yourself when it launches on 18 June.

Please look out for further email updates, as well as browsing the University website that will provide more general information about getting to and living in Edinburgh. 

Being a student in ECA School of Art means being part of a community that is constantly evolving, as we greet new students each year and as art responds to changing ideas, concepts and events happening in the world. Here, you will learn to work within and lead teams of peers, form collaborative partnerships that may last many years, and develop as an independent artist and thinker. We are really excited to have you join us this year and look forward to helping you develop your practice and career.

With best wishes,

Dr Linda O’Keeffe

Head of Art