DOZENS of students and lecturers braved torrential downpours yesterday to protest major cuts to the University of Portsmouth’s art department.
Colourful banners and chants of ‘no ifs, no buts, no education cuts’ outside the Eldon Building – where the small metals, glass and ceramics workshops face closure – put their message across loud and clear.
The university has proposed closing the traditional art workshops and making 16 academic and technical staff redundant at the school of art, media and design.
This follows the axing of fine art and three dimensional courses and the launch of a new contemporary fine arts course which focuses on the use of digital media.
But the row stepped up a gear when the university fired an outspoken critic of the proposals and former student Claire Heath, who was doing a 10-month internship at the workshops.
The 22-year-old said: ‘I’ve been made a scapegoat.
‘I am passionate about the workshops. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to complete my degree.
‘Other students should have that opportunity.’
Speaking at the protest Mo Otteson, the workshops’ senior technician, who stands to lose her job, said: ‘How can you be a designer or an artist if you have no awareness of the materials you are working with?
‘That’s why we’re all out in the rain – it is important we don’t lose the traditional side of the department.’
Proposals to axe almost a third of experienced staff across the department to save £526,000 a year have been condemned as short-sighted.
Heather Dubois, 32, a contemporary fine art student, said: ‘If you let lecturers go you lose a wealth of expertise.
‘The university is trying to cajole us down the route of computer and digital work, but we want to be able to learn traditional methods as well.’
Fellow student Rachael Wisniak, 27, added: ‘We were sold the course as having workshops and an excellent team of lecturers. We can’t stand back and accept this major upheaval.’
Staff in the firing line have been invited to apply for six jobs across the department.
The consultation period closes next Monday.