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Glasgow School Of Art Personal Statement Examples

HE is an artist and writer known for his idiosyncratic art and landmark plays.

Now John Byrne, creator of Tutti Frutti and the Slab Boys, has launched an outspoken attack on the Glasgow School of Art, which he attended between 1958 and 1963.

In the interview, the painter and playwright said that the institution, which is currently recovering from a disastrous fire at its Mackintosh Building last May, was more of a "fun factory" than an art school.

His criticisms appeared to centre on what he believes is a lack of drawing ability at the school.

Byrne said: "Not one of them can draw - they all have delusions of grandeur.

"It's no longer an art school - it's more like a fun factory.

"When I was there, all of the big studios were as Mackintosh had designed them - you were a community and the whole place was a community, but now it's every man for himself.

"It's now all split into rabbit hutches and you have to be on your own with your laptop. It's more like a third-rate night school as far as competence in drawing goes.

"It's like going to a music school and nobody's got an instrument."

Mr Byrne also claimed that some people came to the art school "in the hope that something will rub off on them and they'll win a Turner Prize".

He highlighted the high number of Turner Prize nominees based in Glasgow, saying: "But one was interviewed while the building was burning and they said 'I hadn't realised this was such an important building'. But they shouldn't have been there if they didn't know this was something unique.

"It's a joke. Don't get me started on it. They got compensated £750,000 for the loss of their garbage. I sold one painting for £6 when I left art school.

"The students all want to be rich and famous but do f**k all. Not one of them can draw - they have delusions of grandeur."

Glasgow School of Art and its graduates have been at the centre of a visual art success story which leading German art curator Hans Ulrich Obrist has called the "Glasgow miracle".

Graduate Douglas Gordon became the first Scot to win the Turner Prize in 1996 and this year it was won by Glasgow-based artist and GSA alumni Duncan Campbell, the seventh artist with Scottish links to take the prestigious prize since 1996.

His work was made for the Scotland + Venice show, which was curated by Glasgow's Common Guild gallery and visual arts organisation in 2013.

This year's Scottish show at the Venice Biennale is being staged by Graham Fagen, also a graduate of the GSA.

Byrne added: "I was talking to the students there and I gave them what for - if you want to be rich and famous you have to realise that it's hard graft.

"The people I admire work every day - Francis Bacon, David Hockney, they all work seven days a week and work hard.

"If you're prepared to do that and wait - because you may never get any recognition - that's what you have to do.

"They all think they're going to be huge and get instant payment.

"For the vast majority of them it won't happen."

The Glasgow School of Art declined to comment on Byrne's comments.

The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) is Scotland's only public self-governing art school offering university-level programmes and research in architecture, fine art and design.

Glasgow School of Art is housed in a number of buildings in the centre of Glasgow, including one of Glasgow's most famous buildings, the Mackintosh Building, often considered the masterpiece of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, built 1897-1909. Severely damaged by a fire in May 2014, the building is now undergoing a careful restoration. The Mackintosh Building will reopen in 2019.


Founded in 1845 as the Glasgow Government School of Design, it changed its name to The Glasgow School of Art in 1853. It was first located at 12 Ingram Street and moved to the McLellan Galleries in 1869. In 1897, work started on a new building to house the school on Renfrew Street. The building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, chosen for the commission by the school's director, Francis Newbery, who oversaw a period of expansion and fast-growing reputation. The first half of the building was completed in 1899 and the second half in 1909. The School's campus has grown since that time and in 2009, an international architectural competition was held to find an architect-led design team who would develop the Campus Masterplan and design the Phase 1 building. The competition was won by New York-based Steven Holl Architects[2] working with Glasgow-based JM Architects.[3] The Reid Building was completed in 2014 and sits opposite the Mackintosh Building on a site previously occupied by the Foulis, Assembly and Newbery Tower Buildings.

The school has produced most of Scotland's leading contemporary artists including, since 2005, 30% of Turner Prize nominees and four recent Turner Prize winners: Simon Starling in 2005, Richard Wright in 2009, Martin Boyce in 2011 and Duncan Campbell in 2014. The School of Architecture is highly rated by the architecture profession[4] and the School of Design has been described by Design Week as "leaders in design education".[5]

The School is organised into five academic schools, the Mackintosh School of Architecture (named after Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who is also the GSA's most revered alumnus), the School of Design, the School of Fine Art, the School of Simulation and Visualisation (formerly the Digital Design Studio), specialising in digital and virtual technologies was launched in October 2016. The Innovation School was launched in September 2017. GSA also has a long-established portfolio of non-degree art and design classes for children and adults delivered through GSA Open Studio.

Disciplines include Fine Art Photography, founded by Thomas Joshua Cooper in 1982, Painting and Printmaking, Sculpture and Environmental Art, Product Design, Product Design Engineering, Textile Design, Fashion Design, Silversmithing and Jewellery, Interior Design, Communication Design, Interaction Design and Architecture.

2014 fire[edit]

The original Mackintosh building was severely damaged by fire on 23 May 2014.[2014-fire 1][2014-fire 2] The extent of the damage and the future of the building have still to be determined. An initial fire service estimate was that 90% of the building and 70% of its contents had been saved.[2014-fire 3]

The fire, which began in the basement, quickly spread upwards and, although it was brought under control quite quickly, significant damage was done to the historic studios and stairways. The renowned Mackintosh library was destroyed; the archive was water damaged, but can be air and freeze dried[2014-fire 4] There were no reported casualties.

The fire broke out as students were preparing for their Degree Show. Eyewitnesses said that the fire appeared to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building just before 12:30pm.[2014-fire 5][2014-fire 6] Investigators later determined that the cause was not a faulty projector, but "a canister of expanding foam" used in close proximity to a hot projector, causing flammable gases to ignite. [2014-fire 7] According to The Scotsman newspaper, the use of aerosol cans is against school policy. However, the report from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service found that the design of the building contributed greatly to the spread of the fire: "…the number of timber lined walls and voids, and original ventilation ducts running both vertically and horizontally throughout the building“ as well as "a vertical service void," which "ran the entire height of the building …allowed flames, hot gases, and smoke to travel.” In addition, an intended "fire suppression system" for the building had not been completed. A school staff member was on hand when the blaze first ignited, but was unable to contain the fast-spreading flames.[2014-fire 8]


A careful restoration process began soon after the fire; work on restoring and recreating the Mackintosh design, including the famous library interior, started in 2016.[6] The restoration is taking great pains to perform the work with historical accuracy, including through the use of original wood species such as longleaf pine and tulipwood.[7][8]


The school currently has two separate campuses: the School of Fine Art, Digital Culture, and MFA programmes are in the vicinity of the fire damaged Mackintosh building. The School of Design - Textiles, Jewellery & Silversmithing, Product Design Engineering, Product Design, Communication Design and Interior Design - the Centre for Advanced Textiles, Design Innovation Studio and the Where the Monkey Sleeps cafe have recently moved back to the Garnethill Campus with the occupation of the new Reid Building.

The Institute of Design Innovation (InDI), a research centre of the School of Design is based in Forres and the school has a Representative Office in Beijing, PRC. The GSA has a specialist research and postgraduate centre - Digital Design Studio (DDS) based on the southside of Glasgow in a new facility at Pacific Quay by the River Clyde in a building called The Hub.[9]

The Mackintosh Building was the heart of the campus and continued to be a functioning part of the school until a major fire on 23 May 2014. The building housed the Fine Art Painting department, first year studios and administrative staff. It houses the Mackintosh gallery which held many different exhibitions throughout the year. The Mackintosh Gallery (also known as the Mackintosh Museum) was the only part of the Mackintosh building open to the general public; all other areas of the school were only viewable by guided tour.[10] An exception to this rule was the Degree Show where all the studios within the Mackintosh building were opened to allow people to view the graduating year's final artworks.

Since the fire of May 2014 the School of Fine Art has been temporarily housed in a campus at the Tontine Building, Merchant City, Glasgow [11] while the Mackintosh Building undergoes restoration and refurbishment takes place in the newly acquired Stow Building.[12]

The Mackintosh School of Architecture and the school's library and learning resources are situated in The Bourdon Building.

The Barnes Building on West Graham Street is the base for the Sculpture and Environmental Art, International Foundation and Interaction Design programmes.

An international architectural competition was launched in March 2009 to find the design team to prepare a campus masterplan and detailed design of the first new building phase.[13] The winner of the competition was Steven Holl Architects,[14] working in partnership with Glasgow’s JM Architects and Arup Engineering. Work commenced in 2011 and continued until 2013. The building was structurally complete in 2013.[15] The new building has been named the Reid Building after the last Director: Dame Seona Reid, and won Building of the Year at the 2014 Architect's Journal awards - the AJ100 Awards in May 2014, and the Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures at the IStructE's 2014 Structural Awards.


GSA runs an annual public programme of exhibitions and events. The Reid Gallery has a curated programme that works with contemporary artists, designers and architects; GSA staff and students; and makes connections to the heritage and architecture of the Glasgow School of Art and its collections.[16]

Singapore Campus[edit]

Since September 2012, the GSA has delivered years 3 and 4 of its Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Programmes in Communication Design and Interior Design in Singapore, in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), based at the Temasek Polytechnic Campus in Tampines. The programmes enable Diploma students from the Singapore Polytechnics to progress from a Diploma to a BA (Hons) degree. Students studying in Singapore benefit from the same programme of study and award as in the home institution, along with resources and equipment according to GSA specifications.

Students and teaching[edit]

The GSA has been ranked in the top 10 of specialist educational institutions in the Guardian University Guide, ranking it the top specialist visual arts institution in the UK.[17] Its degrees are validated by the University of Glasgow.

Of its 1,900 students, almost 20% are international, 20% from the Rest of the UK and approximately 20% are postgraduate.

The GSA is placed 10th in the 2015 QS World Rankings for Art and Design [18] and 2nd in the nationally ranking 2016 Complete University Guide league table for Art and Design.[19]

HESA statistics show GSA to have one of the lowest student drop-out rates in the UK.[20]

In 2002 the funding councils published figures which placed Glasgow School of Art as having the second-lowest number of students from a working-class background out of a list of UK higher education institutions. With 7% of its students coming from social classes IIIm, IV and V (skilled manual, semi-skilled or un-skilled workers), the figures put it above Oxford and Cambridge in terms of exclusivity. Glasgow School of art disputed the figures, explaining that the majority of its applicants did not come through the UCAS system on which the statistics were based so the numbers involved were very small. This was reinforced by HEFCE, which said the figures should be treated with care.[21]

In March 2016 the Commission on Widening Access (CoWA) found the percentage of Scottish-domiciled full-time first degree entrants from SIMD 20 (20% most deprived areas of Scotland) at GSA was 22.2%. This is the second highest in Scotland, according to CoWA's report, with only University of the West of Scotland having higher.[22]

Research and knowledge exchange[edit]

The Glasgow School of Art is host to a number of high-profile research projects, funded primarily through the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council, although other UK research councils have funded projects in the past.

At the last Research Assessment Exercise in 2014,[23] the GSA had the largest art and design research community in Scotland and with 23% of research evaluated as world leading. The GSA has a number of research centres including Digital Design Studio, Mackintosh Environmental Architectural Research Unit, Institute of Design Innovation,[24] Centre for Advanced Textiles and the Glasgow Urban Lab[25]

Research professors include Professor Thomas Joshua Cooper, Professor Alastair Macdonald, Professor Paul Anderson, Professor Tim Sharpe, Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam OBE, Professor Ken Neil, Professor Johnny Rodger, Professor Christopher Platt and Professor Brian Evans.

Notable students[edit]

  • Harry Benson - Photographer[26]
  • Christine Berrie - Illustrator[27]
  • Douglas Robertson Bisset - Sculptor[28]
  • Sam Black - Artist[29]
  • Robert Henderson Blyth - Artist[30]
  • Leonard Boden, Portrait painter[31]
  • Christine Borland - Artist, 1997 Turner Prize Nominee[32]
  • Martin Boyce - Artist, 2011 Turner Prize winner[32]
  • Roderick Buchanan - Artist, 2000 Beck's Futures Winner[32]
  • John Byrne - Playwright, Artist[32]
  • Ian Callum - Automotive designer[32]
  • Steven Campbell - Artist[32]
  • Peter Capaldi - Actor - 1995 Oscar winner and twelfth Doctor Who[32]
  • Emilio Coia - Caricaturist[32][33]
  • Nathan Coley - Artist - 2007 Turner Prize nominee[34]
  • Robert Colquhoun - Painter and printmaker[32][35]
  • Robbie Coltrane - Actor - Starred in James Bond and Harry Potter films[32]
  • Stephen Conroy - Award-winning painter[32]
  • James Cowie - Painter[32][36]
  • Hugh Adam Crawford - Painter[37]
  • Ken Currie - Artist[38]
  • Michelle de Bruin - Artist, Stonecarver and Lettercutter[32]
  • Alexander Brownlie Docharty - Artist[39]
  • David Donaldson - Painter and Limner to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland[32]
  • Joan Eardley - Artist[32]
  • Christian Jane Fergusson - Artist,[40]
  • Ian Hamilton Finlay - Artist, Poet, Turner Prize nominee 1984[41]
  • Hannah Frank - Artist and sculptor[42]
  • Alex Frost (artist) - Sculptor
  • John Glashan - Artist, cartoonist and illustrator[43]
  • Douglas Gordon - Artist, 1996 Turner Prize winner[32]
  • Alexander Goudie - Artist[44]
  • Doris Grant - Nutritionist[45]
  • Alasdair Gray - Novelist and muralist; Author of Lanark: A Life in Four Books[32]
  • Muriel Gray - Broadcaster, author, journalist[32]
  • Norah Neilson Gray - Artist[46]
  • Sir James Gunn - Landscape and portrait painter[47]
  • Thomas Symington Halliday (1902-1998), Painter and sculptor[37]
  • Bob Hardy - Bassist with Franz Ferdinand (band)[32]
  • Fran Healy - of Glasgow-based band Travis[32]
  • Pam Hogg - Fashion designer[32]
  • Peter Howson - Artist[32]
  • Cathy Jamieson - Politician[32]
  • Chantal Joffe - Artist[48]
  • Jessie Marion King - Illustrator[32]
  • Jim Lambie - Artist, 2005 Turner Prize nominee[32]
  • Andrew Law - Portrait painter[49]
  • Liz Lochhead - Playwright and poet[32]
  • Tessa Lynch - Artist[50]
  • Ann Macbeth - Embroiderer and author[32][51]
  • Margaret MacDonald - Artist[32][52]
  • Rory Macdonald - Musician, songwriter, founding member of Runrig[53]
  • Jimmie MacGregor - Folksinger and broadcaster[54]
  • Alexander Mackendrick - Film director[55]
  • Gillies MacKinnon - Film director[56]
  • Philip Raskin, Artist.[57]
  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh - Artist, designer and architect[32]
  • Oscar Marzaroli - Photographer[32]
  • Iain McCaig – Illustrator, designer and Hollywood storyboard artist[58]
  • Sam McKinniss - Contemporary American Figurative and Abstract painter
  • Norman McLaren - Oscar-winning animation and filmmaker[32]
  • Bessie MacNicol - Painter
  • May Miles Thomas - Writer and director[59]
  • Josephine Haswell Miller - Painter & designer, studied & taught at the GSoA.
  • Thomas Corsan Morton - Artist[60]
  • Sheila Mullen - Artist[61]
  • Jessie Newbery - Textile artist, embroiderer[32]
  • Cordelia Oliver - Journalist, painter and art critic for The Guardian[62]
  • Dougie Payne - of Glasgow-based band Travis[32]
  • Ciara Phillips - Canadian/Irish artist based in Glasgow[63]
  • John Quinton Pringle - Artist
  • Frank Quitely - Comics artist[64]
  • Lili Reynaud-Dewar - Installation and performance artist
  • Charles Sandison - Media Artist[65]
  • Jonathan Saunders - Fashion Designer [66]
  • Jenny Saville - Artist[32]
  • Benno Schotz - Sculptor[32]
  • Andy Scott (sculptor) - Sculptor[32]
  • David Shrigley - Artist and cartoonist[67]
  • Lucy Skaer - Artist - 2009 Turner Prize nominee[68]
  • Sharleen Spiteri - Singer-songwriter; guitarist; lead vocalist of the Scottish pop-rock band Texas[69]
  • Thomas S. Tait - Architect[32][70]
  • Simon Starling - Turner Prize winning artist 2005[32]
  • Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary for Scotland[32]
  • Alison Watt - Artist[32]
  • Toby Webster - Art dealer[71]
  • Charles Gordon McClure (1885–1933), also known as Dyke White, cartoonist[32]
  • Cathy Wilkes - Artist, 2008 Turner Prize nominee[72]
  • Richard Wright - Turner Prize-winning artist 2009[73]
  • Kumi Yamashita - artist[74]


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  2. ^"Steven Holl Architects". 7 February 2014. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  3. ^"jmarchitects". 
  4. ^"World's Best Architecture Schools and Universities - Top 10 List". Archived from the original on 16 February 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  5. ^"Glasgow School of Art". Fulbright Partners. The US-UK Fulbright Commission. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  6. ^Shea, Christopher (11 July 2016). "Restoring a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Architectural Gem From the Ashes". New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2016. 
  7. ^Brooks, Libby (24 November 2016). "Glasgow School of Art's library restoration begins in earnest". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  8. ^"The Mackintosh at the Glasgow School of Art". Retrieved 9 August 2017. 
  9. ^"Graphic Design Agency / Brand Consultants Midlands - Alt Design". Alt Design. Archived from the original on 2009-09-10. 
  10. ^CathieRandall. "Tours". Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
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  15. ^"Glasgow School of Art Competition - Extension Building". Glasgow Architecture. 
  16. ^"GSA Events". Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  17. ^"University guide 2012: Specialist institutions league table". The Guardian. London. 17 May 2011. 
  18. ^"QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 - Art & Design". 22 April 2015. 
  19. ^"Top UK University League Tables and Rankings 2017". 
  20. ^"University drop-out rate". BBC News. 4 June 2008. 
  21. ^MacLeod, Donald (18 December 2002). "Glasgow 'posher' than Oxbridge". The Guardian. London. 
  22. ^Commission on Widening Access - Technical paper on measures and targets, p11, Annex A (14 Mar 2016) [1]
  23. ^"REF2014 results by institution/Glasgow School of Art". 2014. 
  24. ^"Institute of Design Innovation on Vimeo". 11 December 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  25. ^ScottParsons. "Research Centres". Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  26. ^"HARRY BENSON". 
  27. ^"Artist profile". Communication Arts. 8 August 2009. Archived from the original on 2 January 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  28. ^Gary Nisbet. "Douglas Bisset (1908-2000)". Glasgow - City of Sculpture. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  29. ^Christopher Hives (1999). "Sam Black fonds". UBC / The British Columbia Archival Information Network. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  30. ^Royal Scottish Academy. "Images for Scottish Art, Robert Henderson Blyth". Royal Scottish Academy. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  31. ^Buckman, David (15 November 1999). "Leonard Boden Obituary". The Independent. London. Retrieved 9 October 2013. 
  32. ^ abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzaaabacadaeafagahaiajakalamanao"Famous Alumni". Glasgow School of Art. Retrieved 24 May 2014. 
  33. ^Emilio Coia HonLLD (Strath)
  34. ^
  35. ^"Robert Colquhoun - Tate". Tate. 
  36. ^McTear's Auctioneers. "McTear's The Scottish Picture Auction". McTear's Auctioneers. Archived from the original on 12 May 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  37. ^ abPeter J.M. McEwan (1994). The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1 85149 134 1. 
  38. ^"Your Paintings - Ken Currie". 
  39. ^Halsby, Julian (1990). "Alexander Brownlie Docharty, 1862-1940". Venice, the Artist's Vision: A Guide to British and American Painters. Unicorn. ISBN 9780906290354. Retrieved 15 August 2014. 
  40. ^WJC Henderson (2010). "Chris J Fergusson (Chris Stark) The life and works of a Dumfries and Galloway artist". Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  41. ^Hamilton Finlay 1925–2006[permanent dead link]
  42. ^Hannah Frank, A Grasgow Artist. 1908 - 2008Archived 28 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  43. ^* "John Glashan", British Cartoon Archive. Accessed 20 August 2016.
  44. ^Timothy Clifford, Alexander Goudie: Don Quixote of Glasgow artists, The Independent (London), 18 March 2004
  45. ^"Doris Grant". The Daily Telegraph. London. 29 March 2003. 
  46. ^Norah Neilson Gray, Helsburgh Heroes, accessed July 2010
  47. ^National Galleries of Scotland. "Scottish Artists A-Z − − H − Scottish Artists A-Z − Scottish Art − Collection − National Galleries of Scotland". 
  48. ^Foley, Jack. "A bold and beautiful new exhibition". IndieLondon. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  49. ^Frances Spalding (1990). 20th Century Painters and Sculptors. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 1 85149 106 6. 
  50. ^Wright, Karen (21 August 2014). "Tessa Lynch, sculptor: 'You meet interesting people in Glasgow who". The Independent. 
  51. ^"Two Women of Distinction". The Glasgow Herald. 2 April 1948. Retrieved 9 February 2012. 
  52. ^"Charles Rennie Mackintosh". Archived from the original on 4 January 2016. 
  53. ^"Overview of Rory Macdonald". 
  54. ^"Early Years". 
  55. ^Alexander Mackendrick at the British Film Institute's Screenonline, also Article about Mackendrick's teaching careerArchived 3 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
  56. ^"Gillies MacKinnon". British Film Institute. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  57. ^"Philip Raskin - Artists - Strathearn Gallery". 
  58. ^Wells, Tish (29 October 2008). "To Iain McCaig, 'Star Wars' characters are more than just imagination", McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  59. ^"Elemental Films". 
  60. ^"Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909: T. CORSAN MORTON [ebook chapter] / George Eyre-Todd, 1909". 
  61. ^Celia Purcell Contemporary. "Celia Purcell Contemporary". 
  62. ^Grigor, Murray (26 January 2010). "Obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 6 January 2013.
Western facade of GSA's Mackintosh building
Architectural model of the Glasgow School of Art.