Degree show funding should not come out of students’ pockets

Degree shows are typical in marking the end of art-based degrees. Students use degree shows, which are physical and online spaces, to showcase their work to bring together everything they have learnt and created during their studies. It is also an opportunity to get your name out into the ever-competitive art world and show employers what you have to offer. But should students be expected to fund them?

Funding by fundraisers

When you walk around Knight’s Park campus, the walls are covered in A4 posters. Each poster is decorated with brightly coloured illustrations, everything you would expect from advertisements designed by art students, inviting KU students to a variety of fundraising events at Knight’s Park student union bar.

It usually entails a small fee at the door in exchange for a themed event, which
extends from the music to the decoration, and to the dress code. Almost every Friday the SU is crammed full of people who have paid £2 to be there. The final goal? To raise money for the KSA Degree Show.

Kingston University described the KSA Degree Show as a “rite of passage” on its website, which marks the completion of a degree and acknowledges the efforts that are required to get there. So if these shows are essential in the completion of you studies, then why is the funding coming out of students pockets?

More posters on the wall
Fundraisers include themed events, drawing workshops and quiz nights. Photo: Finley Topping

How much is needed to fund a dream degree show?

Some of the more successful course fundraisers have raised over £350 in one night. Other courses have decided to host multiple events to try and double or triple the money. Ironically, it is mostly KSA students attending these fundraisers, meaning undergraduates are essentially fundraising one another’s degree shows.

A Kingston University spokesperson said that “the KSA Degree show is funded by the faculty, which is allocated a budget each year for this purpose” and that students are free to “contribute their own funds to add extra elements to their show”.

So does that mean KSA students are just overly invested in having as much money at their disposal as possible? It doesn’t appear that way. Some students at KSA told me that they thought fundraisers were just part and parcel of final year. Some were not even aware that they got any funding for degree shows outside of their fundraisers.

The hidden costs of university

It seems that the panic to raise money for an event, which is a compulsory part of completing a course, is just another element in the ever-growing reality of the hidden costs of university.

The National Union of Students have been working with student unions across the country for years to campaign to end hidden costs at universities.

Back in 2019, the then officers of the Union of Kingston students campaigned to tackle it at KU, identifying Knight’s Park arts courses as the courses which were most affected by ‘hidden costs’.

“In recent years, Kingston University and Kingston School of Art have invested
significantly in virtual degree shows with a custom-made website to replace the traditional show which could not be held due to government Covid-19 restrictions,” said a university spokesperson.

But if the university truly values the KSA Degree Show, then this funding needs to drastically increase. Arts students should be able to display their work without worry and should not have to open up their wallets in order to conclude their degrees.

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