Published: 11 September 2017
We had a chat with Professor Andrew Livingstone to find out what you can expect from the Glass and Ceramics degree at Sunderland.
Professor Andrew Livingstone came to the University of Sunderland from Belfast, initially attracted to Sunderland for its reputation as a flagship centre. He says: "Glass and Ceramics is a very niche arena. Here at the University of Sunderland, we are very niche and we combine those two courses together."
The added benefit for students who are taught by Andrew is that he's experienced, first-hand, the higher education journey and various frameworks as an artist. He graduated with a BA (Hons) in Ceramics from Camberwell School of Art, London, in 1989, and then went on to study at the University of Ulster in Belfast, where he gained an MA in Applied Arts and a PhD. Through his own personal experience, he contributes to and aids students' learning.
Gaining his doctorate is one of his proudest achievements. "I won't lie, it's a difficult thing to do and it does consume you every hour of every day, but it’s well worth it," he says. "That was 12 years ago and it has afforded me to develop my career here and speak around the world internationally." Having experienced the challenges and rewards of undertaking a PhD, Andrew is well-equipped to support his students presented with the same challenges. "I’ve 12 completions and four going through this year, and I have these discussions with them all the time. It’s nice to give them their hat on graduation day, wipe their tears up, and give them hugs," he says smiling.
Not only does Andrew offer his support to his Glass and Ceramics cohort by sharing insight into his own experiences, he also ensures students at Sunderland are supported in several ways to enhance their employability, which he says is embedded into modules for all students. "Employability is a big subject and quite rightly; fees have increased exponentially in the last five years, and if I was a student spending all of that money I would like to think at the end of it that what I was employable. We embed professionalism in our course from stage one.
"Visiting speakers come through the department constantly – we have about 16 speakers every year. We have international speakers and we also have artists coming through. I run something called Research into Making, and I get well-known practitioners to come to the University. They give a lecture in the morning and then work face-to-face with the students in the afternoon. The students love it. Some of the students will see the people in books and I’ll say 'they’re coming in next week' – for the students just to see that these people in books are human and have the opportunity to work alongside them and learn skills is great."
The Glass and Ceramics Department also engages with local employers. "We bring people from careers in, we bring practising artists into the department and we have many artists coming through throughout the world and the students work alongside them," says Andrew. At Sunderland, the studios are open plan, meaning undergraduate students work next to PhD students in a shared space. "We have international well-known artists in the same space.
“It’s all one big melting pot which I think is great – there’s no segregation between the students, everyone is mixed together and that’s a great opportunity. We have schemes in the summer, including paid work, where students can gain work experience. "A lot of our graduates go and set up their own practices, we’ve graduates that work with art organisations in more curatorial roles – they’re well prepared for the marketplace," adds Andrew.
There's no shortage of gaining practical and paid experience at Sunderland. There are opportunities to engage with and work alongside practitioners, facilitate art projects and develop the skills and professionalism expected of practising artists. "We also have students who go on to further study and also go on to teacher training. We don’t prepare our students to come and make something for an industry which really isn’t there anymore, we offer diversity and teach our students skills and professionalism which makes them well-rounded."