In Support of Striking Staff at the RCA

October 2021



RCA students, alumni, staff and supporters from other institutions and organisations, please sign the letter here –

Signatures will be copied from the open document to this document on a daily basis

Share this letter via this link

Download social media assets and images here

Please tag @rcaucu on twitter / @rca_ucu on instagram / @rcaucu on weibo

Boycott – If you’re an academic or practitioner who has been invited by the RCA to deliver a guest lecture or workshop, or invited to act as an external examiner please stand in solidarity with RCA staff by refusing the appointment, and responding by sharing the contents of this open letter. This boycott covers the full strike period [4th October to 19th November] not just the strike days.

Support - Donate to our strike fund

Learn more about the strike, find resources and learn about upcoming events here –

Follow us – @rcaucu on twitter / @rca_ucu on instagram / @rcaucu on weibo


Members of the University and Union College (UCU) at the Royal College of Art (RCA) are currently on strike for 14 days in October and November 2021. They are demanding real contracts for casualised staff and protection for the terms and conditions of permanent staff under the impending arrival of a 45-week academic year that will completely restructure the College’s teaching and learning model. This is a decision that striking staff take with heavy hearts and the branch is devastated that the College has forced this situation on students. Strike action is always a last resort for staff who would prefer to be in work, helping students to learn, providing student support, and continuing with research.

RCA boasts having more than 1,000 Visiting Lecturers and Professors, making it one of the top casualisers in the sector. At present, all these casual staff are hired on ‘worker’ contracts, stripping them of employment rights such as sick pay, holiday and maternity leave. Further, RCA is not keeping to agreements on workloads for permanent staff and does not count preparation, marking and doctoral supervision in its allocated hours for teaching in line with the College’s Academic Employment Framework (AEF). RCA is not adequately protecting research time for academics. The RCA UCU has serious concerns that, unless this is addressed, the longer 45-week term will further exacerbate these breaches of contractual terms.

Key Takeouts

  • 90% staff at the RCA are on precarious ‘worker’ terms of engagements, essentially ‘gig-economy’ non-contracts with no sick pay, maternity pay or holiday time.
  • RCA Management refuses to offer permanency rights to such staff with less than 4 years ‘continuous service’, whilst the sector norm is only 2 years.
  • Those being offered permanency have been offered a new kind of contract with no research time, but are expected nevertheless, to deliver ‘research based teaching’.
  • RCA Management have abused these precarious working conditions and in Summer 2021 forced out the majority of the RCA UCU organisers, for the second time in 5 years.
  • With 95% of staff suffering from stress even before the pandemic, workload is set to rise as two-year Masters programmes will be stuffed into one 45-week year, damaging student experience and piling even more pressure on staff.
  • As many graduates rely on teaching to supplement their creative practice, this is a further hit to creative careers and graduate job prospects.
  • These circumstances inevitably affect already marginalised groups the most, who are disproportionately represented on these precarious RCA contracts, undermining the RCA’s alleged commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.



The RCA UCU branch want:

  • To eliminate the use of bogus self-employed and worker ‘terms of engagement’ for academic staff
  • For RCA to assimilate current daily paid and fixed term staff onto appropriate permanent contracts
  • An agreement to meaningfully protect the teaching ceilings and the research floors in permanent contracts

The RCA UCU’s demands relate to the already precarious conditions in which casual staff are employed across the sector, especially at the RCA where unscrupulous employment practices earned it the moniker ‘the Sports Direct of Higher Education’ in 2019. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data for 2019/20 shows the scale of this issue: in this academic year, the College reported just 60 full time academic contracts, 120 part time contracts, and an astonishing 640 ‘atypical’ academic contracts. Though winning many important victories for staff in the last few years including over equity, diversity and inclusion, and gaining a recognition agreement, many UCU organisers were employed on such terms. The RCA has used the precarious ‘contracts’ of UCU organisers to firstly stall talks, and then effectively force most of the branch committee out of employment, by not offering them work until January 2022, hoping this would bust the strength of the branch and halt strike action. However, a new RCA UCU branch committee has been voted in, and the strike has gone ahead amidst negotiations.


The proposals for FAM are to fundamentally restructure the teaching model at the RCA, ending two-year MAs, creating single year MAs with a 45-week academic year. This will inevitably exacerbate burnout, with educators unable to teach to the level students deserve and unable to properly conduct the leading research that RCA uses to promote itself. This will undoubtedly impact student experience. The transition to this completely new structure has been badly handled by management, with many staff unclear about the basics of how the new programmes will work – despite beginning recruitment in the coming weeks.

There is already a mental health crisis for people working in academia, a recent survey carried out by UCU found that stress levels from intense workload in academia are considerably higher than that of the general British working population. The RCA’s own staff survey in 2019 found that:

  • 95% of respondents felt stressed at work,
  • 78% of respondents were overloaded, putting in ‘a lot of extra time…to meet the demands of workload’
  • 82% felt organisational change in the RCA was not managed well.

In 2020, a ballot held by the RCA UCU found that 86.66% members had no confidence in the Vice Chancellor's Office, with a turnout of 76.53%.


Issues of overwork and precarity are most keenly felt by staff already marginalised in society. African, Caribbean, Asian, Middle Eastern, First Nations and Indigenous heritage staff have documented serious testimony of the hostile working conditions at the RCA. With marginalised staff pressured to undervalue their work and expertise, fair working conditions are at the forefront of issues of gendered, disability and racial justice.

The Vice Chancellor, Paul Thompson acknowledged in his statement following the murder of George Floyd that ‘racial prejudice persists’ at the RCA. However, the failure to contend with the systemic issues underlying racial prejudice give little confidence that the Vice Chancellors Office is committed to change. In 2020, an Open Letter detailing multiple dimensions of systemic racism at the RCA received over 800 signatures.

RCA UCU are seriously concerned that unless their demands are met, particularly the protection for casualised staff, who are disproportionately from marginalised groups, this crisis will continue to grow with devastating consequences for staff and the quality of education students receive. This will further entrench hostile working, teaching and research environments in Higher Education and force people in precarious circumstances out of employment.



Sign the letter here –

Signatures will be copied from the open document to this document on a daily basis

For other ways you can support Striking Staff at the RCA, go to page 1 of this letter



In signing this letter I stand in support of striking staff at the RCA. I agree to condemn the Royal College of Art for its actions and boycott this institution if I am not already a staff member.

  1. Elizabeth Price, artist
  2. Anthea Hamilton
  3. Jade Montserrat
  4. Marie-Anne McQuay
  5. Evan Ifekoya, Artist
  6. Dr Rachel Hann, Northumbria University
  7. John McDonnell MP
  8. BALTIC Professor Andrea Phillips, Director of BxNU Institute, Northumbria University, Newcastle
  9. Dr Michael Szpakowski ; artist, writer, educator
  10. Alex Culshaw - alumni  2017
  11. Tai Shani
  12. Dr Joanne Tatham, artist and Reader in Contemporary Art, RCA
  13. Melanie Bhend
  14. Gair Dunlop Senior Lecturer DJCAD, University of Dundee
  15. Bernadette V. Silva, 2020-21
  16. Kyle Zeto, RCA Alumni 2016
  17. Vicky Blake, UCU President
  18. Michael Connor, Rhizome
  19. Eleanor Dare, Cambridge University
  20. Dr Isabella Streffen, De Montfort University
  21. Dima Srouji, RCA City Design
  22. Kyran Joughin, Branch Sec UCU- UAL; UCU London Region Executive Committee
  23. Nina Trivedi , CSM
  24. Jennifer Martin, RCA Graduate 2018, Former RCA Staff, Ruskin School of Art
  25. Dr. Kevin Biderman, University of Brighton
  26. Jordan Baseman
  27. Dr Carlo Morelli (Dundee University)
  28. Aea Varfis-van Warmelo RCA 2023
  29. Stella Capes RCA 2003
  30. Brighid Lowe, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL
  31. Maggie Gray, Kingston University
  32. Sandy Nicoll, SOAS University of London, SOAS UNISON Branch Secretary
  33. Peter Amoore, concerned arts worker at Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee
  34. Fionnuala Doran, Edinburgh College of Art
  35. Annie Goh (Lecturer CSM & UAL UCU Equalities Rep)
  36. Roddy Slorach, branch secretary, Imperial College UCU
  37. Brian Dillon, Professor of Creative Writing, Queen Mary University of London
  38. Larne Abse Gogarty, UCL
  39. Marián Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London
  40. Vincent Møystad, Goldsmiths
  41. Rupert Waldron ual ucu
  42. Margherita Huntley, UAL-UCU and DCW-UVW
  43. Dr Caroline Edwards, Birkbeck, University of London
  44. David Morris (RCA alumni / UAL )
  45. Katherine Pogson MA RCA 1998
  46. Dr. Jacqueline Rattray, Goldsmiths
  47. Jessie Brennan, RCA graduate (2007) and Visiting Lecturer
  48. George Charman, RCA 2008
  49. Ryan Burns. University of Brighton
  50. Dr Matt Lewis RCA
  51. Susan Kelly, Goldsmiths College
  52. Pil Kollectiv, Senior Tutor in Contemporary Art Practice, Royal College of Art
  53. Galia Kollectiv, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, London Metropolitan University
  54. Carolyn Clewer lecturer LCF UAL
  55. Katriona Beales, Artists' Union England
  56. Angela Piccini, Fine Art, University of Plymouth
  57. Jonathan Watkins Freelance
  58. Merryl  Epstein
  59. Lesley McFadyen, Birkbeck
  60. Kate Ogborn
  61. Paula Smithard Senior Lecturer University of the Arts London
  62. Tiphaine de Lussy RCA 1990
  63. Professor David Burrows, UCL
  64. Tanya Hudson
  65. Mick Battle
  66. Ann Battke
  67. Caitlin Hurley
  68. Alison Cooke
  69. Charlie Murphy MA RCA Photography 1999
  70. Neil McGuire, University of Strathclyde
  71. Sam Gathercole, UAL
  72. Amy Butt, University of Reading
  73. Anne Duffau, Independent Curator & RCA Tutor
  74. Amit Rai, Queen Mary University of London
  75. Shabnam Shabazi
  76. Claire Doran
  77. Dr Elisa Adami, Afterall, CSM (Former RCA staff)
  78. Laura shippey, creative professional, Head of Design, TOAST
  79. Felicity Tyson, UEL
  80. Carmen Hannibal, PhD Candidate, RCA
  81. Carolyn ML Forsyth arts sector worker
  82. Mary Anne Francis, University of Brighton
  83. Sean Roy Parker, independent artist and comrade
  84. Dr Jenny Chamarette, Senior Research Fellow in Art, University of Reading
  85. Lucy Panesar - University of the Arts London
  86. Anna Bunting-Branch, University of the Arts London CCW
  87. Taey Iohe
  88. Rosen Eveleigh, EKA
  89. Aura Satz
  90. Rachel Krengel
  91. Lou-Atessa Marcellin
  92. Youngsook Choi, Asia Art Activism
  93. Morven Loh
  94. Ben Rivers
  95. Irene Revell, CRiSAP, LCC
  96. So Mayer, independent scholar
  97. Gareth Evans, Whitechapel Gallery
  98. George Clark RCA
  99. Alex Seago, Richmond American International University.
  100. Tamsin Clark
  101.       Fernanda Nato
  102. Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou, UCL
  103. Dr Diana Damian Martín, Senior Lecturer, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  104. Stephanie Polsky
  105. Nella Aarne, Co-Director, Obsidian Coast
  106. Paula Orrell, CVAN
  107.       Dr Clair Le Couteur, RCA
  108. Barbara Mueller, MA RCA 2018
  109. Patrick Lears
  110. Julie Chase, NEU member, Essex
  111.       Elisabetta Fabrizi, Newcastle University
  112. Marta Michalowska, The Wapping Project
  113. Dr Helena Bonett, London Metropolitan University
  114. Keith Reader Visiting Emeritus University of London Institute in Paris
  115.       Dr Ben Wiedel-Kaufmann, The Open University (formerly RCA)
  116.       Aimee Le, UCU Anti-casualisation Committee
  117.      Jim Supanick- University of Colorado, Boulder
  118.       Kathrin Bohm
  119. Adrian Pitt- fellow art educator
  120. Bruna Ferreira Montuori - PhD Candidate at SoA/RCA
  121.       Jo Pickering, Research Tutor RCA
  122. Syahadah Shahril, Pause or Pay UK, UAL
  123. Miles Dean (Architecture grad. 2021)
  124. Victoria Manifold (former RCA staff member)
  125. Maria Fusco, University of Dundee
  126. Joanna Walsh, writer, artist
  127.       Juliet Jacques, RCA
  128. Verity-Jane Keefe
  129. Dr Emily Candela, RCA
  130. Charlotte Grace, RCA & UWL
  131.        Roy Claire Potter, former RCA lecturer in the Visiting Lecturer pool, Senior Lecturer of Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University
  132. Rehana Zaman Goldsmiths
  133. Chooc Ly Tan, artist and lecturer
  134. Anna Farré RCA MA Student
  135. Katie Irani, RCA (current student)
  136. DG Fusco RCA 1979
  137. Jazbo Gross - RCA Graduate 2017
  138. Céline Strolz, RCA 2019
  139. Adam de Vere - Ma Architecture Student
  140. Dr Livia Rezende, UNSW Sydney, RCA alumna 2011
  141.       Grace Crannis, RCA, 2017
  142. Steve May RCA alumni
  143. Philipp Sattler, PhD student SoA
  144. Naomi Pearce (RCA Alumni 2013)
  145. Zoë Marden
  146. Irit Rogoff, Goldsmiths University
  147. Laura Gordon, RCA 2015, RCA Visiting Lecturer
  148. Elena Jarmoskaite, graduated 2019
  149. Margaret McGrath, RCA Alum / Oxford Phd Candidate
  150. Gurnesha Bola, Alumni
  151.       Anna Part, RCA Alumnus, current Digital Collections Coordinator of the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
  152. Tom Wilkinson, Birkbeck and Courtauld
  153. Dr Siddharth Soni, University of Cambridge
  154. Matthew Darmour-Paul - RCA 2019
  155. Jen Liu - Bennington College
  156. Oliver Smith, University of the Arts London, RCA Alumni 2015
  157.        Daniel Felstead, London College of Fashion (UAL)
  158. Ed Compson, RCA 2020 Alumni
  159. Silke Weißbach, Alumni RCA Painting 2020
  160. Deborah Stack
  161.       Ted Hunt, RCA Alumni
  162. Esther McManus, sessional lecturer Ravensbourne University
  163. Joe Singleton, current MA Architecture student
  164. Amir Saidani MA RCA 2021
  165. Flo Ray
  166. Sylwia Orynek, RCA 2020
  167. Gareth Brookes RCA Alumni
  168. Putri Taufik RCA 2022
  169. Katarzyna
  170. Jo Grady, University of Sheffield and UCU
  171.        Antonios Vyrgiotis
  172. Alice Harry - RCA student 2023
  173. Valentina Ravaglia - Central St Martins
  174. Sara Ozvaldic, RCA, 2019
  175. Curtis Holder Artist
  176. William Seung (V&A/RCA History of Design MA student)
  177.       Dr. des. Jonas Berthod, RCA 2015
  178. Urjuan Toosy, RCA student 2023
  179. Tom Hunter MA ARCHITECTURE
  180. Michael Pecirno, RCA alumni
  181.       Ilka Gilvesy (Vis. Com. Student)
  182. Genevieve Catherine Brothwood, University of the Arts
  183. Toby Tobias  RCA 2020
  184. Ian Dolan, lecturer at Arts University Bournemouth
  185. Blythe Williams RCA Student
  186. Tom O'Sullivan Senior Lecturer Northumbria University
  187. Gina Prat Lilly (RCA Writing MA, leave of absence)
  188. Anna Mueller, Students' Union & Alumni 2021
  189. Alex Boyce - RCA alumni
  190. Martina Bruno supporter
  191.       Miriam Garcia
  192. Umberto Albarella, University of Sheffield
  193. Richard Bevan Richmond University
  194. Rebecca Carson RCA
  195. Hamish Dobbie - student Y2
  196. Julia Mahrer
  197.        Sophie Seeyave, RCA 2022
  198. Ovidiu Samsa
  199. Andy Holden, artist and visiting lecturer RCA
  200. Bod Mellor (former student) 1996 MA Painting
  201. Paco Blarez Béthery - Dauphine University
  202. Supreetha K (Design Products)
  203. Beatriz Santos
  204. Joshua Woolford, current RCA student
  205. Farvash Razavi FR
  206. Richard Wilkins, Visual Communication 2018
  207. Cem A. aka @freeze_magazine
  208. Kenji Lim, RCA 2019
  209. Katrin Ho, RCA 2019
  210. Elizabeth Cox, RCA 2023
  211.       Isabella Cammarota
  212. Kerri McEvoy RCA 2023
  213. Alex Fletcher (RCA, UAL & AUB)
  214. Maya Masuda, RCA Sculpture MA
  215. Professor Brian Lobel
  216. Laura Copsey alumni and lecturer at Kingston school of art
  217.       Michael cranny UCL
  218. Vanessa Potter
  219. Rhea Storr
  220. Dr Chris Darke, Honorary Research Fellow, Roehampton University
  221. Yuri Pattison, artist
  222. Rebecca Potter
  223. Nancy Purdy
  224. A Redondo, University of Bedfordshire UCU branch.
  225. Kate Seymour,  University of Essex
  226. Prof. Louiza Odysseos, University of Sussex
  227. Emma O'Dwyer, Kingston University
  228. Dr Ray Campbell, Royal Holloway, University of London
  229. Natalie Kane, V&A
  230. Bob MacCallum, Imperial College London
  231. L Pendrell, RCA, 2004
  232. Platon Issaias, Architectural Association
  233. Claire Louise Staunton, RCA PhD Student
  234. Raül Àvila Royo - RCA/AA
  235. Manca Bajec, RCA 2019
  236. Tara Povey, Goldsmiths
  237. Bessie Morrissey
  238. Biba Stanton, NHS Doctor
  239. Yuri Pattison - artist
  240. Max Kohler, RCA 2020
  241. Polina Davydova, RCA, 2021
  242. Geoff Taylor, UCU & TEFL Workers’ Union (IWW)
  243. Jon Goodbun
  244. Gavin Brown, Leicester UCU
  245. Pauline van Mourik Broekman, RCA PhD student
  246. Dawn Woolley MA 2008 PhD 2017
  247. Alan Russell London South Bank University
  248. Mingxin Li, RCA Alumni
  249. Dr James O’Leary, The Bartlett, UCL
  250. Sally Anne Gross University of Westminster
  251. Clare Bell TUDublin
  252. Mauny Wright
  253. Erin Liu, UAL
  254. Gareth Spencer, PCS Culture Group President
  255. Clayton Cavender, graduate of Visual Communication 2018
  256. Daniel Mann, KCL
  257. Neda Genova, Warwick, unpaid visiting critic at RCA
  258. Padraic Finn  Brent Trades Council
  259. Henry Broome - art critic, editor and former RCA MA Curating crit leader
  260. Alice-Anne Psaltis, RCA
  261. Susan Hirt - support of a friend who is a lecturer
  262. Ishaan Bose Verma ~ RCA Student 2023
  263. Dr Mark Rohtmaa-Jackson, Northumbria University
  264. Luke mccreadie
  265. Gavin Everall, co-Director of Book Works / National Publishing and Media Branch, Unite
  266. Brian Griffiths,  Royal Academy Schools, London  
  267. Jenny Brownrigg (GSA UCU)
  268. Chris Evans
  269. Chris Fite-Wassilak, critic, RCA VL
  270. Céline Condorelli, Artist, RCA VL on several occasions
  271. Rose Thomas RCA
  272. John Beagles Edinburgh College of Art
  273. Prof. Susannah Thompson, The Glasgow School of Art
  274. Alison Mulligan Kings College London
  275. Dennis McNulty (Trinity College Dublin)
  276. Rona Lee - Professor of Fine Art, Northumbria University
  277. Will Bradley, Artistic director, Kunsthall Oslo
  278. Helen Nisbet
  279. Graham Fagen
  280. Dr. Fiona Jardine, Glasgow School of Art
  281. David Osbaldeston, Reader in Fine Art, Manchester School of Art
  282. Kwong Lee
  283. Dr Louise O’Hare, RCA, 2010
  284. Lizzie Homersham, writer and editor; Editor, Book Works
  285. Lucy Woollett  PhD student Winchester School of Art, Associate Lecturer BA Fine Art University of Plymouth
  286. Martin Coppell
  287. Gavin Wade, Birmingham City University
  288. Beth Bramich, Associate Lecturer University of the Arts London
  289. Graham Ramsay GSA
  290. Jacqueline Donachie, artist
  291. Alex Heslop, Southwark Unison
  292. Tom Clark, Curator, PhD Student, Goldsmiths, University of London
  293. Gareth Bell-Jones - Curator & Director Flat Time House
  294. Saim Demircan, alumni
  295. Jiarui Wang RCA VC2023
  296. Debbie Croskery
  297. Jean Baird DeMontford University
  298. Amy Austick RCA 2019
  299. Chris Horrocks, Kingston University
  300. Ella Phillips
  301. Patrick Keiller, RCA graduate 1981, RCA research fellow 2002-11
  302. John Grayson
  303. Paris Selinas - former RCA researcher
  304. Martin Westwood BAFA Central Saint Martins
  305. Federica Frabetti (University of Roehampton)
  306. Thomas Kador, University College London
  307. Dr. Alison Brady (UCL Institute of Education)
  308. Seán Doyle, UCL
  309. Serian Carlyle, PhD Student UCL
  310. Dr Niall Geraghty, UCL
  311.       Dr James Kneale, UCL
  312. Professor Jane Rendell, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL
  313. Patrick White - Lecturer, Slade School of Fine Art, UCL
  314. Lily Kahn, UCL
  315. Ed Baines (UCL)
  316. Michael Edwards, Hon Prof UCL
  317. Kirti Durelle, Bartlett UCL
  318. Natasha Soobramanien
  319. Yuxin Jiang, UAL
  320. Dr Chrys Papaioannou (Birkbeck, University of London)
  321. Rhian Keyse, Birkbeck UCU; Co-Chair, UCU National Anti-Casualisation Committee
  322. Dr Robert Stearn, Birkbeck, University of London
  323. Sean O’Brien, Birkbeck College
  324. David Thomas Birkbeck UCU
  325. Jordan Osserman Birkbeck UCU
  326. Noémi Defossez, Birkbeck College, University of London
  327. Tanya Serisier, Birkbeck College
  328. Chris Machell, Birkbeck
  329. Emma Sandon Birkbeck
  330. Chris Simons, RCA 2024
  331. Caroline Douglas PhD Candidate RCA