26 May 2016
The Scotsman (p.14)

Glasgow effect artist Ellie Harrison has unveiled the first fruits of her taxpayer-funded project – a 4,500-word essay in which she claims academics need time off to “nurture the singularity of the self”.

Despite winning £15,000 to stay in Glasgow for a year, Ms Harrison concludes it is bad for academics to get research time based on their success in winning grants.

Ms Harrison at the centre of a row earlier this year after it emerged that she had won the award from Creative Scotland for the Glasgow Effect.

Critics blasted the project as a “poverty safari” wasting public cash at a time when councils are strapped for cash and schools are suffering.

The 4,496-word essay, “Practising what we Preach”, has been published on her personal website.

It is designed as an an exploration of “the many problems with the higher education system”.

In it she writes: “We must put an end to the practice of allocating time for research sporadically to individual staff based on their ‘success’ in winning research grants.”

She calls staff working on research a “financial burden”, adding: “Despite the pressure to win research grants, the evidence now shows that ‘research doesn’t pay.’”

She says that academics working in research also suffer more from the “isolation of over-specialisation”, which in turn means they suffer from “the phenomenon of bulls**t jobs”.

She offers an alternative, writing: “Instead, we can learn from the success of some excellent creative organisations who grant all members of staff regular research sabbaticals to allow them to ‘nurtur[e] the singularity of the self.’”

She goes on to say that universities should be more like “FoAM” – a Brussels based “network of transdisciplinary labs for speculative culture”.

The artist group is admirable, because members “hibernate every four years to resist to the constant drive towards productivity.”

She also points to another Dutch group “who have regular practices of pausing and reflection… to unlearn busyness.”

Ms Harrison recently announced that Dundee University would no longer support her project because it would be critical of their institution.

Having previously offered her paid leave for the project, they changed the arrangement to “special leave” without pay.

As Ms Harrison said a portion of the £15,000 grant was to be used to cover her living expenses, it is understood that the withdrawal of her university salary may mean more of the cash will be used to cover her personal living costs.

Writing in her newsletter in March she explained her plans to use half of the money to “live off”.