A new petition has been launched urging University of the Arts London (UAL) to stop taking a commission from students who sell their work at degree shows.

The Cut the Commission! petition claims that UAL is taking up to a 20% cut from sales of art work and that this is having a negative impact on students. The petition also states that the commission is inconsistent across the University, with some colleges taking nothing while others take a varying portion. UAL colleges include Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication and Wimbledon College of Arts.

Shelly Asquith, president of the UAL Students’ Union, believes students are right to protest against the commission. She said: “Instead of simply acknowledging the cost of the service provided, this has been added as a commission, which represents something different. The petition is right to point out that this is an academic community, not a private gallery; and that is an important principle to stand by, not just for students but for the wider creative community who come to see our shows.”

Managing the sale process

Asked to comment on the petition, a spokesperson for UAL said: “The degree shows are not a commercial enterprise, but the culmination of the student academic journey. The University is not a private gallery and not set up to handle art sales. During the degree shows we charge a 20% service charge which we ask students to add on top of the price of their work so they still receive the full price of the work. So, the buyers of the work pay the 20% fee and not the students.”

UAL also pointed out that all sales are facilitated by London Artscom Ltd, whose staff salaries are not paid for by university student fees, but generated by short course income. “They manage the sale process to ensure students are protected and don’t get ripped off by more experienced buyers. This might include negotiating a high discount or promising to ‘pay after the show’ and then offering less later or reneging on the sale completely.”

UAL claims that what it offers is ultimately a more secure process: “All sales are guaranteed by London Artscom Ltd and even if a buyer reneges after the sale the students still get paid.”

Nevertheless, students at UAL are pushing ahead with their petition. When quizzed about what the solution may be, Asquith said: “I would welcome a move from UAL which scraps the commission but continues to help students sell their work when they choose to, as well as working to secure them resale rights and other protection.”

More on a-n.co.uk:

a-n Degree Shows Guide 2014 – 48-page guide to this year’s shows across the UK