Dundee University scraps Comics Masters design course, claiming numbers had dwindled

Dundee University Comics Masters Design course banner

Despite its long-standing success and wider commitment to the arts, Dundee University has axed five masters courses for the next academic year, citing dwindling student numbers – including its Comics Masters Design course, having scrapped the MLitt course last year.

The Comics Masters Design course, which, at close, had fees of £8765 per year for British students and carried International fees of £20,900, offered a blend of academic analysis and creative practice; the opportunity to learn about the comics medium and industry and its relation to different genres and cultures across various media. Students were challenged to think critically about these ideas and relate analysis of style and form to theory, context, politics, and history.

Alumni of comic courses at the University, launched in 2016, set up by Philip Vaughan with much publicity, including a stand at New York Comic Con, include illustrator and cartoonist Steven Affleck; Abertay University lecturer in the Division of Games and Arts and Commando comics writer Hailey Austin; illustrator and cartoonist Zu Dominiak; freelance illustrator and comics artist Rebecca Elise; Nick Johnson, more recently writer and director of Sunburnt Unicorn, cartoonist and professor at AUArts; fine artist turned bureaucracy-survivor making a ‘mid-life’ bid for graphic novel glory, Graham Johnstone; Cat Laird, co-founder of the CHIP Collective; 2000AD artist Anna Morozova; comic and storyboard artist Deya Muniz; comic artist Emma Oosterhous, co-creator and illustrator of Grand Slam Romance; translator Louise Quirion; cartoonist and illustrator Katie Quinn; Fred Eggs publisher and creator David Robertson; 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine Gary Welsh; and award-winning comics artist, writer and illustrator Letty Wilson.

It’s feared the end of the course could be detrimental to the city that’s home to BEANO and Commando.

Professor Chris Murray was among the world’s first professors of comic studies, based at the University. Guest lecturers included Dave Gibbons, Frank Quitely, Cam Kennedy, and the late Ian Kennedy.

Dundee University has also closed four other masters courses, all arts-related: MSc Design for Healthcare, MFA Drawing, MFA Arts and Humanities and MSc Art Science and Visual Thinking.

“A dreadful decision”

The decision has been met with dismay by comic creators across Scotland and beyond, one downthetubes source noting claims of “dwindling numbers” is a bit of a red herring, as, they believe, the University took the decision before the deadline for applications.

“This is heartbreaking,” Nick Johnson commented on X. “I loved attending this program and I’ve been recommending it to plenty of Canadian grads and artists since I graduated in 2020. The professors are top notch and Dundee’s comic history made it the perfect home for this program. Sad news.”

“It’s a dreadful decision,” says comic creator Cat Laird, co-founder of Chip Collective, writing on X “as now the closest equivalent for Scottish students is England, which is unaffordable to many.

“f you are as disappointed as I am about this decision I encourage you to respectfully contact them and tell them so. Comics are not a lesser form of communication, and the students with their hearts set on the course deserve better… The more people who speak up the more they have to pay attention.”

The Courier newspaper reports one comic artist, who did not wished to be named told them “As an art form, (comics) is really underrepresented and underfunded.

“And I feel like this is another nail in the coffin for it – not even the home of comics takes it seriously enough to dedicate time to a masters.

“I know so many young students who have come to Dundee specifically because it’s the home of comics and it has this amazing course.

“But why would people stay in Dundee to further their education if one of the main draws of it is no longer represented? If you remove that entry point for people to study it and then further their own career, you will lose all of these people.”

Dundee University still offers Undergraduate courses in Animation, Art & Design (General Foundation), Illustration and more. Teesside University, in Middlesbrough, still offers a Comics and Graphic Novels MA, as does Leeds University, and the University of Brighton, among others.

University Statement

In a statement to The Courier, a spokesperson for Dundee University said: “We have recently completed a review of our portfolio of taught postgraduate programmes and have withdrawn some courses in DJCAD for next year, partly due to low applicant numbers at this point in the recruitment cycle.

“Alternative options have been made available to all applicants, and we continue to offer a great deal of flexibility across a wide range of programmes as we look forward to fostering the work of the next generation of students.

“The alternative programmes offered provide modules and teaching that were already shared with the withdrawn programmes, and students will still have access to these and to the same resources – including studios, technical workshops, internships, and specialist staff.”

Dundee University is home to Scottish Centre for Comics Studies, which holds a collection of original artworks by comics artists and cartoonists from the late 19th century up to today. These include also original Punch cartoons, various pieces of original comics art from DC Thomson titles such as the Beano, the Rover, Bunty, the Sunday Post and other titles, and various pieces of original comic art collected and donated by DC Thomson writer and editor Morris Heggie.

Categories: British Comics, Comics, Comics Education News, Comics Studies, Creating Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News

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