For the Degree Shows 2017: Writers’ Choice, CIRCA Art magazine has commissioned 21 writers to respond to the work of their chosen graduate from eleven BA Degree Shows and two MA shows on the island of Ireland.

Our main focus was on Undergraduate Fine Art Degree Shows: first, regarding dates, we surveyed the shows taking place between the end of May and mid-June and so MA exhibitions taking place outside of this time period could not be included. We also wished to emphasise the importance of undergraduate work at a time when it is evident that the attention of some art schools is shifting towards post-graduate programmes. And lastly, we want to make a stand for Fine Art, however old fashioned the term. Not as a means of excluding any media, but to insist on a way of making and thinking that has always eluded easy definition and which, perhaps, resonates best with experimentation, research, criticality, irreverence and disruption. As such it is distinct from the functional aims and methodologies of design, no matter how creative the latter.

Given the current global trend and demand for higher education to serve economic objectives – in Ireland this is epitomised by the publication in 2011 of the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030, known as the Hunt Report* – we are concerned that some Fine Art departments might not survive for much longer. Some might argue that there are too many for what the sector can support, but that is reducing an art education to a career and not acknowledging its fantastic educational and emancipatory potential, nor its societal value.

We endeavoured to be as comprehensive as possible in our coverage of the shows and we very much hope that all departments and schools represented will still be around for next year’s Degree Shows: Writers’ Choice. We are of course indebted to the writers for their incisive and expressive responses. Collectively and over the next month their words will convey the talent, energy, interests and concerns of the next generation of artists in Ireland.

The shows covered include: The Institute of Art, Design and Technology at Dún Laoghaire; Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Centre for Creative Arts and Media, Cluain Mhuire and Mayo Campus at Castlebar; Carlow IT, Wexford Campus School of Art and Design; University of Ulster, Belfast School of Art; Sligo Institute of Technology; Limerick School of Art and Design; Cork Institute of Technology, Crawford College of Art and Design; Waterford Institute of Technology; Dublin Institute of Technology; and the National College of Art and Design.

* National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030.