The Ruskin is uniquely positioned as an intimately-scaled art school (about 130 students) embedded within a research-intensive university. Its dynamic, inter-disciplinary structure allows artists and theorists to work closely together and to respond quickly and flexibly to developments within the contexts of Oxford University, the wider art world, and an increasingly uncertain international climate. The Ruskin remains at the top of the league tables among art schools in the UK, and was top of its category in the 2021 REF (Research Excellence Framework) exercise. One of its core commitments is moving towards an anti-racist future.
Students during gallery visit / David Tolley
Dating from 1871, when Victorian art critic and writer John Ruskin first opened his School of Drawing, the School has enjoyed a variety of guises. As Oxford’s first Slade Professor, Ruskin intended to develop a course for the University leading to a degree in art. Equipped with a teaching collection of hundreds of watercolours, drawings and more than 400 prints, including works by Dürer, Tintoretto and Turner, the School was originally housed in the University Galleries, and continued its work in what became the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, finally moving to its current High Street site in 1975. Undergraduate degrees in Fine Art (BFA) were first awarded by the University of Oxford in 1981. A doctoral (DPhil) programme followed in 2006, and an intensive, one-year Masters of Fine Art (MFA) was added in 2015.
In October 2015, the Ruskin opened a second Fine Art building to augment its High Street premises, in East Oxford's Bullingdon Road, on the site of a former warehouse and studio annex. Designed by Spratley Studios Architects, the building houses purpose-built, state-of-the-art facilities and studios, and won an RIBA South Award in 2016.
The Ruskin enjoys vibrant relationships with Oxford’s Department of the History of Art, the School of Anatomy, the Department of Engineering Science, the Institute of Archaeology, the Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, and many other parts of the University. In addition, connection with Modern Art Oxford has enabled Ruskin students to stage exhibitions, performances and screenings in their galleries.
The Ruskin benefits from rotating the post of Head of School amongst current faculty members. At present, the role is with Professor Ian Kiaer, while previous Heads of School have included Professors Michael Archer, Jason Gaiger, Hanneke Grootenboer, Brian Catling, Anthony Gardner and Kristen Kreider. The School was formerly run by a series of Ruskin Masters, ending with Richard Wentworth in 2010, and subsequently cultural historian Jane Garnett acted as Chair to the Ruskin Committee (until 2021), providing a vital bridge between the University and its Equality and Diversity aspirations, and the School.
In 2021, following worldwide calls for racial justice, and after one year of intensive external consultation and internal conversations with staff and students, the Ruskin committed to 38 actions (please click here for more information). Most are now in progress or completed, moving the Ruskin towards our ever-evolving vision of an anti-racist school.