Students are protesting the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) Hong Kong’s decision to close in June. The school has been conducting online classes since February due to the coronavirus, but gave no reason for ending its program indefinitely other than “student safety and academic quality.”
Students “in good standing” who do not complete their degrees by June may have the option of transfering from SCAD Hong Kong to the college’s campus in the United States. While tuition fees remain comparable between the US and Hong Kong branches, expenditures for relocation and visas have remained unaddressed.
An online petition, signed by more than 2,600 students and alumni of the private American art school’s Hong Kong outpost, reads: “On the 13th of March, we received an email informing us that the SCAD Hong Kong location would be closed after the spring 2020 quarter. This is the first time this information was communicated to us; there was no prior indication, discussion or warning that this would be the case. . . . We are greatly disappointed with the lack of communication between SCAD and us students, especially in regards to a decision that is life-changing and requires careful thought and planning.”
ArtAsiaPacific reports that SCAD Hong Kong, which has been in operation since 2010, has a $4 million financial deficit due to low enrollment. The tuition fee of $38,440 per year for full-time undergraduate students is considered unfeasible for most local students, while students from mainland China who would be able to shoulder the financial cost of the institution often prefer to go abroad for their educations. The school only recruited eighty-eight students, or 40 percent of its target, in 2010—last year only half of its target, 156 students.
For its Hong Kong branch, SCAD invested $200 million into renovating the former North Kowloon Magistracy courthouse, a prime example of midcentury civic architecture, in 2009. The project was part of the Hong Kong Development Bureau’s revitalization plans. At the time, the private school’s use of the historic courthouse, which was designated for nonprofit organizations, proved controversial. The school plans to return the building to the government, while future plans for it, and many of SCAD Hong Kong’s students, remain up in the air.