Studio-based art and design education provides high levels of individual attention but has been criticized for the high demands for space and staff time that it places on institutions. Furthermore, retention and attainment rates in art and design subjects demonstrate that not all students develop the supportive, individual relationships with their tutors that facilitate development as creative practitioners. This article reports a case study of an initiative to improve retention amongst first year students studying Art, Design and Architecture subjects, by utilizing recent graduates, employed as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), to create a communications bridge between new students and their subject tutors. The project found that retention rates improved by 50% for these first-year students, who also reported that GTAs are welcoming, approachable, more accessible, and easier to talk to than academic staff. Tutors felt that communication with their students was enhanced by GTAs helping build clear narratives for each student. As the role of GTA becomes more established, further developments will include facilitating peer-to-peer collaboration in the studio through the harnessing and integration of peer mentors to more quickly foster a collaborative and supportive studio culture for new students.
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