Press release

ACES goes online to continue to provide creative support

Published on 27 May 2020

ACES at the University of Dundee, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, have launched an online creative project to ensure senior-phase school pupils continue to receive creative support. 

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ACES at the University of Dundee, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, have launched an online creative project to ensure senior-phase school pupils continue to receive creative support.  

Access to Creative Education in Scotland, known as ACES, is a nationally funded initiative based across the four art schools in Scotland. Their goal is to encourage, educate and empower senior-phase pupils from groups traditionally under-represented in higher education who are looking to apply to art and design-based courses. The broad programme helps pupils to explore their options, create a competitive application and develop a strong portfolio of work. 

Due to the current coronavirus situation ACES have had to halt their usual on campus projects, but this hasn’t stopped the engaging activities. Instead, the University of Dundee’s Helen Hardman, alongside Jess Hume from the University of Edinburgh, launched online programme CollaborACES to continue to creatively support and inspire their senior-phase pupils.  

“When lockdown was first announced I was looking at my project, which is nearly always entirely on campus, and thinking how on earth am I going to continue this?” explained ACES Tayside Project Officer Helen Hardman. 

“I spoke with Jess and we realised we were both feeling the exact same. We both had good, engaged pupils this year and we didn’t want to stop what had been a successful programme. So, we decided to collaborate on an online programme and the very original name CollaborACES came out of that.” 

The ten-week course offers pupils weekly creative challenges, online life drawing, artist research and more. Video demonstrations are posted on the Tayside and Edinburgh ACES Instagram pages along with step by step instructions, underpinned by drop-ins and feedback sessions.  

As a widening access project, ACES is essential in supporting and encouraging school pupils to explore creative higher education opportunities available to them. Project Officers, such as Helen and Jess, help pupils make educated and informed subject choices while providing support throughout university application processes. But perhaps most important of all, the initiative inspires and encourages creativity, something that Helen hopes the online CollaborACES programme is continuing to do during this difficult time. 

“Creativity is a really weird thing, it’s a really intangible thing.” said Helen.  

“Sometimes in times of distress you can channel that into being very creative, or your creativity can disappear. It can be really hard to get it back.  

“We hope the programme gives pupils a sense of achievement and encourages them to keep being creative and know that creative communities are there.” Helen continued. 

“ACES has always been really important because as a widening access project, we are working with schools and working with pupils who might not have had higher education in their sights. It is vital that we continue to provide that encouragement and support. 

 “It must be so hard to navigate the idea of starting university online because it’s such a massive change, such a huge shift in life. 

“For the pupils who will be starting university later this year, I hope this is giving them a bit of a base. I hope it has made them feel a bit more certain about what might happen to them going forward. And I hope it makes the younger pupils realise that you can be creative outside of the classroom.” 

Now in its sixth week, the response to the programme has been overwhelmingly positive, as Helen explained,  

“When we first launched, we had really good feedback straight away.” she said.  

“We immediately had quite a lot of people sign up, both familiar faces and a few newbies as well.  

“We have also had good responses from teachers. A lot of schools have been reposting our content or promoting it on their own social channels. 

“The sense of community and camaraderie is amazing. Even for Jess and I, the programme has kept us going.” 

Based across Scotland at the four art schools in Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, ACES provides guidance and expertise to help school pupils explore their choices and prepare a university application. ACES Tayside works with priority schools within Dundee, Angus, Perth & Kinross and Fife. 


Jessica Rorke

Media Relations Officer

+44 (0)1382 388878