The school is housed in one of Glasgow's most famous buildings, often considered the masterpiece of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, built 1897-1909. Severely damaged by a fire in May 2014, the building is now undergoing a careful restoration.
Founded in 1845 as the Glasgow Government School of Design, it changed its name to The Glasgow School of Art in 1853. It was first located at 12 Ingram Street and moved to the McLellan Galleries in 1869. In 1897, work started on a new building to house the school on Renfrew Street. The building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, chosen for the commission by the school's director, Francis Newbery, who oversaw a period of expansion and fast-growing reputation. The first half of the building was completed in 1899 and the second half in 1909. The School's campus has grown since that time and in 2009, an international architectural competition was held to find an architect-led design team who would develop the Campus Masterplan and design the Phase 1 building. The competition was won by New York-based Steven Holl Architects working with Glasgow-based JM Architects. The Reid Building was completed in 2014 and sits opposite the Mackintosh Building on a site previously occupied by the Foulis, Assembly and Newbery Tower Buildings.
The school has produced most of Scotland's leading contemporary artists including, since 2005, 30% of Turner Prize nominees and four recent Turner Prize winners: Simon Starling in 2005, Richard Wright in 2009, Martin Boyce in 2011 and Duncan Campbell in 2014. The School of Architecture is highly rated by the architecture profession and the School of Design has been described by Design Week as "leaders in design education".
The School is organised into four academic schools, the Mackintosh School of Architecture (named after Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who is also the GSA's most revered alumnus), the School of Design and the School of Fine Art, each with its own academic programmes and research centres. A fourth school, School of Simulation and Visualisation (formerly the Digital Design Studio), specialising in digital and virtual technologies was introduced in October 2016. The GSA also has a long-established portfolio of non-degree provision, including leisure classes.
Disciplines include Fine Art Photography, founded by Thomas Joshua Cooper in 1982, Painting and Printmaking, Sculpture and Environmental Art, Product Design, Product Design Engineering, Textile Design, Fashion Design, Silversmithing and Jewellery, Interior Design, Communication Design, Interaction Design and Architecture.
The original Mackintosh building was severely damaged by fire on 23 May 2014. The extent of the damage and the future of the building have still to be determined. An initial fire service estimate was that 90% of the building and 70% of its contents had been saved.
The fire, which began in the basement, quickly spread upwards and, although it was brought under control quite quickly, significant damage was done to the historic studios and stairways. The renowned Mackintosh library was destroyed; the archive was water damaged, but can be air and freeze dried There were no reported casualties.
The fire broke out as students were preparing for their Degree Show. Eyewitnesses said that the fire appeared to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building just before 12:30pm. Investigators later determined that the cause was not a faulty projector, but "a canister of expanding foam" used in close proximity to a hot projector, causing flammable gases to ignite.  According to The Scotsman newspaper, the use of aerosol cans is against school policy. However, the report from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service found that the design of the building contributed greatly to the spread of the fire: "…the number of timber lined walls and voids, and original ventilation ducts running both vertically and horizontally throughout the building“ as well as "a vertical service void," which "ran the entire height of the building …allowed flames, hot gases, and smoke to travel.” In addition, an intended "fire suppression system" for the building had not been completed. A school staff member was on hand when the blaze first ignited, but was unable to contain the fast-spreading flames.
A careful restoration process began soon after the fire; work on restoring and recreating the Macintosh design, including the famous library interior, started in 2016. The restoration is taking great pains to perform the work with historical accuracy, including through the use of original wood species such as longleaf pine and tulipwood. 
The school currently has two separate campuses: the School of Fine Art, Digital Culture, and MFA programmes are in the vicinity of the fire damaged Mackintosh building. The School of Design - Textiles, Jewellery & Silversmithing, Product Design Engineering, Product Design, Communication Design and Interior Design - the Centre for Advanced Textiles, Design Innovation Studio and the Where the Monkey Sleeps cafe have recently moved back to the Garnethill Campus with the occupation of the new Reid Building.
The Institute of Design Innovation (InDI), a research centre of the School of Design is based in Forres and the school has a Representative Office in Beijing, PRC. The GSA has a specialist research and postgraduate centre - Digital Design Studio (DDS) based on the southside of Glasgow in a new facility at Pacific Quay by the River Clyde in a building called The Hub.
The Mackintosh Building was the heart of the campus and continued to be a functioning part of the school until a major fire on 23 May 2014. The building housed the Fine Art Painting department, first year studios and administrative staff. It houses the Mackintosh gallery which held many different exhibitions throughout the year. The Mackintosh Gallery (also known as the Mackintosh Museum) was the only part of the Mackintosh building open to the general public; all other areas of the school were only viewable by guided tour. An exception to this rule was the Degree Show where all the studios within the Mackintosh building were opened to allow people to view the graduating year's final artworks.
Since the fire of May 2014 the School of Fine Art has been temporarily housed in a campus at the Tontine Building, Merchant City, Glasgow  while the Mackintosh Building undergoes restoration and refurbishment takes place in the newly acquired Stow Building.
The Mackintosh School of Architecture and the school's library and learning resources are situated in The Bourdon Building.
The Barnes Building on West Graham Street is the base for the Sculpture and Environmental Art, International Foundation and Interaction Design programmes.
An international architectural competition was launched in March 2009 to find the design team to prepare a campus masterplan and detailed design of the first new building phase. The winner of the competition was Steven Holl Architects, working in partnership with Glasgow’s JM Architects and Arup Engineering. Work commenced in 2011 and continued until 2013. The building was structurally complete in 2013. The new building has been named the Reid Building after the last Director: Dame Seona Reid, and won Building of the Year at the 2014 Architect's Journal awards - the AJ100 Awards in May 2014, and the Award for Arts or Entertainment Structures at the IStructE's 2014 Structural Awards.
GSA runs an annual public programme of exhibitions and events. The Reid Gallery has a curated programme that works with contemporary artists, designers and architects; GSA staff and students; and makes connections to the heritage and architecture of the Glasgow School of Art and its collections.
Since September 2012, the GSA has delivered years 3 and 4 of its Bachelor of Arts (Hons) Programmes in Communication Design and Interior Design in Singapore, in partnership with the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), based at the Temasek Polytechnic Campus in Tampines. The programmes enable Diploma students from one of Singapore’s Polytechnics to progress from a Diploma to a BA (Hons) degree. Students studying in Singapore benefit from the same programme of study and award as in the home institution, along with resources and equipment according to GSA specifications.
Students and teaching
The GSA has been ranked in the top 10 of specialist educational institutions in the Guardian University Guide, ranking it the top specialist visual arts institution in the UK. Its degrees are validated by the University of Glasgow.
Of its 1,900 students, almost 20% are international, 20% from the Rest of the UK and approximately 20% are postgraduate.
HESA statistics show GSA to have one of the lowest student drop-out rates in the UK.
In 2002 the funding councils published figures which placed Glasgow School of Art as having the second-lowest number of students from a working-class background out of a list of UK higher education institutions. With 7% of its students coming from social classes IIIm, IV and V (skilled manual, semi-skilled or un-skilled workers), the figures put it above Oxford and Cambridge in terms of exclusivity. Glasgow School of art disputed the figures, explaining that the majority of its applicants did not come through the UCAS system on which the statistics were based so the numbers involved were very small. This was reinforced by HEFCE, which said the figures should be treated with care.
In March 2016 the Commission on Widening Access (CoWA) found the percentage of Scottish-domiciled full-time first degree entrants from SIMD 20 (20% most deprived areas of Scotland) at GSA was 22.2%. This is the second highest in Scotland, according to CoWA's report, with only University of the West of Scotland having higher.
Research and knowledge exchange
The Glasgow School of Art is host to a number of high-profile research projects, funded primarily through the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Economic and Social Research Council, although other UK research councils have funded projects in the past.
At the last Research Assessment Exercise in 2014, the GSA had the largest art and design research community in Scotland and with 23% of research evaluated as world leading. The GSA has a number of research centres including Digital Design Studio, Mackintosh Environmental Architectural Research Unit, Institute of Design Innovation, Centre for Advanced Textiles and the Glasgow Urban Lab
Research professors include Professor Thomas Joshua Cooper, Professor Alastair Macdonald, Professor Paul Anderson, Professor Tim Sharpe, Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam OBE, Professor Ken Neil, Professor Johnny Rodger, Professor Christopher Platt and Professor Brian Evans.