The historical retention of student work, which accounts for the majority of the institution's Drawing & Painting Collection, is in keeping with the long-recognised value of supplying student artists with aspirational and inspirational material in their workplace. Although ECA was founded on the 11th July 1907, the continuation of building work until 1914 meant that the retention of student work did not formally commence until the 1914/1915 academic year and although student studies were retained from this date, the greater part of the remaining Collection begins after the Second World War. Notable artists represented include Anne Redpath, Allan Davie, Elizabeth Blackadder, and John Bellany.
The earliest works, however, precede the foundation of the College, with the transference of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) Life Class to the College in 1909–1910. This group of works includes first class student pieces by Charles K. Robertson, James Lawton Wingate, Samuel John Peploe, George Gibb, Hugh A. Cameron and Robert Brough, amongst others.