Please find below an important public discussion document from academic staff in Cass, arising from their recent Faculty Academic Staff Forum.
This is an important statement that fits well with the overall position adopted by London Met UCU, and we trust that both the university Board of Governors, and our Academic Board, will pay serious and urgent attention to this staff voice.
London Met UCU
THE SIR JOHN CASS FACULTY OF ART ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN
DISCUSSION DOCUMENT from Cass Faculty Forum October 26th 2015
The University Plan: ‘One Campus, One Community’
- On October 9th 2015 London Metropolitan University announced simultaneously to staff and students that it is withdrawing from Aldgate and Moorgate. The reason given is that students prefer to study on a single site and that £125 million will be invested in improving the Holloway campus. Evidence for success is derived from generalised external data. There are no details available, sight of a master-plan for the proposed campus, or pedagogic vision.
- The University will shrink to 10,000 students with a third less staff. The curriculum and Faculty structure will be downsized. Criteria for keeping courses will include sustainability and the cost of relocation.
- Courses still running in Aldgate will be moved north from 2017. No information has been offered on what accommodation and facilities surviving elements of the Cass might occupy.
- The Commercial Road building (built as The London College of Furniture, home of Design (including furniture), film and music teaching, and the site of the main workshops) has already been sold. Courses and facilities here will be moving to temporary accommodation in August 2016. Current first year students and part-time students may have to move twice. Recent promises have been made to move the workshop facilities to the North Campus (November 4th).
- On Friday October 23rd the University announced the closure of 18 Cass courses including the two complete disciplines, Jewellery and Silversmithing, together with the entire music cluster and its Music Technology and Musical Instruments programmes, the latter being the last instrument-making BSc course in the country.
- ‘One campus, one community’ requires one brand and one voice. The intended future and identity of ‘The Cass’ is unclear.
- This development plan is the outcome of ‘Project Oak Tree’ that was run by the Parthenon group of Ernst and Young and presented to the Board of Governors on October 8th. There was no academic or student involvement in the project or presentation to the Governors.
- Cass students feel misrepresented by what the University has said about their views, and outraged by being ‘sold’ the Aldgate Bauhaus by unwitting staff right up until the announcement.
- The staff union, UCU, on both the North and South campus, believes the University’s ‘Oak Tree Project’ and its adopted redevelopment plan is rushed, short sighted and detrimental to the university as a whole, because it will narrow student opportunities.
- The Union does not believe the Cass will survive the move. UCU strongly supports playing to the strengths of a two-campus university. Moorgate may have less specific needs and be able to move. The Cass should stay.
- The Cass already faces major disruption and anxiety around the stalled move from Commercial Road to Calcutta House.
- The move represents the end of the heritage as well as assets brought together in London Guildhall University with no way back.
The tag ‘Aldgate Bauhaus’ was first used in the Guardian in 2012 in celebration of the merger of the Faculty of Architecture and Spatial Design (ex Polytechnic / University of North London), and the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Media and Design, (ex London Guildhall University). The merger built on their shared pedagogy, forms of production and social engagement. It has been a real success, breathing new life into a strategically situated and deeply rooted community of artists and makers at the heart of the creative industries in the East End.
- is a forward looking model of how to teach the creative arts and industries in a multi-cultural twenty-first century city.
- supports a diverse and rich ecology of courses that share workshops, facilities, events, a common pedagogical approach, curriculum and delivery structure.
- is deeply connected to its location. The Cass is part of the East End’s own ‘Albertopolis’. Central House was purpose built as an art and craft school in the 1960’s, opposite the Whitechapel The Commercial Road building, with large industrial standard workshops, was also purpose built in the 1960s as a furniture design and making college. Further workshops, with a range of CNC controlled machines, were added in a new building near Commercial Road in the 1990s. This cluster has long benefitted from easy access to nearby museums and design education projects, including ones started by Prince Albert in support of British manufacturing and its workers. (Prince Andrew is the most recent in the lineage of Royal Patrons that go back to Albert in 1851).
- is formally recognised by the borough of Tower Hamlets as integral to the character and regeneration of the mixed use / cultural, social and economic ecology of the East End.
- is defined by the unique Cass workshops, the huge range of technologies they include, the wealth of training skills they support, the body of highly skilled practitioner-technicians they offer. The workshops are part of a making legacy that goes back to the Huguenots, via the likes of Lethaby, Ercolani, Parker, Day and Hilton. They are a key asset for the twenty-first century creative industries and several reviving sectors of manufacture.
- represents diversity at every level. Not only does the Cass serve a huge diversity of students, it has a renowned outward looking ethos, working with the community and city through live and creative projects. This is a core value derived from both founding institutions, is an important strength of the University and one of the reasons it is respected and loved.
- is attracting students. Applications are going up year on year (the University applications are otherwise in decline / Cass applications are climbing faster than its London competitors). Students are attracted by the combination of location, facilities, ethos and our direct involvement in the workplace. The Cass has world-class teacher/practitioners and its pedagogy is embedded in the life-cycles of the creative and making industries.
- has a roll call of distinguished alumni of staff and students, from all backgrounds. For example, Cass graduates founded the London-based collective Assemble, several of whom now teach in the Cass. They work across art, architecture and design to drive social change and have been nominated for this year’s Turner Prize.
- has only just completed the refurbishment of Central House (by Cass based architects ARU). It is appropriately creative, extrovert and humane, rather than corporate in design.
The sudden decision of London Metropolitan University to sell the remaining assets of London Guildhall University should be revisited. The assets include Central House, the purpose developed home of its art school now hub of the thriving Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design. There are very strong arguments in favour of keeping the Cass in its present location and holding on to its unique and very successful ecology of disciplines and facilities. The Cass is important to the culture and economic regeneration of the East End and its creative industries, and through that is of significance to the nation. It offers real opportunities to students from diverse backgrounds – and they go on to achieve amazing things. The Cass Faculty Forum requests that the University develops and supports an alternative ‘two campus’ scenario which involve the Cass staying in Aldgate.
Cass Faculty Forum October 26th 2015