Dissent escalating

Dissent over the One Campus One Community is fast escalating: our ballot for strike action is still open and students threaten to leave Cass, read more in this article from The Architects’ Journal, 26 January 2016

Students threaten to leave Cass as relocation row escalates

Architecture diploma students at the Cass have threaten to quit the East London school unless a solution is found allowing them to stay in their Aldgate home

The claims were made in a letter sent to the school’s board of governors – ahead of a meeting of London Metropolitan University chiefs later today (26 January) – condemning the university’s controversial plans to relocate the institution across the capital.

The architecture students said some of them were considering applying to other universities for September due to the disruption caused and that others were seeking legal advice.

Signed by 268 students – 94 per cent of the department – the letter states that the university’s proposed move from its Aldgate home to the Holloway Road campus in North London ‘posed a risk to the success of the faculty’.

It added: ‘The planned move out of Central House by August 2017 has not been sufficiently considered and is unrealistic. Temporary relocation to another building during the time the Holloway campus is being designed and built will be seriously detrimental to our work and education.

’The risk created by these unforeseen changes jeopardises the trust and the stability of the students. Consequently some students are considering moving to other universities to complete their studies.’

The students also hit out at the way the plans had been handled saying the process had been ‘incompetent, aggressive and misleading, and there had been ‘been insufficient communication between high level management and the student body’.

The letter follows the resignations of head of school Robert Mull and director of Cass Culture Helen Mallinson before Christmas.

It is understood Mull refused to support London Metropolitan University’s planned sale and relocation of the east London building, which is expected to reap the school £50 million. Earlier this month it was announced that Design Engine had been appointed to work on plans to rehouse the school at Holloway Road (AJ 11.01.16).

The move has prompted protests from staff and students and a petition, already signed by more than 2,700 people.

The campaign to prevent the move has been backed by David Chipperfield, Richard Rogers, Peter St John and Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Meanwhile it is undrstood culture minister Ed Vaizey is set to meet the school’s board of governors on Wednesday (27 January).

The Cass has been contacted for comment.

The letter in full

To the Members of the Board,

The undersigned Architecture Diploma students at The CASS Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design urge the University to reconsider the One Campus, One Community proposal. The extraordinary teaching staff, studios and workshop facilities at Aldgate form the strength of the CASS. The current proposal poses a risk to the success of the faculty and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how this success was achieved.

The planned move out of Central House by August 2017 has not been sufficiently considered and is unrealistic. Temporary relocation to another building during the time the Holloway campus is being designed and built will be seriously detrimental to our work and education. The risk created by these unforeseen changes jeopardises the trust and the stability of the students. Consequently some students are considering moving to other universities to complete their studies. The proposed scenario is very different to the quality of education the students, as fee paying stakeholders, signed up to. The expense of an architectural degree and a further two years of post-graduate education can only be justified if the investment is comparable to the quality of education.

Current timescales being suggested are unrealistic

There is no clear plan to guarantee comparable facilities at the Holloway campus. The uncertainty surrounding the faculty over the next few years, whilst alleged consolidation takes place, will discourage prospective CASS students from applying to the course. Current timescales being suggested are unrealistic, considering a master planner has only recently been appointed. The implications of these changes risks further loss to established members of staff, who have shaped the unique work of the institution. This will result in the decline of student recruitment, quality of work and regrettably the steady collapse of the faculty. Students risk having their near term futures detrimentally affected by the damaged reputation of the faculty.

The students feel that the management of the process has been incompetent, aggressive and misleading. There has been insufficient communication between high level management and the student body, suggesting the university is keeping students deliberately uninformed. Information about the plan was first released after the confirmation of enrolment and the payment of tuition fees. An opportunity to discuss proposals at an Open Forum, with the Vice Chancellor, was scheduled when the majority of students were away on annual university study trips.

A centralised campus will dissipate the diverse community of the CASS

The One Campus, One Community project is being justified on the basis of a student survey with an insignificant turnout, misrepresenting the opinions of the Architecture Diploma School and other students at The CASS. Students value the partial autonomy of the faculty within a larger academic institution and the decentralised administration. Our view is that a centralised campus will dissipate the existing diverse and successful community of the CASS In light of this we urge you to withdraw your support of the short sighted one campus plan and find a solution that allows the CASS to remain in Aldgate so that it doesn’t risk destroying our internationally recognised and highly respected community.

Signed,

CASS Diploma Architecture Students

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