School of thought says we must keep architecture on the curriculum
The University of Central England (UCE) still has a lot of work to do but the news about its architecture school is good. It is cheering that, after a disastrous couple of years, the university has made a firm commitment to continuing both its degree and its diploma courses, with intake starting in September 2005. Now all it has to do is to rebuild its reputation and attract high-quality students. This is not just about saving an architecture course (and cheering up those students currently completing their courses there). Traditionally, UCE has been knitted into the fabric of architecture in Birmingham, with some of the most wellknown practices formed by its alumni, with practitioners teaching there, and with students spending their years-out locally. Although some of these links have weakened in the past few years, as the school has lost its way, practitioners regard this weakening with regret. And with the rising cost of education forcing more students to remain at their parents' homes, local links are likely to strengthen.
In a different way, the school at Cambridge (AJenda, pages 18-19) has also forged important local links, particularly through the Cambridge Futures project, and also within the university. Unless it is reprieved, the university's general board will take a definite decision to close the school on the 8 December. Its decision is triggered by the cost of running an architecture school, by the slippage in research-related money as the result of the last assessment exercise, and by its expressed belief that architecture is a vocational course with no place in a university. The last is simply ludicrous - what about medicine? What about law? Cambridge is a popular, oversubscribed course, with good links nationally and internationally, and an array of distinguished alumni. There is some glory by association for architecture in just being at such an internationally famous university.
Most importantly Cambridge, like UCE, has a distinctive reputation. Like all our good schools, it is a school with a personality. Just as the nature of practice is diversifying, and the range of roles that architects can fill is growing, so we need all the differing good models of architectural education that we can have. We are keeping UCE, which we need. We also need Cambridge.