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Supporters bid to save struggling UCE from 'death knell' of closure

Academics, architects and students have launched a bid to save the University of Central England's (UCE) struggling school of architecture.

Kevin Singh, a director of the postgraduate diploma in architecture, has issued a document aiming to galvanise support for the school, which saw an astonishing 90 per cent of students fail their exams in July (AJ 15.7.04).

This unprecedented move follows revelations in a leaked document by the UCE's vice-chancellor Peter Knight, in which he warned that a decision to close the school could be made before the end of the year.

Now some supporters have hit out at the rumours over the possible closure, claiming it could amount to discrimination.

RIBA Council member David Thorp said: 'In a city with so many ethnic minorities, it seems mad to close such a central hub. It shows a middleclass bias.

'Closure would be the death knell for architects of the future from Birmingham. Students just can't afford to move around the country anymore.

I am full-square behind Kevin Singh and what he is trying to do.' 'It's weird, because the UCE had an exhibition last year and everybody said how good it was, ' Thorp added.

However, the UCE's pro-vice-chancellor Phil Walkling remains pragmatic about the future.

'The school of architecture has done tremendously well to put things right, but we must now make some estimate on the survivability of the school, ' he said.

'Has interest in the school been so badly damaged by these events? We recognise that to survive we must fully invest in the school because the reality is it has to be sustainable in the long term.

'With a course lasting seven years, I also wonder if the structure of architectural education needs attention. It is big business and potentially very expensive.' Walkling was keen to reassure those who were already on the course. 'Obviously people will be nervous, that's only human. If it is bad news and the school will not continue, we will manage it so the students will not suffer, ' he added.

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