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Universities are looking at the wrong problem

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I would like to back comments about the brain drain from UK universities and the trouble they have recruiting chairs of architecture (AJ 20.2.03) .

However, the situation is worse than it might seem, since those pressures on the specification for a chair are the multifaceted tip of a more profound problem.

The problem is that of a world moving towards more democratic forms of government. The knee-jerk reaction to it on the part of the establishment is to look for people with answers, then find a chair.

However, the problem is not actually a problem but a cause for celebration, and a reappraisal of the way in which we build and teach and even, dare one say, live.

We have learned, we know, that the world is too big a place for large, fierce, even clever individuals. It is also too interesting a place to be saddled with one rump in charge of the chair, any chair. We are in transition and thus the world may seem to be in chaos - but it has always been so.

We stand in great danger of alienating all those students who pass through our universities simply because we honestly believe that they are getting 'less' rather than accept that they need 'different'.

Of course, if we do want to offer 'different', then the government hasn't got the cash for that either, so perhaps the real problem about wanting chairs is that it seems to be a good answer - and here's me thinking that academics should always be looking for better questions. . . .

Dr Bill Thompson RIBA, by email

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