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Hard-up Cambridge drops diploma

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Cambridge University has startled the architectural world with news that it has decided to abandon its Part 2 diploma course.

The university blames 'unfair research ratings', and the cost of meeting the ARB's prescription, for forcing it to make this year's intake the last.

The decision follows the Cambridge School of Architecture's demotion in last year's academic research ratings from a five-star school to a four, a move that left it with a funding black hole.

In a statement, head of school Alan Short said the move to abandon the diploma had not been taken lightly. 'After close consideration of the ARB's new criteria for Part 2, the department has concluded, very reluctantly, that it is unable to resource the delivery of the university's research aspirations.'

But the university is adamant that its highly regarded graduate department, the Martin Centre, is safe, as are postgraduate courses.

'The department will concentrate on its three very successful MPhil courses and its growing community of research students, ' Short's statement goes on. 'And we propose to introduce a fourth MPhil in urban, regional and transportation planning within the next two years, consolidating its very successful graduate school.'

However, alumni have reacted with horror to the closure. Eric Parry, a former teacher at the school, described the decision as 'very sad'. 'It is simply that the research ratings system is completely off the mark and at odds with what is best for architecture, ' Parry told the AJ. 'As a result, there seems to have been a cash shortfall.

'The Cambridge school has a completely different attitude to other schools that do diplomas, ' Parry added. 'It had a kind of training that architecture will surely miss.'

Stephen Greenberg, director of London-based Metaphor, agreed.

'When I think of the people that were there and the people it has produced, it is a real shame, ' he said. 'People should look at why this has happened and try to learn lessons.'

He added: 'If Cambridge can be forced to shut its diploma course, then other schools should sit up and take note because it could happen to them.'

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