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Respect the academics as the ones in the know

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The first thing I did after reading Ian Davidson's letter (AJ 31.1.02) was replace 'we' with 'I'.

Assuming the opinions were those of the architect known as Ian Davidson, and not of the RIBA, the ARB or the profession at large, cleared up a major ambiguity that gives his letter an authority which may have been inadvertent. I am an academic nit-picking, of course, writing from an Ivory Tower, used to disingenuity, scared of both profound implications and incapable of suggesting positive change. His words not mine.

Davidson assumes that any good school can do the basics and the specialisms. The socalled basics keep growing.

They take up so much of the students' time that already most schools fail to offer options outside the architectural curriculum, in either specialisms or other disciplines, unlike most arts and humanities courses.

This is a great source of concern to those of us who believe that university education should open up vistas, not close them down. If sustainability comes in, followed by more management, followed by the next whim of the profession, other subjects have to go. Structures?

Design? Construction technology? No, let's cut down history and theory. Why? Shouldn't the profession have answers as to what needs to go?

When schools come to write the precise teaching programmes which will supply the sustainable, managerially facile graduate he might require, the actual modules will be vetted at least three times before students are taught them. At departmental, faculty and university level, their quality will be assessed. The results will be in the public domain. And course changes will be vetted by the profession - that discussion will not be made public. The whole process can easily take 12 months. Does Davidson know this?

I am not being positive enough. Here's one suggestion - a joint paper on validation standards from the RIBA and the ARB, after full consultation and recognition of all the thinking in both the Burton report, largely written up by an academic (the late and much-missed Steven Groak), the Stansfield Smith report (academics involved here too) and the QAA Benchmark statement (all academics here I'm afraid)?

Given this might be too difficult, what about another positive thought? I would be happy to join him and any other interested parties in drafting an indicative module that covers the new concerns of his 'we', preferably under the auspices of the RIBA and the ARB, and paid for at commercial rates. Enough voluntary work. This might teach those in the profession the more exact, ok academic, difficulties that decrees from Portland Place and Weymouth Street present.

Here's another suggestion.

Could architects exhibit the same respect for academics that academics show for architects?

In the words of John Junor (I think), come off it Ian!

David Dunster, University of Liverpool

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