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Students 'buzzing'as struggling UCE fights on

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The University of Central England (UCE) has ended months of speculation about the future of architectural education in the West Midlands by vowing to keep its struggling school open.

The Birmingham School of Architecture was thrown into turmoil this summer after a staggering 93 per cent of Part 1 students failed their finals (AJ 15.7.04).

The appalling results sent shock waves through the university and caused the senate to suspend admissions to the course. Days later Thom Gorst, the school's head, resigned.

However, after receiving strong support from local practices and from the RIBA, the university has decided to give the school renewed backing.

Recruitment of students to the BA and Diploma in Architecture courses will resume for the September 2005 intake and the university is to rehouse the school within the faculty of art and design - known as the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design.

Professor Jim Low, who stepped up to acting-head during the crisis, will now become the permanent head of school.

UCE's pro-vice-chancellor Phil Walkling believes the school has turned a corner.

'Everybody likes a hard luck story but, for the profession, getting the school back on course is good news, ' he said 'The position all along was back it or sack it and we couldn't just leave the school as it was.

'To resume recruitment we knew we would have to invest in it with the aim of getting it back up to being a flagship school. We still have an action plan for further development and the attendance is already much better. The studios are buzzing again, ' Walkling added.

Alex MacLaren of student body Archaos was delighted by the news. 'We are very glad and relieved that the only West Midlands school has been saved, ' she said. 'All the comments we have had from students at UCE welcomed this option and felt it would be of benefit to the school and to their work.' Simon Allford, the RIBA's vice-president for education, agreed: 'It can only be good news that England's second city has a school of architecture. There is a long and complex history to UCE's difficulties but it is looking to move forward positively.' l See Editorial, page 20.

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