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Cass board: ‘There are no plans to change the school’s philosophy’

Cass Protest
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The Cass’ board of governors has rubbished claims that plans to relocate the architecture the school to north London would diminish its creativity

The board was responding to a letter sent by architecture diploma students which condemned London Metroplitan University’s controversial plans to move the Aldgate-based faculty to a larger, consolidated campus in Holloway Road.

The students had hit out at the way the plans had been handled and said the move ‘posed a risk to the success of the faculty’.

But writing to the 268 architecture students that signed the letter, chair of the board of governors Clive Jones, said he ‘questioned the view that another move would spell disaster for the Cass’ and added that he would see further investment in the architecture department’s facilities.

‘There are no plans to change the teaching philosophy or ethos of making in the Cass’, said Jones. 

He continued: ‘Given that the move of architecture to Aldgate three years ago resulted in success, I do question the view that another move, with considerably more investment and consultation, spells disaster for The Cass. I don’t believe that this is a certainty. Our architecture department grew and thrived for more than 100 years in Holloway, from 1897, and I personally see no reason why it is certain to fail by returning to Holloway. I appreciate that we may not see eye to eye on this point, but I would ask you to consider the alternative.’

Both letters saw a further escalation in the row surrounding the university’s one campus project which would spell the closure of its Aldgate home alongside the relocation of all its courses to the Holloway Road campus in North London.

The clash over the plans also led to the resignations of head of school Robert Mull and director of Cass Culture Helen Mallinson before Christmas. 

It is understood Mull refused to support London Metropolitan University’s planned sale and relocation of the east London building, which is expected to reap the school £50 million. Earlier this month it was announced that Design Engine had been appointed to work on plans to rehouse the school at Holloway Road (AJ 11.01.16). 

In full: the letter from the board to the architecture students

Dear Architecture Diploma students of the Cass, 

Thank you for your letter dated 21 January 2016. I am sorry to hear of your concern about the One Campus One Community project. I know that there is uncertainty and apprehension about this move, which is perfectly understandable. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to address your concerns in such a way as to help remove, where possible, the concerns that you and your peers may have. 

I agree that the proposals carry a risk for the Cass, as any major move would. That is why it is vital that everyone who genuinely cares about the faculty and its future engages with us to ensure the move is a success. 

I would like to reaffirm that the intention is for the extraordinary teaching staff, studios and workshop facilities that you cite come to Holloway. There are no plans to change the teaching philosophy or ethos of making in the Cass. This is actually an opportunity to invest even more in the facilities to create an even better environment in which to study and socialise. 

I question the view that the move spells disaster for the Cass

Given that the move of architecture to Aldgate three years ago resulted in success, I do question the view that another move, with considerably more investment and consultation, spells disaster for the Cass. I don’t believe that this is a certainty. Our architecture department grew and thrived for more than 100 years in Holloway, from 1897, and I personally see no reason why it is certain to fail by returning to Holloway. I appreciate that we may not see eye to eye on this point, but I would ask you to consider the alternative. 

As chair of the board of governors, I was involved in the decision to consolidate on one campus. I can assure you that many members of staff and expert consultants spent many months last summer analysing all of the options for London Met to secure our university’s future. This included moving the entire university to Aldgate, and exploring several variants of a two campus model. None of these were viable. The only viable option which would ensure the survival of the Cass and wider university was to move all of our teaching to Holloway. This is the reason why that decision was made.

It is unfair to accuse the university of sinister choreography around the student fees deadline

I’m sorry that you feel that the process has been mishandled. The decision to adopt the One Campus plan was taken by the board of governors on the evening of 8 October 2015. The date for that meeting was set in November 2014 – before the One Campus plan was even conceived. I know for a fact that the vice chancellor was incredibly keen to be as open and honest with students as possible, and insisted that this decision was made known to you the following day. In this respect, I do feel it unfair to accuse him or the university of some sinister choreography around the student fees deadline. It simply was not the case. He was acting in the interests of transparency. 

Equally, the reason that no plan was presented to you on 9 October 2015 is that we want students to help us create that plan. The vice chancellor was clear that a major consultation will take place. It was always the plan for students to be involved, but the university first had to appoint an architecture practice to lead the consultation. This meant following the correct procurement processes. A key brief to the architects, now appointed, was to ensure there is the opportunity for students and staff to co-create the new campus. 

I would urge you to take part in these consultation opportunities now taking place. There is an open consultation meeting for all Cass students on 27 January 2016, 4-5pm in room GSB-01, and I know our architects Design Engine – who are responsible for creating the masterplan for our new campus – will need to hear your views. I am certain, too, that they will assure you that there is ample time to create the facilities you need at Holloway. 

I also want to assure you that students’ voices are being heard loud and clear. But we need to act in the interests of all our students, and in the interests of The Cass. Please believe me when I say, we would not be making this decision if we did not think that it was the best option for The Cass’s future. 

Yours sincerely, 

Clive Jones CBE

Chair, board of governors

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