Architecture students and staff at the Royal College of Art (RCA) have hit out over a reorganisation which threatens to make four lecturers redundant
The college has started a redundancy consultation process with three contracted part-time staff within its School of Architecture, and with Joe Kerr, the popular head of the cross-disciplinary Critical and Historical Studies programme.
A petition protesting about the possible departure of Kerr has received more than 1,100 signatures, with protesters voicing worries about the direction the college is taking. In addition to the petition, students and staff took part in a rally in support of Kerr.
A source close to the college, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was planning to use savings from the redundancies to fund staff in different roles, who will be expected to take on more research.
The source added: ‘The college is, at the same time, looking to increase student numbers. If they do that, then why are they making staff redundant?’
But, one RCA student, who also wished to remain anonymous, told The Architects’ Journal: ’The RCA is hugely ramping up the number of students it is taking in but not complementing that with enough staff. The staff-student ratio is changing in a way that will be detrimental to students.
‘We are worried that, if it continues, it will affect the reputation of the college and in turn of its alumni.’
The AJ understands that the three part-time lecturers under threat of redundancy are Adrian Friend, principal at Friend and Company; Chris Procter; and Fernando Rihl, co-founders at Procter-Rihl.
None of the trio would comment on the situation, but University and College Union’s (UCU) London official, Greg Barnett, who is representing them, said: ’The reorganisation has placed at risk of dismissal three part-time tutors who been there several years and have a great deal of experience.’
Separately, Kerr is understood to have been asked to apply for a new position of Critical Historical Studies design liaison senior tutor. However, Barnett believes Kerr should have been offered this role automatically, as he has already been carrying out similar duties.
Barnett said: ‘I am very concerned that an experienced and successful academic who has provided good teaching to students and many years of experience has been placed at risk of redundancy for dubious reasons.
If he were to be dismissed it would be a great loss to architectural education at RCA
’If he were to be dismissed it would be a great loss to architectural education at RCA and we will do everything we can to avoid that happening.’
The college said it would not comment on specific cases while individual discussions were taking place, but added it was ‘working towards a reasonable and efficient resolution for all parties’.
And in statement released to the AJ, the RCA said its planned reorganisation would actually see staff numbers increase. It said: ’The profession is changing. The construction industry is changing. Schools must evolve.
’The School of Architecture’s aim is to create a rich and supportive environment for students so that it can equip them with skills to negotiate these challenges with skill and intelligence.
’In order to do this the school needs to ensure that it has the right level of ambition and infrastructure to support this. That is the only motivation for this change.
‘Staffing levels will increase, but I am unable to comment any further while confidential individual discussions are ongoing.’
Rca students for joe kerr