More universities could be in for the troubles the Cass has faced, says Fionn Stevenson
Robert Mull and Helen Mallinson’s resignations from London Metropolitan University (LMU) is the result of their principled stand against a vulnerable institution being first in line for the current government ideological project for mass marketisation of higher education.
The Cass is due for a major cull as part of the move to a new site, in order to make the university more ‘economically viable’. LMU is easy meat, given its recent troubles with student visas, but no other institute of higher education should think for a moment that it will be spared the same treatment.
The government’s latest Green Paper on higher education makes it quite clear that it wants to see students turned into product consumers rather than thinkers, and to see private and commercial providers step in to take over a ‘failing’ public service. Where is the evidence that higher education is failing, when our programmes, teaching and research remain the envy of the world? Where have we seen this iniquitous action before – NHS, anyone?
In its quest for simple economic packages that suit the market, this government will strip core values of diversity and inclusivity away from higher education. Bursaries are no substitute for equal access. Equally, architecture programmes are particularly vulnerable if they continue to privilege the notion of making, with all the extra costs that are involved, and which require subsidy if we are to be able to offer students all programmes on a level playing field of fees and access.
Jack Self has captured the situation perfectly in a recent article in The Architectural Review:
‘The Greeks believed the advance of civilisation only occurred when politics triumphed over economics or, in other words, when collective interest succeeded over the interests of particular families. The opposite – when the interests of private factions made governance of the city impossible – was what the Greeks defined as civil war, and their word for it was “stasis”: the time when nothing can go forward.’
It is surely time to take a stand, collectively to resist this ‘stasis’ and support genuinely progressive architectural education.
Fionn Stevenson is head of Sheffield School of Architecture at Sheffield University