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December 3, 2004

The Royal Institute of British Architects views with great concern the proposal by Cambridge University to close its department of architecture ("Thriving school faces the axe", November 26).

We understand that the university's concern is the department's fall to a grade 4 in the 2001 research assessment exercise. Riba made clear to the funding council its concern that the panel for the built environment in 2001 had insufficient representation from the architectural profession to make valid judgements on the quality of architectural research. Cambridge was ranked fourth of the 20 departments submitted.

Riba has seen the detailed changes proposed by the department to improve its research performance and is convinced that these, plus the changes in panel membership and methodology promised for the next RAE, will produce the outcome Cambridge requires.

The department's undergraduate programme recruits the best-qualified students of any school of architecture in the country and attracts more undergraduate applications per place than any other school in Cambridge. It is vital to the profession and the quality of future UK architecture that the very best students continue to be attracted to the subject. Cambridge has a crucial role to play in this.

Jack Pringle
President elect, Riba

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