The real arts academy

November 8, 2002

I wish Sir Michael Bichard the best of luck in his bid for university status for the highly distinguished London Institute (News, THES , October 25). But he cannot be allowed to get away with the claim that "there is nothing like an arts university in the UK".

Goldsmiths College plays precisely that role while still strong in the humanities, education and in the social, behavioural and cognitive sciences. Goldsmiths is not just an arts university, but it exists as one. Its claim to such a label is as good as or better than the institute's, now or in the foreseeable future, with provision for visual arts, drama, design, media and communications, music as well as art psychotherapy, culture, history of art and creative writing.

Sir Michael talks about the London Institute having "a strong brand at home and abroad". That is true - but is it stronger than Goldsmiths, whose name has become a by-word for British inspiration of contemporary art? The London Institute is thinking of a name change - we do not have to. Not only are our alumni the majority on the Turner Prize shortlist, we are developing a new arts complex with a centre for cognition, computation and culture.

If research is the test, Sir Michael's comment is particularly puzzling. In the most recent research assessment exercise, Goldsmiths entered in the four creative arts units of assessment (art and design, communications, drama and music) obtaining a 5, 5*, 4, 5 profile - ahead of all other institutions that submitted in the same four. The London Institute has comparable strengths in art and design, but it has nothing like Goldsmiths' range.

I have great admiration for Sir Michael and for the institute, but the claim to a unique "arts university" status cannot be sustained.

Ben Pimlott
Warden, Goldsmiths College
University of London

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