Cambridge phases out architect diploma

August 1, 2003

Students and alumni of Cambridge University's department of architecture have rallied behind a campaign to save a diploma course that leads to professional status.

Academics in the department received a letter from architecture head Alan Short last week informing them that the part 2 diploma in architecture would be phased out in two years.

The increasing cost of meeting criteria for the course set by the Architects Registration Board, coupled with the loss of research funding after the department slipped down in its research assessment exercise rating from a 5* to 4 are believed to be behind the decision.

In the letter, Professor Short says: "After close consideration of the ARB's new criteria for the prescription of the part 2 qualification relevant to the department's diploma in architecture, the department has concluded, very reluctantly, that it is unable to resource the delivery of the prescribed professional content beyond the next two years while meeting its own and the university's research aspirations. Everyone is very sad about it."

The decision has been condemned by architecture students, who are putting together a petition opposing it. Former students and staff, some of whom are top names in the field, have voiced their protest.

Sir Colin St John Wilson, who designed the new British Library and was formerly head of architecture at Cambridge, said the decision promised to have "disastrous consequences".

He added: "If the decision is not simply a piece of eccentricity but sustainable in principle, then presumably all other universities should follow suit. Where then will architecture students complete their diploma studies? Since there are no polytechnics any more, are we to expect that the government will fill the gap overnight with a nationwide distribution of training institutes?"

Other notable academics associated with the department include Daniel Libeskind, designer of the skyscraper complex that will replace the twin towers in Manhattan, who recently gave workshops for architecture diploma students at Cambridge.

Nick Wharton, a recent architecture diploma Cambridge graduate, now working in the profession, said: "The whole department will suffer because there was always a lot of useful feedback between the older and younger students, which will now be lost."

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