Institute aims to be first specialist arts university

September 6, 2002

Art and design academics have encouraged the London Institute to bid to become Britain's first specialist arts university.

Governors of the institute will meet in October to discuss the future direction of its constituent colleges. The move comes a year after Sir Michael Bichard, former permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Skills, became rector.

It follows a ruling by the Privy Council allowing the institute to award research degrees. The institute, which previously awarded degrees through the Open University, was granted degree-awarding powers in 1993.

It would be one of the UK's largest universities, with 34,000 students at five colleges scattered across 20 sites in London. The institute rose from a 3a in art and design in the 1996 research assessment exercise to a 5 last year.

An institute spokesman said: "It's odd that there is no university in this country specifically for the creative arts, given their importance. We now have in place all the key elements."

The UK has universities specialising in the sciences such as the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and Imperial College, London.

The Royal College of Art was granted university status in 1967, but it has only 825 students and no undergraduates. There are several small arts institutions with university college status. But, as yet, there are no universities catering for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in the visual or performing arts.

Roger Wilson, pro vice-chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University and chairman of the Council for Higher Education in Art and Design, said that the scale and "political clout" of the London Institute meant that it was the only UK arts institution that would be able to fulfil the role.

"To be able to sit at the same table as the major UK universities is very important for art and design research," Professor Wilson said. "The UK would be able to have a flagship institution on the international stage. If it's going to happen, it will happen under Sir Michael's leadership."

The institute's five colleges are: Camberwell College of Arts, Chelsea College of Art and Design, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, the London College of Fashion and the London College of Printing.

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