Institute in bid to win university status

October 25, 2002

The London Institute is to make a formal bid to become the UK's first specialist arts university.

A meeting of the board of governors this week agreed to put in an application in March, having secured specialist research degree-awarding powers just over a month ago.

Rector Sir Michael Bichard said: "This will be the culmination of 15 years of work and will provide us with a unique position. There is nothing like an arts university in the UK. The sciences have Umist and Imperial College. The sector deserves a university of its own."

He said that the number of jobs supported by the creative industry was growing faster than in any other sector. "We have a worldwide reputation in this area, but I don't think this is understood in government. It is almost taken for granted that we are leaders in fashion design. We need to invest in talent. This is one small way to raise the profile."

To become a university, the 34,000-student institute will "normally" fulfil four criteria. In one of these - to show at least 300 students in five out of ten listed disciplines - the LI falls short, with only 200 students in science-related studies. But Sir Michael was adamant that the institute would not artificially extend numbers to meet criteria and was confident that its claim to university status was strong enough to overcome this.

If the institute becomes a university, it will join only a few specialist arts universities in Europe, such as the Helsinki University of Art and Design, which became a university in 1973. In the UK, the Royal College of Art is a university, but is postgraduate and has only 825 students. The only other specialist arts institution with degree-awarding powers is the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, University College.

Possible names for the new university have not been discussed, but the London Institute has a strong brand at home and abroad.

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