London arts alliance set to unlock potential

June 1, 2007

The three smallest colleges of the University of the Arts London are to boost their links by forming a new strategic alliance, writes Rebecca Attwood.

Under the plans, Camberwell College of Arts, Chelsea College of Arts and Design and Wimbledon College of Art will have a single head and a single budget.

Artist and curator Chris Wainwright, currently the dean of the School of Art at Central St Martins, takes up his position as head of the alliance in the autumn.

He told The Times Higher that the move will see the three institutions approach the size and complexity of the university's other colleges: Central St Martins, the London College of Communication and the London College of Fashion.

"There is no intention to merge the colleges and lose or homogenise their identities. It is much more about seeing what the potential is for those three colleges - with their identities, histories and traditions - to work together and mutually benefit," he said.

Professor Wainwright admitted that there were concerns among staff. He is keen that they should see joining this alliance as a positive process and come forward with ideas.

"I know there's quite a lot of concern and reticence about the model. Some people are nervous of change, and that's understandable," he said.

"I have always found it fascinating that arts and design institutions, which are mostly concerned with creativity and innovation, have some of the most conservative structures of any educational sector that I've worked in.

"I think the challenge there is to give people confidence so that they can embrace change and benefit from it."

Among Professor Wainwright's aims are greater mobility of staff and students, sharing of good practice, boosting income from external sources, more international collaborations and encouraging research to become "something that underpins every aspect of college life".

He believes that it is rare for a practitioner to be appointed to such a senior position.

"I have always maintained that what informs my thinking and my ethos is based on my persistence as a continuing practising artist," he said.

The University of the Arts is Europe's largest university for art, design, fashion, communication and the performing arts.

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