RCA expands and seeks to suck in more students

The Royal College of Art is going ahead with plans for expansion despite an uncertain future for postgraduate education.

November 8, 2012

At the start of the academic year, the Kensington-based institution opened the Dyson Building across the River Thames in Battersea, part funded by a £5 million donation from the entrepreneur James Dyson.

The building is part of a £61 million "master plan" to add some 10,000 square metres to its sites by 2021.

Plans to physically expand the postgraduate-only college run alongside a strategy to increase the number of students by 50 per cent and shift its emphasis towards research.

"We view the future with caution and a degree of optimism," said RCA rector Paul Thompson. It will be a question of "wait and see" as to whether increased debt will discourage home students under the new fee regime from postgraduate study, he said.

The highly selective college has not experienced any decline in enrolment, nor in employability of its graduates, but "the visa issue" for staff and students, a significant percentage of whom are from outside the EU, remained a concern, he said.

"Our registrar is saying she will need to hire two more full-time additional staff - which for a small institution like the RCA is a big outlay - just to make sure that we don't ever fall foul" of government visa rules, he added.

Together, the Dyson Building and the adjoining Woo Building, due to open in 2015, will host the sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics and glass departments, alongside InnovationRCA, the college's business incubator.

Philanthropy is funding much of the college's expansion work but the institution still needs to raise a further £7.4 million by 2015 to be able to proceed with the next stage of development.

The new building has already given the institution space to add more courses to reflect "a new world of design constraints", said Dr Thompson. Three new courses, the first since 1992, were added this year and another three are planned for 2013.


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