Shortage of space forced Kent MA delay

January 19, 1996

Kent Institute of Art and Design has launched an inquiry into events leading to the last-minute suspension of its MA art and architecture course. Ten students from as far away as Mexico and Japan were told just weeks before they were due to join the course in September last year that it had been postponed.

They were offered alternative courses or the chance to defer for a year, following a dispute among staff over the amount of working space allocated to students.

Meanwhile, course leader Hannah Vowles had her contract terminated, and students complained that their end-of-year exhibition had been "vandalised" by maintenance workers as the institute prepared to shut the course down.

Ms Vowles claimed she had been dismissed, despite receiving a performance bonus in August for outstanding achievement in course planning, because she refused to accept proposed cuts in space.

She had objected because students who took the course in 1993 had complained that there was already a serious space shortage.

"We were suddenly faced with a situation where students were about to arrive and we didn't have enough spaces for them to work in," she said.

In an attempt to bring home the seriousness of the situation to the college's management committee, she suggested it would be advisable to postpone the course for a year while the problems were sorted out. But the move backfired with the institute deciding instead to follow her suggestion of postponment.

Institute director Peter Williams said a review was now being carried out by the academic development unit to take a closer look at the accommodation issue.

The decision to postpone the course for a year had been unavoidable as a result of Ms Vowles's insistence that it could not go ahead without extra space, he said.

"It is a very regrettable situation, because the course has been delivered very successfully in past years," he added.

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