University of Arts pitches for celebrity cash

May 14, 2004

Top actors such as Pierce Brosnan and leading designers such as Stella McCartney are among the famous alumni who will be asked to lend support to the UK's first University of the Arts.

The university, which is inaugurated this week, can call on the support of many famous and wealthy people who attended schools and colleges such as Central St Martins College of Art and Design and the London College of Fashion, that made up the former London Institute.

Alumni, including designer and entrepreneur Sir Terence Conran, actor Alan Rickman, artists Gilbert and George and fashion designer Alexander McQueen, are being approached to give guest lectures and masterclasses, as well as to donate hard cash.

Five alumni, including Mr McQueen and sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, were given honorary fellowships as part of the inauguration.

Sir Michael Bichard, the university's rector, said it was obvious alumni needed to become involved, but their talent and expertise had not been properly cultivated in the past.

The institution will seek to boost donations from graduates as well as from other private sources. But Sir Michael admitted it may not be a simple task.

He said: "People in Britain believe education should be funded by the state and don't see why they should be investing in a university. People can be persuaded to invest in museums more easily. But they are showcases for yesterday's talent. People need to invest in places such as this university, which are developing the talent of tomorrow."

Sir Michael is concerned that many believe fees will solve the higher education funding problem. "All it means for us is about £12 million by about 2009: we need more than that," he said.

"It's unfortunate the government justified tuition fees on the basis of future earnings because that presented us with a marketing problem.

"It's rather short-sighted, but will not affect our recruitment," he added.

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