Wimbledon staff opposed to merger plans with Chelsea

July 6, 2001

Tension is mounting between staff and the principal at Wimbledon School of Art about proposals to merge with the London Institute.

Wimbledon staff were shocked to hear that the principal, Rod Bugg, had been in discussions with Sir William Stubbs, rector of the London Institute, over a merger with Chelsea School of Art.

At a meeting last week, staff voted six to one against the proposals with only a handful in favour.

Nick Ridout, Wimbledon's Natfhe branch chair and a lecturer, said details leaked out when visiting lecturers approached senior staff about rumours they had heard, and said they were worried about their jobs.

"This left us wondering when he was thinking of telling us," said Mr Ridout. "We need to know where we stand and not be bounced by an apparent opportunity into something we are not at all happy about."

Professor Bugg called a meeting to address the rumours, but unsatisfied staff called for a second, fuller meeting a week later at the end of June.

Professor Bugg produced a benefits analysis, but union members dismissed it and Wimbledon's four directors dissociated themselves from the analysis.

David Miller, chairman of Wimbledon's board of governors said the governors "would not be doing their job properly" if they did not explore the possibility of a merger. He said Professor Bugg and Sir William had discussed Chelsea's move to the Millbank site next to Tate Britain and had considered whether there would be "mutually significant gains" from the two colleges occupying this site. He said the governing body was told of the possible merger at the same time as staff.

Mr Ridout said staff felt that their voices had not been heard since last year's successful teaching quality asseessment at the school.

Wimbledon restructured its management last year, establishing Professor Bugg at the top with a team of four directors.

Students showed their opposition to the plans by wearing fluorescent "Keep Wimbledon independent" stickers to their graduation ceremony on Monday.

Wimbledon's board of governors will meet next Monday to decide whether to proceed with merger talks.

Staff said they would continue to oppose a merger even if the governors approved it.

A spokesman for the London Institute said the two art schools already worked closely together and that merger talks were still at an early stage. Professor Bugg was previously dean of art at the institute's Central St Martins College.

Chelsea School of Art is due to move in 2003. Currently, Wimbledon degrees are awarded through Surrey University.

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