London’s Royal College of Art Suspends Design Course Amid Complaints of Mismanagement

The RCA was voted the world’s best art school only 5 months ago.

The RCA has been forced to suspend its design course this year. Photo: e-architect.co.uk

Only five months after being named the world’s top university for art and design, London’s Royal College of Art (RCA) is in a “state of jeopardy” after it was forced to suspend the first year of its Design Interactions course due to staff shortages.

In an internal newsletter written in July, RCA rector Dr. Paul Thompson blamed the admissions suspension on the departure of three senior members of staff.

According to the Art Newspaper, the failure to replace the head of the Design Interaction course Anthony Dunne and department tutor Fiona Raby led to the disruption.

RCA Rector Dr. Paul Thompson has gone on record to defend the move. Photo: RCA.ac.uk

RCA Rector Dr. Paul Thompson has gone on record to defend the move.
Photo: RCA.ac.uk

In the newsletter, Dr. Thompson estimated that the suspension of the first year of the course could cost the school at least £300,000 ($454,692), and up to £750,000 ($1,136,730) if considering foreign student fees.

Amid the confusion, the university management is being criticized over their failure to effectively communicate the difficulties to faculty and students.

“We are being contacted by students and tutors all the time asking if we can find out what’s going on. Everything’s a bit murky,” Anna Winston, editor of the design magazine Dezeen told the Independent.

Students have expressed their dissatisfaction at the way in which the art school is managed. Photo: @fkraeutli via Twitter

Students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the art school is managed.
Photo: @fkraeutli via Twitter

In an open letter, RCA student representative Channing Ritter went further. She accused Dr. Thompson of showing “shockingly little regard for the welfare of its faculty, staff, and students.”

“This is evidenced by a recent exodus of some of the RCA’s best creative talent—2015 has been a year punctuated by resignations from several high-profile members of senior staff,” Ritter added.

In a statement published on the RCA’s website on Friday night, Dr. Thompson defended the course suspension and apologized for blaming staff.

“We don’t blame individuals for taking up new roles—that is part and parcel of academic life at leading institutions—and I’m sorry if my previous comments appeared to do so.”

The RCA's Design Interactions program will not take new students this year. Photo: RCA.ac.uk

The RCA’s Design Interactions program will not take new students this year.
Photo: RCA.ac.uk

The rector wrote that, contrary to media reports, “In 2014/15, the College made an annual surplus of £500,000 on a £40m budget (unaudited), and all surpluses are re-invested to continue to improve the student experience.”

He called the suspension “a difficult decision, but one we felt we had to make because delivering an excellent student experience is our number one priority.”

Applications for the 2016/17 Design Interactions course will open on October 12, 2015.


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