A much admired centre of Higher Education in the East End could be the latest victim of spiralling real estate values, corporate asset stripping and a management enraptured by the neo-liberal fad for austerity. The Vice Chancellor of London Metropolitan University is embarking on a scheme, opposed by most students, staff, alumni and also the Mayor of Tower Hamlets as an unnecessary and reckless plan, which will downsize the university through his ‘One Campus, One Community’ strategy.
The plan, singular in its lack of substance and detail, involves the closure of the university’s site at Moorgate, the sale of a large site in Aldgate and the sale of Central House in Whitechapel, home of the Sir John Cass or CASS School of Art, Architecture and Design. Although recently refurbished at some cost, it sits on the edge of the ever expanding city and university management are hoping to cash in and attract £50m from developers. The CASS lauded as the ‘Aldgate Bauhaus,’ is to have its staff, students and depleted courses eventually relocated in Holloway.
Students and staff unions at the university are fearful that that the faculty will not survive being uprooted from the East End artistic hub of which it is part. The students and staff unions are demanding the CASS remains in its present location and two campuses are retained, one in Whitechapel-Aldgate and one in Islington. The Dean of CASS, Robert Mull, reluctant to countenance his co-manager’s destructive designs was first suspended and then resigned from his post.
The campaign has attracted some high profile supporters including Sir Nicholas Serota; the issue too has been discussed in the House of Lords where it was remarked that it was hoped London Met senior managers would listen to concerns. Of this there is little sign; it seems they have ears only for the bids of property developers. And while often employing the word ‘vision,’ it seems theirs does not extend beyond cutting jobs, contracting educational choice and stifling opportunity. Understandably 82% of staff recently polled expressed no confidence in their Vice Chancellor John Raftery,. The website of the plucky students currently occupying an architecture studio shows a different sort of imagination is possible and one that it is worth defending.
If you wish to add your voice to the opposition please sign the petition.
A statement by the occupiers can be read here:
Richard Payne, Senior Lecturer and UCU member (University & College Union)
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