"It's outrageous," says Professor Vaughan Grylls, head of the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD). "I was personally disgusted by what happened."
The dust has yet to settle on this drama, but whatever its rights and wrongs, it shows that architecture education is in good health. This spring, academics watched bemused as first the head of KIAD's architecture school, Professor Don Gray, and then most of the academic staff decamped to start a new school at Kent University. "I was astonished," Grylls says. "Kent has done a corporate raid on us."
The issue has moved to the courts, with Kent University and now Gray himself being sued by KIAD. KIAD has recruited new staff and Kent is applying for validation of its new school, so both will be up and running for next year.
Kent's move shows that architecture is in good health, with applications reflecting the construction boom and the growing need for qualified architects.
Schools of architecture must be registered with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the professional body, and the Architects Registration Board (ARB), set up by the Government in 1997. Although there are hundreds of courses in the UK, only the 39 RIBA/ARB courses allow graduates to become fully-fledged architects.
Training is in three parts: first, an introductory three-year course; second, a more technical two-year course; and third, exams done while working. RIBA has a long-distance programme.
Everyone from conservation architects to hospital project managers receives the same qualifications, but courses can be very different. Shop around, visit degree shows, read RIBA reports online and talk to students and staff.
The Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London is famous for its free-thinking tradition. With 1,800 applicants for 90 places, professors could simply pick the best straight-A students. But architecture schools aren't interested in conformity. "What we're most looking for is a critical attitude and a demonstrable artistic creativity, which could be in anything: art, graffiti, photography," says Professor Iain Borden, the head of architecture. "We ask people about what buildings interest them, whether it's the Parthenon or the local community centre."
Or a theatre in Newcastle, like the one Imogen Long, 25, has designed for her Part 1 degree show at the Bartlett, opening tomorrow. All the spaces, even the café, kitchen, and foyer, have potential for performances.
At the Bartlett, unlike most schools, Long has been able to choose what to design and where. She previously studied history at Cambridge. "It's very different from Cambridge, where it was all about toeing the line and preparing for that City job," she says. "Here, it's your project and no one else's." It's a blue-skies approach, with the emphasis on design rather than everyday concerns, as Long acknowledges: "Next year, I'll learn how you make the buildings stand up."
Other students are concerned with little else. Alison Killing, 25, did her Part 1 dissertation at Cambridge on developing instructions for building sheds. She's doing her Part 2 at Oxford Brookes, specialising in development practice.
Killing's work is more like a puzzle than a vision. In designing refugee camps, you need to use lightweight materials that are readily to hand in a way that respects local custom. "There are a lot of constraints," she says. "But it's those technical and cultural challenges that make it so interesting."
Whatever your path, there's a school to fit every student with a love of buildings and design. And in Kent, there are two.Reuse content