Leading Article: Why the Royal College of Art needs reform

Thursday 22 April 2010 00:00 BST

Paul Thompson, the new rector at the Royal College of Art, may be upsetting a few academics with his ideas for new income streams (more overseas students) and Masters degrees, but that is to be expected. Change is painful, particularly when it is being engineered by an outsider who has spent the past eight years in New York and whose background is in museums rather than higher education. But Thompson is undoubtedly a good thing for the RCA. With its stunning location in Kensington and Battersea, and its impressive reputation, the college is well placed to recruit more students from overseas. The RCA certainly needs the money after its recent budget cut and it is difficult to be against making it more international in its outlook and more ambitious in its reach.

Staff are clearly worried that an expansion in overseas student numbers would be at the expense of home students' education. The new boss will have to reassure them on this point. A man who is as warm and friendly as Paul Thompson should be able to communicate his good intentions. Certainly, he is at pains to point out that his desire is not simply to raise the RCA's income but also to bring it up to date in its thinking. He needs to get that message out to staff. He is right to be amazed that the college has not mounted a new Masters degree since 1988.

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