Students have occupied the Cass Art School campus, angry at plans to sell it. The Earl of Clancarty, Nicholas Trench, has called for the government to intervene to halt the sale of the Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design building in Central House, Aldgate. The popular art school is expected to be demolished and replaced with flats.
The students were not sure how long they will remain inside the building, after entering Central House in Whitechapel, home to the Cass art school, on Wednesday night, demanding it be taken off the market. If plans go ahead the school will still operate, opponents of the closure and relocation claim this will result in a ‘smaller university in terms of traditional delivery’, with 10,000 students rather than the current 12,000. It has been suggested up to 90 full-time jobs could be made redundant.
More than a dozen students camped out in the Bank Gallery, inside Central House, saying its proposed sale “to luxury property developers or the banking industry would be a disgrace”.
“Shrinking London Met to one campus will mean course cuts, job losses and a cut to student places,” they say. “It’s being done in such a dreadful way with no consultation with students,” said Maggie, one of the organisers to the BBC. She said the changes amounted to “asset stripping”, suggesting the cuts were deliberately designed to put prospective students off applying to London Met so that the university could be “dismantled”.
“We don’t know how long we are going to stay,” she added. The occupation has the support of the University and College Union and Unison, says the group, as well as artist Bob and Roberta Smith, and Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller.
The artist has told the Tribune that London Met’s plan to close its renowned Cass building – dubbed the “Aldgate Bauhaus” – would mean the art school might not survive.
Deller, a visiting professor at The Cass, said “It will be a lesser institution that might not even survive the move in the current climate. I suspect half the college will be lost in the move, especially any course that needs space and equipment.”
Bob Smith Added: “I have written a letter to George Osborne on two electric heaters in which I express the view that art schools that became university departments in large urban centres are facing problems that will spell their demise over the next few years. London Met is London’s principle widening participation university. Education is one of the tools a democracy has against the men who shot kids watching a rock concert in Paris.”
Smith concluded: “My view is London needs more education not less. Studying at London Met creates critical thinking, as well as developing incredible visual artistic skills.”
In a statement the university said it was investing £125m to create a new home for the Cass “complete with new workshops and studio spaces”.
“We appreciate that some students are concerned about the move, but we’d like to reassure them that the Cass is not closing, nor will it’s making ethos or successful studio model of teaching be lost,” it said.