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Update on Camberwell Course Suspension

In November last year, Icon published a statement on the University of the Arts London’s (UAL) decision to suspend recruitment for the MA in Conservation at Camberwell College of Arts.

The potential loss of the course, with its high standards and employability rate, has raised great concern from employers and Icon. Members continue to express a great deal of interest in developments, with the November news story being one of our most read pieces. Icon has been working closely with Jocelyn Cuming, the Leader of the current MA course, and the Heads of Conservation and Scientific Departments of the National Museums, Archives and Libraries to ensure the course’s future.

UAL has given Jocelyn the challenging task of shortening the MA by approximately one third to a new 45-week course designed to facilitate 30 students – a target number almost double the current intake. The greater number of students, fewer teaching hours, and potential reductions in space and equipment are a worrying prospect for the profession. The UK workforce could not absorb the number of graduates in book and paper conservation, nor could the standards of the course be sustained.

In February, Icon Chief Executive Alison Richmond, Juergen Vervoorst, The National Archives Head of Collection Care, and Cordelia Rogerson, The British Library Head of Collection Management South, met with UAL staff to express the sector’s apprehensions. They presented the case for Camberwell in terms of meeting employer needs and highlighted the continuing demand for the well-developed practical skills that the specialist, practice-based curriculum at Camberwell provides.

UAL Head of Colleges David Crow and Sophia Phoca, Dean of Art Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon, described the reasons behind the suspension: Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges are establishing a common framework for postgraduate courses and all MA’s will need to adhere to a one-year structure. This is to facilitate the University’s aim of a more sustainable model for the delivery of MA programmes within the schools. The UAL staff also stressed the need for external partnerships to guarantee the conservation MA’s sustainability. They proposed a scenario in which the academic offer of the course is delivered at Camberwell, and the practical training element at a partnership organization.

Icon recognizes the University’s need to consider alternative funding models and is committed to working with UAL to explore different possibilities. For example, at the February meeting, the opportunities for Camberwell to be an apprenticeship training provider were raised. Icon recently consulted the membership on the Level 7 Trailblazer Apprenticeship standard that Icon is supporting employers in developing. Most respondents agreed that the standard should include a MA degree as a mandatory requirement of the training, which is something that Camberwell could be well placed to provide. Other options could include the development of an MA with high entry qualifications and small numbers. Parallel to this would be the development of a national and international provision of course(s) targeted towards a wider provision of needs identified by the profession.

UAL intends to begin recruiting for a September 2019 start. Icon continues to be in dialogue with the University and will keep members updated on new developments.

Alison writes more about Camberwell in the Chief Executive Column in the June 2018 edition of Icon News.


Image: Copyright N Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License 




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