It has come as a shock to hear from the ceramics course team at the University of Westminster, Harrow, that, after working to create a beautiful, well-equipped new department after last year’s devastating fire, management has prepared a case for the closure of Harrow’s world-renowned BA Hons Ceramics course. Recruitment of new students has been suspended in a run-down to closure, which is planned for 2013 – the fiftieth anniversary of ceramics teaching at Harrow.
The University of Westminster has taken the closure decision despite the national and international reputation of the course, its first-class academic standing and its huge significance for British art, craft and design. Far from its standards being questioned, it is said to pose problems because it takes up too much space. As a senior manager justifying the course closure said: ‘the trouble with clay is you can’t store it on a memory stick’.
This issue appears to not only be London-centric, but nationwide. A feature in the forthcoming edition of Ceramic Review (CR235, Jan/Feb 2009) reports on Mapping Current Activity and Sustaining Future Making, a symposium called in response to the recent closure of Glasgow’s BA Hons Ceramics, the last dedicated ceramics course in Scotland. It seems that ‘bums on seats’ is the priority and ceramics departments are being pushed out as a drain on resources. As Jane Cairns, spokesperson for the Ceramics Students Action Committee says: ‘This is an appalling act of cultural vandalism – it is all about balance sheets, square footage and accountancy, not art. It is a betrayal and a disgrace.’
Current students and staff have embarked on a determined campaign to save Harrow ceramics and are seeking as much support from the wider ceramics/arts/education community as possible to stop the closure. Please write or email your views to Vice-Chancellor Geoffrey Petts (G.Petts@westminster.ac.uk), with a copy to the Dean of Media, Arts and Design, Sally Feldman (email@example.com), and also to the Ceramics Course Leader, Kyra Cane (firstname.lastname@example.org).