Address to School Community

Date: Tuesday 4 March 1980
Time: 18:00
Running time: 13 mins

Alvin Boyarsky addesses the school community.

DVD available at the Architectural Association Lecture Archive.


(…) Built into this contract discussion was the state of art that the school community requested, which was that the chairman was liable to be dismissed forthwith, if he lost the confidence of the school community. I’ve never known in my time here, actually after a lawyer helped me, what that means. And I’m sure it’s a very complicated business, given the various employment acts, but I understand the spirit of it, which means the chairman actually packs up his belongings (…). So that was the sort of head raising operation that is school’s ambition, that there will be a (…) coming in, and who disappears from the scene for a moment less noticed and vanishes. (...) That’s the way I received the communication, and that is the way it’s supposed to be, and the way the school wanted it at that time.

At the end of three years, there was the first babble on what was the chairman elected and how was he elected, and so on and so forth. A very very civilized procedures took place: quite simply that the council asked the student community for advice and the school community met and appointed a committee of staff and students and employees and council members to take part, to sit in a room for a week or ten days and receive delegations from all parts of the school to see whether they were happy or not, and was there an issue or were there series of issues, and they met once or twice to discuss the report, and eventually they had a meeting in a room like this to decide to re-invite the chairman, and that’s what happened, in 1973-74.

A very curious thing happened in 1976, which is why we are gathered here in this rather peculiar situation, which is that the council of the AA, without consulting the school community, unilaterally, decided to dismiss the chairman, and the school community didn’t accept this and voted to reappoint the chairman, and then voted no confidence in the council. So the council did not risk to withdraw its legal prerogative on not to reappoint the chairman, a (…) took place, a very peculiar feature of the (…) was that the council wrote to all the members of the association all over the world (…) information, which were making the case against re-appointing the chairman. Eventually, new council elections took place, the existing council was designated, and the new council re-elected, and I was invited to do what the school community wanted. So, very very special arrangements were made so there would be an interesting, and open, and honest conversation about the reappointment or not of the chairman. And I insisted, that was one of my requests, that the school community be brought into discussion, because I could not see it returning to pre-1971, where the council, without necessarily knowing this rule, could make decisions of that sort. In the meeting with the committee, staff, and students and council members, this feature got spelled out, sort of… the ballot, yes or now, chairman, whether you agree or not and so on.

What was finally arrived at, I had mine misapprehension about that because I know the statistics of the schools, and I know very well that kind of procedure is probably not good enough to make it possible for most people of the school community to have an intelligent point of view, because almost half of them are new each year. After a two years period, there is not much memory of what’s all about. So I’m slightly unhappy, nevertheless, I think that the procedure I spelled out might not have been handled in a more elegant way, I think there might be a way in which conversations of a general sort that might be taking place, and about the time that curious documents and events which emerge and have circulated and so on, which are characteristic of an unhappy state about this place, but that in fact an interesting debate might take place about where the school is at the moment and whether dramatic changes are required or not.

I’m in that curious position, I’ve been around for eight and a half years, which is a hell of a long time, for me, and possibly for you. And I’m not certain whether—regardless of what my instincts are, or what I would like to do for the next five years or whatever, I’m not sure whether it’s good for the school or not, to have someone like myself, and not just myself, but a hell of a lot of members of the staff to begin with have a certain not allegiance to the chairman office, but simply they represent generations of people who have been here for quite some time. I don’t know, and I don’t know what you think, whether it’s time to actually go through the motions of lifting generations on Bedford square or whether that conversation should be put off. I haven’t heard anything from anybody, really, in any organized way or any intelligent way, about how I might reconcile the kind of crap that goes through the major about me. I’ve been reading it every three years religiously, and I know exactly what to expect, and it doesn’t mean anything to me, because it doesn’t give me any advice because it’s the same old people, same old thing. There hasn’t been the kind of discussion which is needed. If there has been, I haven’t heard about it, I haven’t been a party to it.

So, I’m happy with the procedures, the way it’s been carried out, and here we are, but you haven’t had the kind of conversation is necessary, and I’ve been really unhappy about the two previous school community meetings. They didn’t quite reached the point, they weren’t organized to actually produce a platform for a whole range of people to talk on the kind of issues which at least will raise the threshold of the understanding about recent (…) of the school and possible new futures. So, I stop on that point, I’m grateful, essentially that the school community is involved, and happy to further the discussion that it is consulted about his chairman, and I wish that in the future, no matter what the outcome is in particular ballot that is about to take place, that you actually organized it in such a way that can be held in conversations.

The next point I was raised by Brian is what is the role of the chairman in the next three years. That of course is an extremely complicated question, because it’s caught with all the unanswerable questions. The (…) in the AA has been largely about a certain survival independence of the school in spite of the (…) that is held against us. If one looks across, just outside the building, and looks around the world a bit, one understands that the economic situation isn’t exactly going to get better, there is high inflation everywhere, and presumably, in Great Britain, there would be a higher inflation, and great measures of austerity to solve it. So that, whether is the chairman’s office or a council, or a student union, or a school community, I have no doubt that the impact of those  factors that I mentioned will make ourselves doubt in the continuous conversations in which the school is involved. I’m actually, working out a basic balance arrangement, so that the activity of the school can continue and advance, and at the same time, responds and reflects the market in which it operates in.

(…) this is not going to be resolved in the next week or two, as you know, the school’s made an effort, a strong effort to try to re-establish grants to give to students, that were taken away in 1972. All indications that we have, are simply this, that the government understands our completion, and is not necessarily sort of unhappy with the idea of providing grants for British students in one form or another. But on the other hand, we all read the newspapers, and also we all understand that they are going through a kind of masochistic, almost, operation of bringing down the public expenditure so that in addition will or will nor [Audio is momentarily lost].

I have no doubt that the decision will be within the context. The only thing I can say is that the school remains one of the two institutions which is being looked up, an independent prior education institution, who have taken an application for a (…) status, and the story beyond the books might be considered, and the correspondence I see, shows the ministry of education involved. Still, it entails that we are under consideration: if we manage to establish grants, one aspect of the schools with financial (…) is taken care of: that there will be local students, there will be an ensured number of students in this school in the future. It’s very fragile at the moment in terms of expected numbers, but not only there will be undergraduates coming into school, but the whole kind of abundance of national educational policy will be there: research, postgraduate education, special programs will be founded, and all the rest of it. We’ve actually been established away from all that kind of support, regardless of the traditions of the schools with students from developing countries, at postgraduate level and so on. The government has established those elsewhere and they’ve cut us off entirely. One sees that kind of decisions offering incredible (…), not of insecurity, but the kind of psychological securities that the school required, but it is, indeed, losing it.

Another issue with regard to whether or not there will be grants for students it’s, let’s say is that there will not be the office of the Ministry of Education involved, still, in any case, that we are under consideration. If we manage to establish a grant spend, one aspect of the school’s financial salvation/starvation is taken care of, in that there will be local students, there will be an ensured number of students in the school in future, not always [recording is interrupted].

Transcription by María José Orihuela, Architect, MA HCT at the Architectural Association.

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The Architectural Association receives Taught Degree Awarding Powers by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council.

The Architectural Association (AA), the oldest independent school of architecture in the United Kingdom, is pleased to announce that it has been granted the power to award its own degrees. As of 1 October 2019, the AA has the right to establish new academic programmes and degree awards and is working to create some of the world’s most pioneering courses in architecture to shape and build the future.

Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP) give UK higher education institutions the right to award bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Prospective students worldwide can apply to the AA Foundation Course (Foundation Certificate), Experimental Programme BA(Hons), Diploma Programme (MArch), and nine taught postgraduate programmes encompassing History and Critical Thinking in Architecture (MA), Projective Cities (Taught MPhil) and Sustainable Environmental Design (MSc/MArch), amongst others.

AA Director, Eva Franch said, ‘since our founding in 1847 we have never ceased to create new horizons, institutionally and academically. This is a significant milestone for the AA and demonstrates how we have grown and progressed as an institution that has always valued independence. Receiving TDAP marks a new era for our institution; these are exciting times for the AA. The process has required considerable work from all members of staff and students. I would like to take this opportunity to credit them for this major achievement’.

President of the AA Council, Victoria Thornton added, ‘the TDAP process has recognised our strong governance, academic standards, scholarship and teaching as well as the environment supporting the delivery of taught higher education programmes’.

The School’s application for Taught Degree Awarding Powers was supported by the Architects Registration Board, the Royal Institute of British Architects and The Open University.