Save Dartington College Campaign
1. Background information
For further detailed information please read the statement compiled by the Staff and Union members at the college
In November 2006 a leak to the press revealed that Dartington College of Arts was planning to move to Falmouth. Secret negotiations had been taking place for 2 years between Vaughan Lindsay, CEO of the Dartington Hall Trust, Andrew Brewerton, Principal of Dartington College of Arts, and a small group of advisors.
Vaughan Lindsay has a background in corporate management and was appointed 2½ years ago as CEO. Andrew Brewerton was appointed 2 years ago as Principal of the College. He is an expert in glass and was head of design and development at Dartington Glass between 1984 –1994.
The discussions revolved around the need to upgrade student accommodation and to take into account assumptions about the future of higher education funding.
The conclusion was that there was ‘no alternative’ – the future of the College was not sustainable on the Dartington Estate.
Andrew Brewerton therefore began secret negotiations to ‘relocate’ Dartington College of Arts onto the Falmouth campus. This rests on EU Objective One funding for Cornwall for which the deadline for bids is early Feb 2007. Objective One funding will then come to an end and it is unclear what the long term funding in Cornwall will be. Devon County Council opposes this use of Objective 1 funding.
The staff and students at the college have been outraged and there is huge public opposition to this proposal.
Please find below a summary of the main issues and details of further information.
Please note that Devon County Council and Totnes Town Council have given unanimous cross party support to the Save Dartington College Campaign. (www.savedartingtoncollege.org) The staff at the college have also launched a campaign to save the college, as have the students, and there are close links between the campaign groups.
Please also note that Dartington Hall Trust have professional PR employees.
Dartington Hall website: FAQ’s also details of Trustees www.dartingtonhall.org
2. Summary of the main issues
Why is it important to save Dartington College of Arts?
Dartington College of Arts is a specialist higher education arts college with a reputation across the world for innovative teaching practices, research and fostering experimentation in theatre, music, dance/choreography, writing, contemporary visual arts, and arts and cultural management. The closure of the College will be a huge loss both locally, nationally and internationally.
Dartington College of Arts is the last small independent arts college in the UK. It is in a very good financial position and highly valued by higher education funding authorities.
There is financial encouragement from the government for smaller institutions to merge to make bigger colleges. This is a national trend but there is increasing concern nationally that this model is destroying the vital role small colleges play in preserving diversity and specialist knowledge.
In 2005/06 the College emerged very successfully from a Quality Assurance Audit (QAA) – the university equivalent of a school’s OFFSTED inspection. The QAA affirmed the quality of the College’s provision and noted several areas of exemplary practice.
The college is also financially in robust health.
The Dartington estate was founded in the 1920’s by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst based on the principles and philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore who emphasised that art, culture, music and education are essential components of a healthy community and society. The College was founded in 1961.
Further information: see staff statement
Is there really ‘no alternative’ or is there another agenda?
The much touted figure of £20 million needed to bring student accommodation and teaching facilities up to standard is hyper-inflated, and even if the College required £15 million it is over a considerable period.
In any event, even £15 million is not a huge sum for an institution of this size to find, but no serious public fund raising has been undertaken. One is therefore forced to conclude that one or both of the partners does not wish the College to remain on site, despite their protestations to the contrary.
Initially, the Trust was apparently prepared in principle to consider a major investment in new residences from its own finances. This was during the period when the College was attracting public money onto the Dartington Estate for capital investment in Trust buildings. At some point over this two-year period, when most of the major building/refurbishment had been completed (£6 million of public money) the Trust changed its mind about such a commitment. It should be noted that should the college be closed, these world class facilities will pass into the hands of the trust. After at least 3 possibilities for construction projects were considered and rejected – for a variety of reasons – the building company, Robert McAlpine, presented a private finance initiative (i.e. McAlpine’s would pay for its construction) to the Trust and College in September 2006 for a 350 bed residence. This was rejected, apparently on the grounds of the difficulties entailed in underwriting the risk.
Although HEFCE no longer has a ‘poor estates’ budget to fund such buildings, evidence suggests that it may have to return to some kind of funding mechanism of this sort over the next few years in the face of pressures from universities across the country.
They have definitely not explored all available options. This was illustrated clearly in the meeting with county and local councillors held a few weeks ago, when Vaughan Lindsay admitted that they had not thought of the possibility of ‘delisting’ the student accommodation block (Foxhole) – an idea suggested by the head of South Hams District Council. This is just one example pertaining to one issue.
It is also worth noting that the internationally renowned Schumacher College with connections to world experts in sustainable solutions, has not been consulted. Schumacher College is based on the Dartington Estate and has indicated that there are many different and financially viable solutions to the accommodation problem. Indeed it has been suggested that it could be used as an educational beacon for sustainable building.
The ‘changes anticipated in the funding of higher education’ are based on projections and assumptions which may or may not actually materialise. In any event, at the present time the college is in robust health, both financially and academically, and we have no doubt that there is ample time, this time in conjunction and collaboration with all the affected parties, to prepare for all eventualities.
Why is ‘relocation’ an absurd concept?
While it may seem a comforting idea that the college will not be closed – the reality is that if the College moves from the estate – Dartington College of Arts will cease to exist. There may be a new college formed but the unique combination of factors that make the College such a special and vibrant place will be lost. These include the network of world class artists, educators, and part-time staff based in the locality, the unique location of the estate which is both isolated but connected to one of the most vibrant rural arts communities in UK, and perhaps most importantly, the principals and ethos on which the estate was founded and which are at the core of the Colleges educational philosophy - these will be lost in a merger with a large institution.
The move to Falmouth carries obvious concerns – very few of the current staff would be able or willing to relocate to Falmouth. A performing arts college also relies heavily on part-time specialist staff. This infrastructure does not exist in Falmouth. Indeed one of the difficulties of Falmouth is its remote location – it is 5 ½ hours from London and many staff at Dartington are involved in national and international ensembles, companies, touring and meetings.
Since the Falmouth proposal has become public, Plymouth University has come forward to compete with Falmouth. Plymouth is attempting to establish itself as the main university of the South West, in direct competition with Exeter University. They already have a music Department and there are many concerns locally about the long term future of Dartington College should it be moved to Plymouth City Centre.
Many people are very concerned about this as in recent years two much loved local colleges – Seal Hayne Agricultural College and Rolle College were merged with Plymouth university and now no longer exist. See: http://www.exmouth-guide.co.uk/rolle.htm
Impact on the local area
The economic and cultural impact on the community will be enormous, with £4 -6 million pounds per annum drained from the local economy, the loss of 700 young people from the area, and the destruction of one of the most vibrant and unique rural arts communities in the UK.
Further information: Impact on the local area
In recent years Dartington College, Dartington Trust and KEVICC won a massive award to make this area into one of the three national areas of excellence in music. This is called DartingtonPlus. This scheme, instead of being a source of hope for the future of the whole area is now in jeapordy.
DartingtonPlus received £1.8 million pounds from the arts council. The college was named as the lead partner in three of the six development aims.
In response to an email questioning the huge amount of funding given to DartingtonPlus (a three way partnership between Dartington College of Arts, The Dartington Trust and KEVICC) to make our area into a centre for musical excellence, the Chief Executive of the Arts Council England, Peter Hewitt, wrote:
'Future activity beyond 2008 will be the subject of detailed discussion and review. This will begin in the new year and will clearly be informed by developments at the College'.
He also noted that: 'Dartington College of Arts (DCA) has had such a fundamental link with Dartington and Totnes that it's difficult to imagine South Devon without it. The staff and students clearly contribute to the cultural life of the immediate area, a contribution that would obviously disappear if the College was to move'.
Gavin Henderson was formerly Principal of Trinity College of Music. He resigned in the summer and was appointed Director of Dartington Arts. A short time after this appointment he was appointed as Artistic Director of DartingtonPlus.
The trust is clearly preparing for a different future.
How can I help?
One of the most important ways to help stop the closure of Dartington is through public opinion. This is an issue that affects the entire national and international arts community and we desperately need this community to become active and vocal. Last year Exeter University Music Department was closed – despite being a highly valued and financially viable department.
Please note that Devon County Council opposes the use of Objective one funding for the purpose of benefiting one area to the detriment of another, and are using their political avenues to oppose this.
- Write to the Trust members individually. Many of the Trust members do not live locally and may not be aware of the impact their policies will have, both on the local area and nationally.
Dartington Hall Trustees
James Cornford - Chairman
Nicholas Kenyon CBE - Trustee
Kate Caddy - Trustee
Liz Firth - Trustee
Christopher Haan - Trustee
Gay Cranmer - Trustee
Sir David Green - Trustee
Dartington Hall, Totnes
Devon TQ9 6EL
It is rumoured that members of the trust might favour a very small elite, privately funded, music conference centre, rather than an arts college.
- Contact people you know and send them information. Ask them to send information to people they know. We as a campaign have limited resources – please give a small amount of time and help save this college.
- Contact people, organisations, artists and institutions who have public influence – nationally and internationally. There are already many letters of support (see ‘letters of support’ on the website) including Peter Brook and Gavin Bryars.
- Join the e-mail list on the website to keep informed
- Sign the online petition at: http
- Download posters and put them up in relevant places – such as Arts colleges, arts centres etc – (posters will be put on the website for download from mid January 2007)
- Please contact the campaign if you have any suggestions or expertise you can offer. These include legal skills. You can contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org