University decides to keep achitecture department open and refocus research on sustainable design.

Cambridge University has announced that its department of architecture is to stay open.

The University’s General Board said today that it had unanimously accepted the recent restructuring changes put forward by the department head, Marciel Echenique.

The strategy, drawn up by the School of Arts and Humanities working with the Department, will see the Department focus its research on sustainable design.

The department had seemed set for the axe after in October, when the School of Humanities was asked to present a case for why it should stay open. This prompted a huge rally in Cambridge and a campaign supported by some of the biggest names in UK architecture.

Echenique said the news meant the department could retain its position as one of the UK’s leading schools.

He said: "The Department of Architecture is the best teaching department in the UK. With this new strategy, we will not only be able to continue this but also become an international leader in sustainable design - addressing one of the world’s most pressing challenges."

The new strategy will effectively see the department funded by the other members of the School of Humanities until 2008 but addresses long-standing concerns about the Department’s research profile, which had led to the prospect of closure.

Professor Alison Richard, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said she was pleased the department- the most oversubscribed in the university- would remain.

She said: "I am delighted that we have reached this decision today and I congratulate both the School and the Department on this outcome.”

"Architecture is among a small number of disciplines in the University where practice plays an integral role in teaching and research. There have been longstanding concerns that the Department’s widely heralded excellence in teaching and practice was not matched in research.

“I am confident that the new strategy, building upon existing strengths, the radical restructuring accomplished in recent weeks, and commitments by the School and the University, will enable the Department to excel in every respect."

The saga began last January following two University reports, in 2001 and 2003, which reinforced longstanding concerns within the University about aspects of the Department’s research profile.

A working party was formed and developed a plan to strengthen the Department. But, in October, following a review of progress, the working party was sufficiently disappointed to recommend that the School of Arts and Humanities be asked to make the case for keeping the Department open.

In December, the School presented an updated restructuring plan. With a number of key steps toward restructuring already in place and a more fully developed academic strategy prepared by the Department, the General Board unanimously accepted the plan.