King's College London on Friday announced its intention to transform its School of Physical Sciences and Engineering into a School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The move would, according to their website, 'result in the closure of the Division of Engineering as an administrative and undergraduate teaching unit.'
The decision is still at the discussion stage and will be taken to the KCL Academic Board later today. The website, however, seems to present the decision as a fait accomplis. Acting President of KCLSU, Peter Ellender, criticised the announcement saying 'I have personally highlighted to the Principal that the way information regarding these plans has been disseminated to students has been entirely inadequate and inappropriate.' He described the situation as 'distressing' and went on to add that 'these plans have been announced during the exam period, and has doubtless added to the stress that we all experience whilst being assessed.'
The College is keen to promote the closure in a positive light saying, 'these discussions are about development not cost-cutting. What is envisaged is to create the scale necessary to achieve world class performance in research and teaching by integrating activities across the College.' Students however are mortified, quoting a fear that closing the department would discredit their degrees and cause an unnecessary hindrance to their future job prospects.
The Division of Engineering fared badly in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, with King's losing out on £794,024 during HEfCE's allocations. It is sceptical, therefore, that the College's decision is not in some way linked to financial concerns. Furthermore, students organising a petition and protest to Save the Division of Engineering have highlighted concerns that the discussions will take place while Professor Lakmal Seneviratne, Head of the Division of Engineering and Dr Michale Clode, Senior Tutor, will both be 'out of the office'.