Southampton University closes unique textile centre
Following a detailed review of the viability of the Textile Conservation Centre (TCC), which has been part of the University of Southampton since June 1999, the University's Council has decided, with profound regret, to close the Centre from October 31, 2009.
The decision to close the Centre, which is based at the University's School of Art campus in Winchester, has not been taken lightly. It follows eight years of significant investment by the University, during which time the University has paid the majority of the cost of the Centre's new purpose-built facilities
on the School of Art campus, and contributed annually to meet the Centre's budget shortfall. The University has concluded, with great reluctance, that the cross subsidy from other areas of academic endeavour can no longer be justified.
The TCC review followed a major restructuring of the academic programme at the School of Art, which was designed to meet increasing student demand for new courses in art and design, with a strong focus on commercial applications of art. This has been successfully achieved, with School of Art student numbers increasing, staff/student ratios among the best in the country, and the School on target to eliminate its financial loss.
The restructure at the School of Art resulted in the closure of the School's History of Art and Design Division, to which the TCC was linked academically, and as a consequence, the Centre ceased to be part of the School of Art earlier this year.
When the TCC joined the University the expectation was that it would become viable as an integral part of Winchester School of Art. However, this was not achieved. Efforts to find an external source of income for the TCC to bridge the funding gap have not yet succeeded. The University also sought to develop a new business plan within the University financial model which would create a viable long term future for the TCC.
Despite much work by the TCC and University staff, as well as the TCC Foundation (the Centre's supporting Trust), it has not proved possible to build a business plan within the context of the University of Southampton that would bring the TCC into balance/surplus, whilst still protecting the high quality of its work.
As part of the review, the University also investigated transferring the TCC to an alternative university. A number of the institutions approached in connection with the transfer option were most interested in taking on the TCC, but were unable to pursue this, due in large part to the need also to provide new or refurbished accommodation to fit the Centre's very specific professional needs.
The University fully acknowledges the international excellence of the TCC and its significant achievements before and since becoming part of the University. However, postgraduate conservation education is a resource-intensive activity. The conservation sector has been discussing this for some months, as conservation programmes elsewhere face similar pressures as the TCC.
University of Southampton