Students don’t necessarily know what is good for them

In the 1950s, the students of the Architectural Association voted to dispense with the services of the man teaching their history course on the grounds that they found his lectures dull. 

The fact that the historian in question was John Summerson, does not, it has to be said, reflect too well on their judgement. 

Students don’t necessarily know what is good for them and the current intake at the Royal College of Art would be well advised to at least suck it and see before they rise up in opposition to their new head of school, Charles Walker. 

At their worst, academics demand of their students a Jesuitical devotion to a particular dogma and if that is the kind of figure that Walker proves to be, then the students of the RCA will certainly have my sympathy when they man the barricades. 

At present, however, their complaint rests on one duff lecture. It seems premature to dismiss quite so soon the abilities of someone who has won through what was clearly a fiercely contested appointment process.

With the rise in student fees, the idea that the student is a customer – and a customer who is always right – is bound to become more prevalent. While that change will hopefully unsettle the complacency of some of our sleepier temples of learning, it brings with it obvious dangers too. 

Students, no matter how much they are paying, should be careful about how they use the new powers at their command.