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Key details


  • 17 January 2023


  • RCA

Read time

  • 3 minutes
Dr Paul Thompson, RCA Vice Chancellor, with Night Shift [from Future Archive] (2018) by Sam Creasey_cropped

Dr Thompson said of the announcement: “It has been a real pleasure and privilege to work with such talented staff and gifted students over the last 15 years, but after the successes of 2022, including the opening of our flagship new building designed by Herzog & de Meuron in Battersea, I have decided to look for another adventure."

“During my time at the RCA, I have seen our research base and taught curriculum expand into so many new fields and I’m particularly proud to have introduced Materials Science, Robotics, and Computer Science into the RCA, creating the world’s first STEAM higher education institution."

“The curriculum reform and new qualifications introduced during this time will see the RCA widen participation and broaden access to many more talented individuals, alongside our commitment to grow student support and initiatives such as the creation of our annual £1m Sir Frank Bowling Scholarship Fund - to support Black African and Caribbean diaspora students."

“Physically too, the RCA has also been through great change. I have always wanted to preserve the pursuit of traditional craft disciplines and was delighted to add the Woo building to our estate in 2015 to house the Applied Arts in such fantastic new facilities. Then in 2022 the RCA created, with architects Herzog & de Meuron, the largest ever expansion of its estate, with the new 16,000 sqm Battersea building, which would not have been possible without the support of HM Treasury and its philanthropic supporters. This building will become a petri dish, fostering the RCA’s academic vision of injecting core scientific disciplines into fine art and design disciplines in order to cultivate new solutions to global challenges. And importantly, the building will provide state-of-the-art facilities for research faculty and students to remain at the top of their game.”

“During my time at the RCA I have not only worked with inspirational staff and seen the start of so many successful student careers, but I have also had the privilege of working with three Chancellors: Sir Terence Conran, Sir James Dyson, and Sir Jony Ive; and three Pro-Chancellors and Chairs of Council: Sir Neil Cossons, Baroness Rebuck, and now Sir Peter Bazalgette. I would like to thank the RCA’s Council for giving me the opportunity to serve this amazing community and institution; and its staff for supporting me over the past 15 years.”

RCA Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council, Sir Peter Bazalgette said of the announcement: “Paul’s tenure at the RCA has been truly transformational. It is a testament to his leadership that the Royal College of Art has been ranked the world’s number one art and design university for the last eight years and is a huge asset to our Creative Industries; has doubled its research power; and has seen almost 80 new businesses nurtured by its InnovationRCA start-up hub in recent years. His vision and foresight has also been key to the growth of the RCA’s estates and facilities to support our students, researchers and entrepreneurs, and to establish long-term financial viability through initiatives such as securing freeholds for the land on which this remarkable institution is based. He will be greatly missed, but can also be hugely proud of everything he has achieved.”

Sir Jony Ive, current Chancellor of the RCA said: "I became Chancellor of the RCA in 2017 and have been extraordinarily fortunate to work closely with Paul over the last six years. His leadership has not only ensured that the College remains at the forefront of art and design education, but that this world-leading institution continues to sustain the vital skills in traditional arts and crafts. His passion for ensuring that the most talented students should always have routes to study at the RCA will leave a legacy across the creative industries for generations to come, transforming the ways in which artists, designers and communicators interact with the world.”

Dame Magdalene Odundo DBE, alumna (MA Ceramics & Glass, 1982), former member of RCA Council 2014-2020, member of the RCA Alumni Council and Chancellor of the University of the Creative Art added: “As someone with a long history with the Royal College of Art, it has been wonderful to see how it has continued to go from strength to strength under Paul’s leadership. Today’s RCA remains the hub for creativity that it has always been, but is more open than ever before, and continually encourages its students to challenge and change the world around them. At a time when the world has become increasingly focussed on the digital and virtual, it's wonderful to see the way Paul continued to place an emphasis on craft - as well as tech. Under his tenure, the RCA invested in major new facilities for the applied arts and secured a new £6m fund to establish the Märit Rausing scholarships in ceramics and glass. I’d like to thank Paul for everything he has done for the RCA, and wish him all the best for the future.”

Lady Helen Hamlyn, member of the RCA’s Alumni Council (Fashion, 1955), and founder of the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the RCA said: "Paul has brought the Royal College of Art into a new age and successfully laid the foundations for its future."

The RCA Council will undertake an international search for the new Vice-Chancellor and Dr Thompson will continue to lead the RCA until the selected successful candidate is in place.