IC Reporter ISSUE 19 (23 JANUARY - 5 FEBRUARY 1996)
Staff Newspaper of Imperial College of Science, Technology
THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER BY DON
Doctors in the house
What new year resolution? Ah yes, I need to get rid of that half-stone Christmas present which is hanging around my middle like the guest who finds it difficult to leave. Then I must stop grumbling about the long dark nights and the dreary short days. I might even believe that brighter days are on the way.
Rubbing my eyes and breaking away from the stupefying bingeing of the break, I notice how the view from the tower is changing: constructors' huts and partitions proliferate right there in the shadow of the Queen's Tower. Lorries are beginning to shake the very foundations of the tower and IC is awakening from its Christmas slumber to realise that the Imperial College School of Medicine is inexorably becoming a reality. There's no turning back now.
It is also beginning to dawn that the very foundations of Imperial College are being shaken to the core. The ideal is becoming reality - medical education is expanding to take its place alongside technology and science, just as the name says. No longer will medicine be small and cute and at a safe distance in Paddington. Part of the ideal is that no longer will anyone be able to describe this College as 'that uncaring centre of dedication to abstraction' as was once said in a letter from a prospective student, explaining that he was going to Cambridge instead. Well, you can't get more caring and less abstract than in medicine.
But the question on the minds of many, both the medics and others, is how well will it all blend together? We have welcomed the new principal of the medical school. He has his own unenviably difficult blending job to do and that's just within medicine.
But we do not have principals in the other areas of the title of our almost ancient institution. Assuming that in the steady state (will there ever be one?) there will be some sort of balance between science, technology and medicine, the weighty administrative structure which is growing in medicine suggests this will be difficult to achieve. Will the new school become a complex, separate adjunct, rather than a democratic partner with the other two? Then there are other institutions to think of: City and Guilds, Royal College of Science and Royal School of Mines with their hardworking deans.
In looking over the somewhat uninspiring spires of our institution and thinking of inspiring changes (medical and others) it seems vital that colleagues at Imperial College raise their eyes from weighty matters of debate such as the nature of calculators allowed into lecture rooms and give some thought to the future structure of the College.
The debate will have to be frank and open (meaning controversial). But above all, it will have to be widespread to assure the minimisation of future resentments. The danger is that doctors will come into the house in what may seem to be an unbalancing act.
(c) Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, 1995
Last Revised: 20 January 1995