CoA Paris study abroad program suspended

The College of Architecture (CoA) has decided to suspend the operation of its Paris Program for the 2011-12 academic year. The program, which was initiated in 1975, offered ARCH students the opportunity to spend their senior year abroad enabling cross enrollment in partner school Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris La Villette (ENSAPLV).

The cancellation of the program was announced in a letter of reference dated April 21 from George Johnston, CoA school chair. According to the letter, the program was cancelled due to financial unsustainability as well as under-enrollment for the academic year.

“We did everything we could to avoid it,” Johnston said.

The Paris Program was a “resident instruction” program. Tech’s School of Architecture maintained an office at ENSAPLV, the host architecture school, and participants had full-time Tech faculty members as resident directors. During the spring term, students from Tech and ENSAPLV collaborated on common architectural design projects with the help of faculty from both institutes.

“[It is a] great program in terms of cultural exchange because Paris has a rich history, architecturally and urbanistically,” Johnston said.

On average, about 20-30 students were traditionally enrolled in the Paris Program each year. In recent years, however, there has been a progressive drop in enrollment in the program. There were only 13 students enrolled in the 2010-11 academic year and only five interested in enrollment for the 2011-12 academic year.

The program was also deemed financially unsustainable due to the current economic downturn, coupled with budgetary restrictions imposed by the state of Georgia. The Tech tuition fee covered the cost of instruction, but with added “non-personal” services, the costs rose.

“We couldn’t subsidize the program to tide it over for a year of low enrollment…You have to face up to whether it’s possible to maintain the infrastructure,” Johnston said.

The collective decision to suspend the program was made after consultation of the Dean of Architecture, the School Chair, the resident director in Paris and faculty members. Johnston himself taught at the program three times.

“It is bittersweet to be in the position to have to implement this change,” Johnston said.

Other study abroad programs are available for ARCH students, such as the Greece/Italy program and a graduate program that takes students to Northern Europe to study modern architecture. The CoA is trying to establish relations with the Technical University in Munich and institutions in Switzerland and is working to establish a standard exchange program with ENSAPLV. Such exchange programs require students to express language proficiency before enrollment since classes are instructed by local professors, not Tech professors.

Although the Paris Program was cancelled earlier, students were primarily aware of this decision only if they were either directly enrolled or interested in the program.

Students are now collectively signing an online petition to show the administration their support for the Paris Program. Most students feel that the cancellation is not permanent.

“I initially thought the cancellation of the program was just a rumor. Most students were told no official reason for why the program was cancelled. When we heard the rumors were true we actually organized protests and got people to sign the petition to bring the program back,” said Vermouth Yunxin Hu, a third-year ARCH major.

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