Glad conference targets academics and policy-makers

The annual conference organised by the Group for Learning in Art and Design is drawing up a set of blueprint papers and recommendations aimed at policy-makers and practitioners working in art and design education.

The papers will be published in 2008 in what the conference organisers hope will be a ‘seminal’ book entitled The Student Experience in Art and Design Higher Education: Drivers for Change.

The aim of the conference, according to Linda Drew, Dean of academic development at the Chelsea College of Art & Design and a key member of Glad’s planning committee, is, ultimately, to re-engage Government ministries with the debate surrounding the structure and organisation of art and design education from an academic perspective.

Drew feels that, at present, there is no significant influence on policy in art and design education. ‘The skills debate exists, yes, but there has been nothing that’s informed education policy since the Coldstream report in the 1960s. We [at Glad] felt it was time to lead on this,’ she says.

The conference comes a week before the Education and Skills Select Committee is due to preview its recommendations to a parliamentary group, including Barry Sheerman MP, Jonathan Sands, chairman of the Advisory Panel for the Parliamentary Design Group, and minister for further and higher education Bill Rammell (see page 3).

While the Education and Skills Select Committee sees the issue of design education from a purely ‘commercial’ standpoint, Glad feels that this approach is not enough. Sir Michael Bichard, Rector of the University of the Arts London, goes further in highlighting the danger of a vocational approach to art and design education in his keynote speech at the conference.

‘The necessary high-level intellectual skills [that art and design students require] are seriously in danger of now being undervalued by a skills lobby which is seeking to position itself between Government, the funding agencies and the sector,’ says Bichard.

This year, the Glad conference takes a different format, with selected participants writing papers, instead of responding to them. The panel of 50 international experts includes art and design professors, research fellows and other academics. Representatives from the Education and Skills Select Committee, although invited to the event, were unavailable to attend.

Participants have put together seven ‘chapter headings’ that will be defined in a series of initial recommendations for policy-makers, and discussed in depth in the conference book.

The book will highlight topics such as the blurring of boundaries between art and design disciplines, the interrelationship between research and creativity, as well as the debate on the globalisation of education and the management of student expectations. Recommendations on the integration of practitioners into academic staff, as well leadership issues, will also be made.

Glad is planning a follow-up to this year’s conference with an ‘open’ event in 2008 that will focus purely on strategy.

• Glad was established in 1988 as a platform for debate on issues relating to teaching and learning in art and design
• It is chaired by Professor David Vaughan, principal of Cumbria Institute of the Arts, and has a planning committee of four, including representatives from the Arts Institute of Bournemouth, Nottingham Trent University and the University of Central Lancashire

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