Student quality, not quantity, is the issue.
The Tories must have found it a fitting footnote to their conference that the unemployment figures in the UK are currently at their lowest for years.
Jeremy Myerson pointed out in his article on design education (DW 6 October) that the number of graphic designers who now graduate each year in the UK matches the actual number of jobs within the industry.
One of the reasons for the apparently rosy unemployment figures is that in the past five years the number of courses and the size of the intake in the higher education system have increased dramatically. This has provided deceptive short-term relief for unemployment figures and a deluge of increasingly poorly educated graduates who have little hope of finding work within their chosen discipline.
The art and design education system is in no way excluded from this. Under the present system, university faculties are rewarded for the quantity of students taken under their wing, not the quality of their graduates. As a consequence there has been a plethora of new courses, many of which are ill-conceived and under-funded. Faced with a bums-on-seats admissions procedure, coupled with lower tutoring hours, standards tumble – and morale duly follows suit.
This system is unfair to those who could make the most of a top quality higher education and, as Jeremy Myerson points out, it is misleading to those who take up courses in the belief of finding jobs within their chosen discipline. It is surely wrong for a profession to allow itself to be degraded in such a way, and immoral for it to allow Government policies to force it to give so many false hopes.
A strong and vibrant profession cannot be brought about by numbers of graduates, but by the quality of its practitioners, a healthy production base and an understanding clientele. If the diversification of design students into PR, marketing and retail encourages such an understanding, what measures could, or should, be taken to improve the likelihood of a design graduate’s acceptance into such areas over those applying from courses to do with PR, marketing and retail?