Having attended the debate entitled Design Education, preparing designers or educating graduates, by British Design and Architecture, Design Week and the Design Council, held on 10 March, I have a burning urge to say something.
The concept of the debate – questioning the role of design education – was excellent. “Do we prepare people to work as designers, or do we provide an education which will equip graduates for all sorts of multidisciplinary roles? Or both? Can the two directions co-exist?”
Well, we do both. They do co-exist – by the nature of things, they have to.
There was disparaging criticism of the stylish pastiches we see emerging from colleges. There was talk of diversity, and of how design can make the world a better place. How design is about innovation, experimentation, originality and individuality. There were also complaints about the similarity of work coming from colleges all around the country, and the usual moans that there are not enough good graduates around.
However, this was all a bit on the academic side. All of us who teach are aware of the shortfalls in design education. Of course, your goal is to try to teach life skills, work skills and design skills for the future needs of the individual in the work place.
Unfortunately, the systematic cutting down of tutor hours is more than a little counter-productive in this respect – especially as it is the part-timers who inevitably get the chop. Yet it is part-timers who are providing the link between design education and industry, because we continue to work in both arenas.
Full-timers on fairly hefty salaries are kept safe in their jobs, and they are the ones who, by virtue of the very fact that they are full-time, are no longer able to keep up that crucial contact with the industry.
Undoubtedly, one of the central issues for design education is to increase the number of part-timers, not whittle them down and reduce their rates of pay. The hourly rate of pay in colleges has dropped from something like 24 to 15 – shocking!