University cutbacks are failing Leeds design students

I am writing to express my concern about the support system available to young product and furniture designers in Britain. Particularly those not in the London area.

In recent years, design has become an important feature of Britain’s identity and designers such as Ron Arad are now international names. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, innovative design is often the only point of differentiation between the products of today.

At the moment I am part of a wonderful group of young designers who are intelligent, highly creative and hard working. We are students of Product and Furniture Design (3D) at Leeds Metropolitan University. The sad fact is that we are probably some of last of our kind in the Leeds area.

Leeds is renowned as a forward-thinking and fast-developing city; a city that plans to have its first ‘Design Week’ this year. The course I am on has a committed and highly skilled selection of staff. However, the university’s support system is failing us all. The course once benefited from some of the best workshop facilities in the country but due to lack of university funding the course is considered no longer cost-effective.

The university is more concerned with spending money on impressive foyers and landscaping that will attract students who enable the achievement of greater profit margins, than providing quality education. Massive cut-backs are taking place and the great staff and students are now disillusioned with the prospect of a bleak future.

I am in the second year of the course and planning for the future. As design students we need to exhibit our work in order to catch the attention of future employers. At the end of our third year we need to exhibit in London.

Exhibiting in London would be wonderful promotion for the university and the city of Leeds, but we are given no support whatsoever. My graduating year is probably one of the most talented and innovative groups of students any design course could wish for. To make the most of our talents we need finance.

We have dressed as ballerinas, stripped, had custard pies thrown in our faces and had our heads shaved to raise money. Despite all our efforts we are still £4500 away from our £6000 target.

I want you to realise that the British design education system is in dire need of reform. Even more good designers will be forced into other areas of employment or to different countries. You need good design, Leeds needs good design and the future needs good design. We are good design, help us to be noticed or lose us forever.

Any help or advice you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

Helen Griffiths

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