Brighton conference to look at future of education

With controversy continuing to swirl around former Landor Europe and Fitch managing director Ian Cochrane’s recommendation in Design Week that design students ‘get out’ of a sector that ‘does not need’ them,the University of Brighton is to address the iss

With controversy continuing to swirl around former Landor Europe and Fitch managing director Ian Cochrane’s recommendation in Design Week (News in Depth, 29 January) that design students ‘get out’ of a sector that ‘does not need’ them, the University of Brighton is to address the issue of design teaching in an international conference starting tomorrow.

Art and Design Education for the 21st Century, which runs until Saturday 7 February, is being held as part of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Brighton School of Art, and speakers include Royal College of Art Rector and former Arts Council chairman Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, and Anne Burdick, chairwoman of the graduate media design program at Art Center College of Design in California.

Conference organiser Professor Jonathan Woodham, director of the Centre for Research and Development at the University of Brighton’s Faculty of Arts and Architecture, says the conference will aim to look at how a range of disciplines, such as textile design, graphic design and product design, might develop in the future.

He says the idea is to eventually come up with an ‘action plan’, and adds that the international perspective brought in by speakers such as Burdick and Dr Darlie O Koshy, former director of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, India, will be vital.

Woodham says, ‘In the UK, with initiatives such as the Cox Report, we’ve often been long on rhetoric and short on action. What we are trying to do is find an appropriate plan.’

Woodham adds that he agrees in principle with commentators who have posted on www.designweek. co.uk, following Cochrane’s statements, to suggest that students are victims of flaws in the education system.

He says, ‘I think, in general, design education does not prepare students well. The key thing is to encourage flexibility in imagination – does the higher education curriculum encourage the development of flexibility and skills, or does it just stick within rigid disciplinary frameworks?’

Frayling’s talk tomorrow will look at the concept of a ‘new Bauhaus’, asking the question, ‘If a new school of art and design was being founded from scratch in 2009, what would it be like?’

Frayling says, ‘There are three key challenges facing design education at the moment. The first is the relationship between education and the creative industries – we have to position design education as being a crucible for the creative industries.

‘The second challenge is that celebrity culture has become too dominant in the era of the Young British Artist. We need to make sure people will find a design education useful in whatever they do, and that we are teaching “through” design, as well as teaching people “to” design.’

He adds, ‘The third challenge is to make sure establishments that deal with practice are taken seriously. This stems back to the snobby Victorian perception that art schools were for tradesmen and universities were for gentlemen. But art, drama and music schools have been around for more than 200 years now – it’s about time they were taken seriously.’

Speakers at Art and Design Education for the 21st Century:

• Professor Sir Christopher Frayling, Rector of the Royal College of Art

• Professor Bruce Brown, pro-vice-chancellor for research at the University of Brighton

• Professor Darren Newbury, lecturer at Birmingham Institute of Art & Design

• Elaine Aston, professor of contemporary performance at Lancaster University

• Anne Burdick, chairwoman of the graduate media design program at Art Center College of Design, California

• Dr Darlie O Koshy, former director of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

• Sir David Watson, professor of higher education management at the Institute of Education, University of London

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