We’ll need the industry to lend a helping hand to design education

New Designers opens its final show at London’s Business Design Centre this week amid predictions from the Association of Graduate Recruiters that graduates generally will need at least a 2.1 degree to get a job.

It’s not just a depth of understanding, superb craft skills and great ideas that will see this generation of new designers through though.

Personality and entrepreneurialism also denote great candidates. Design graduates need to be canny right now to secure work – and they need to remember that a design education can open many doors, not just in consultancies.

Times are also tough for design colleges. Government cuts have already taken their toll on some, but more are in the offing, with no institution immune from the swinging axe.

Take the Royal College of Art, hailed globally as an exemplary institution. It underwent 10 per cent cuts from the then Labour Government in the past academic year – despite having agreed a three-year budget. Now it faces possible cuts of up to 25 per cent over an as yet unspecified period. What that means to plans for the Battersea campus or to mooted new courses we can only surmise.

The RCA is not alone in this. All colleges will have to think of new ways to raise funds or curb activities – benevolent donations aren’t easy to come by these days. But academic institutions are less nimble than commercial concerns and are finding it hard to change, say exasperated, forward-thinking tutors.

Design practitioners could usefully get more involved with colleges, not just in teaching and offering placements, but in brainstorming ideas to boost income long-term or by introducing potential backers among their clients.

This problem will not go away. The future of design depends on the quality of its graduates and it is in everyone’s interest to keep the standard high – whatever effort it takes. It’s time for the industry to intervene and take action.

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