Review of the Year – Design education

It’s been a tumultuous year for design education, with the promise for more upheaval to come in 2012.

Neville Brody
Neville Brody

There were significant overhauls at two of the UK’s leading design institutions. The RCA implemented a new school structure, with Neville Brody taking a new position as dean of the School of Communication, while students at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design are currently settling into their new building in London’s King’s Cross.

But while those in education were dealing some exciting changes, the picture for those looking to get on to a design course looked bleak. With university fees for undergraduates set to rise to up to £9000 a year from next year, the number of applications to creative arts and design university courses dropped by 27.1 per cent. This prompted us to ask leading designers whether they thought a design degree was worth £9000 a year.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that the number of art and design students has grown by nearly a quarter since 2003, but the picture for those graduating is tough, with more than a third of art and design graduates still without a full-time job three years after graduation.

Restarting Britain report
Restarting Britain report

Little wonder then, the lobbying for design education reform was high on the agenda, with the Design Commission’s inaugural report examining the issue and calling for (among other things) an expansion of further education routes into industry.

Ellen MacArthur
Ellen MacArthur

Another hot topic for 2011 was the perceived threat to design and technology as a statutory subject, with the National Curriculum under review. To address this, a campaign was launched, led by the Design and Technology Foundation, the James Dyson Foundation and Seymour Powell, and enlisting figures including yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur. Other figures such as Sir Paul Smith and Sir Terence Conran joined the call to protect D&T.

Creative Britain in Reverse panel
Creative Britain in Reverse panel

With public consultation on the future of the National Curriculum opening next year, The D&T Association says, ‘At this stage it will be stated which other subjects in addition to English, mathematics, science and physical education will be included. We need to make sure D&T is!’

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