If a creative industries debate at the House of Commons this week is anything to go by, the Liberal Democrat element of the coalition Government is in denial about 40 per cent cuts to education in the design sector.
Challenged from the floor by Seymour Powell’s own Dick Powell about the cuts, Lib Dem MP Don Foster, who co-chairs his party’s policy committee on Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, said he didn’t know what the D&AD chairman was talking about. It seems education budgets aren’t being slashed, just differently funded, if Foster is to be believed – funded, we assume, through the £9000 fee levy on students.
Oh well, that’s okay then. We won’t be missing out on top creative talent any time soon, just because prospective newcomers have the wrong postcode or come from lowly stock financially, or educational institutions lack the wherewithal to support them. Tell that to the colleges currently making tough decisions about resources and courses.
It is as well, given Foster’s stance, that the design community is prepared to muck in and do its bit to foster young hopefuls with an eye to a career in design. Indeed, Seymour Powell has been working with a girls school near its west London studio to demonstrate to its students that there are careers in design for women. Female members of the Seymour Powell team have been engaging with school students – at the instigation of school staff, which is particularly encouraging.
Seymour Powell isn’t the only consultancy ‘giving a bit back’ in this way – nor is the local school initiative its only foray into education. The Brand Union famously runs college schemes, Elmwood chairman Jonathan Sands has a university collaboration up his sleeve and loads of designers pride themselves on being visiting professors or assessors. Indeed, we’d like to hear more from other individuals and consultancy heads involved in educational projects.
Organisations such as D&AD and the Design Museum meanwhile expend huge effort in delivering education to kids and creatives at all levels – from schools to professional development. It is in their remit, but also in the interests of the communities they serve.
The debate providing a backdrop to the Foster/Powell clash was concerned with ‘creative clusters’ – the regions of England, Scotland and Wales identified by a report from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts last year as attracting creative businesses and innovators. The question was how to encourage such clusters by identifying factors that promote growth and those that impede it.
A plus point mentioned in the debate as stimulating creative businesses was proximity to and links with universities – the very institutions currently under the financial cosh. So as a nation we are looking to maintain our creative edge – and presumably international respect for offering superb design education that attract fee-paying students from across the globe. But how?
Sounds like we might find ourselves back with the old atelier system before long, where emerging talents sit at the feet of the master by way of an apprenticeship. It could be that the designers and consultancies devoting time and lending expertise to schools and colleges might be on the right track.