Dream Lab promotes UK education

Sleep might be an alien concept to many design students, what with the need to balance deadlines with an often demanding social life, but the science of sleep is being used to promote the UK’s creative education abroad through a new academic initiative.

The Dream Lab challenge, which is run by Kingston University and the British Council in conjunction with the Science Museum, the Design Museum, the Wellcome Trust and Bournemouth University, asks students from Chinese colleges and universities to communicate the science of sleeping and dreaming – anything from jet lag to the physical and psychological effects of night-working – using their creative skills.

These ideas will be appraised by a judging panel comprising: Donna Loveday, head of exhibitions at the Design Museum; Professor Nick Petford, pro-vicechancellor (research and enterprise) at Bournemouth University; Professor Catherine McDermott from the School of Design at Kingston University; Professor Tim Molloy, head of creative direction at the Science Museum; and James Peto, senior curator at the Wellcome Trust, alongside Chinese academics and experts.

Teams of up to six students will be given online help with the project – McDermott says, ‘We will give them the same support as we give to our own postgraduates’ – and in October a shortlist of five teams will be drawn up.

These teams will present their ideas live on stage to the judging panel, in what the organisers describe as ‘an XFactor- style final’ at the San Li Tun village development in Beijing in November.

McDermott, who is lead academic on the project, says the challenge will give Chinese students the opportunity to tackle a UK-style live brief.

‘[China] has more of an educational emphasis on skill bases – drawing and other technical aspects – whereas in the UK the emphasis is more ideas-based, focused on problem-solving and looking at live briefs,’ she says.

McDermott is course director of the curating contemporary design MA at Kingston University, and the Dream Lab concept grew out of live briefs developed as part of this course.

McDermott had worked with the Design Museum, the Science Museum and the Wellcome Trust on course projects, and Petford at Bournemouth University is a former colleague at Kingston.

Dream Lab was picked up as part of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education, run by the British Council, which invited UK universities to put forward briefs to promote British creativity and creative education abroad.

McDermott speculates that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s personal interest in competitions may have had something to do with the Dream Lab format’s selection.

She says Dream Lab is perfect to promote the UK education system, as ‘interdisciplinary design problems with a sound creative brief are a unique and strong British talent’. With regard to the subject matter, she says, ‘We chose the science of sleep because it crosses all cultures – it’s something that everyone experiences.’ While McDermott says she can’t predict the responses to the brief, she expects disciplines such as digital media, painting and illustration, all of which are strong in China, to be wellrepresented. All institutions that reach the final will be able to nominate a student for one of five Dream Lab scholarships to enable them to come to the UK to study full-time.

McDermott says that after its Chinese run, the aim is for the Dream Lab challenge to move on to other countries, with South Korea, India and Japan all mooted.


  • Part of the Prime Minister’s Initiative for International Education 2006-2011 (PMI 2), a five-year strategy to support the UK’s position in the international education market
  • Kingston University and Bournemouth University have offered a package of scholarships worth £40 000 to be divided among five students for the 2010 academic year – For more information, visit www.britishcouncil.org/chinadreamlab



Start the discussionStart the discussion
  • Post a comment

Latest articles