Not prioritising design education is ‘disastrous’, says Frayling

Former Royal College of Art rector Sir Christopher Frayling says a failure to prioritise design education is ‘disastrous’ for the economy.

Sir Christopher Frayling
Sir Christopher Frayling

Speaking on Radio 4’s Start The Week programme, Frayling told presenter Andrew Marr, ‘I thought the whole debate [about design education] had been won, but the argument has slipped incredibly in the last few years.

‘In economic terms the great debate since the 1990s has been about the creative industries, and art schools have had a critical impact on the whole creative sector. The Treasury has predicted that by 2017 around 50 per cent of new jobs in the UK will come from the creative sector.’

Frayling said moves such as the Russell Group of universities not accepting art and design GCSEs as a prerequisite, and the exclusion of art and design from the English Baccalaureate were ‘economically disaterous’.

He also highlighted the disconnect between design and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, whose funding is protected.

Frayling said, ‘If only the Browne Review [on higher education funding] had mentioned design… I actually spoke to Lord Browne about this after the publication and said, “What about design?” and he said, “What a good idea. What are we going to do about it?” Well the horse has bolted now.’

Frayling was joined on the programme by Ron Arad, Anthony Gormley and RCA history of design tutor Sarah Teasley.

They also discussed the disconnection between design and manufacture in the UK, with Frayling saying, ‘At the moment we’re coming up with the ideas and someone in China is manufacturing them. Design has become this kind of abstracted thing, and it’s got to be brought back together with manufacturing.’

Arad said, ‘At the moment a lot of design students graduate and are very grateful that there are places like Italy that can employ them.’

You can listen to BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week programme about art and design education on iPlayer here.

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  • Maxine Horn November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I think the disconnect occurs because ‘design’ cannot be pidgeon-holed to sit neatly hand in hand with manufacturing, engineering, science or technology – it is an essential element to all of those activities.

    And is it the ‘design process’ that can be taught to any capable person and be deployed in any business where the right type of strategic, industrial, service, aesthetic, digital and interactive physical design skills can then be identified and engaged accordingly?

    Which brings about the whole issue regards design accreditation and CPD to the fore.

    Professional Accreditation and CPD has been much debated and most often spurned by the design industry itself.

    Therefore, the design sector can be percieved to lack the robustness and professional status of engineering, science, legal, accountancy & manufacturing professions –

    Hence design often get’s sidelined as an aesthetic nice to have brought in when all the clever stuff and difficult decisions have been taken, rather than considered at the outset as a fundamental must have.

    So yes, a disconnect between design education and design practice & the manufacturing, technology, engineering and science sectors could well be a costly UK plc mistake.

    But the design education and design sectors could help matters by developing and accepting a ‘professional infrastructure’, accreditation and CPD path – just like all other professions do.

    Herding cats anyone……?

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