Design Reality

Are Educators failing young designers?

An open letter to BIDA .

Dear BIDA,

I’m writing this message to stimulate discussion amongst the association about the quality of design education in the UK.

It’s time for the industry to accredit a minimum standard for all undergraduate Industrial and Product Design courses so that students get the educational value they deserve (and pay for), and industry has the quality of graduates it desperately needs. BIDA should be working with industry to set this minimum standard and the time to do this is now.

The recent survey by BIDA shows that the spread of student employability is not changing year-on-year whereby 10 universities are producing quality students and the other 45 are not. This is extremely worrying. The disparity in the quality of university courses is exposed when we see the abilities of graduates with a first-class degree from some universities equal to those of a third-class at others. This is not right for the students entering these courses with no transparency on its quality, and for employers who are looking for skilled graduates to tackle the design demands of the future and candidates are coming up short.

What’s needed is a simple accreditation badge that proves that a course gives students half-a-chance of employment in a very competitive market. These 18-year olds have little idea what they need to learn and what standard is expected of them upon graduation.

High-quality design graduates will be the only way to re-ignite the country after Brexit. Manufacturers will need to compete on a global scale and Design will now become the most important differentiator. With the continuation of tuition fee rises, the need for more regionally strong universities will be required so that students have the option of living at home. Better regional universities will also produce more skilled graduates across the regions as a whole, meaning design skills will be more widely available nationally, rather than centred in certain areas as they are currently.

As well as university courses being accredited, each design lecturer should be accredited to ensure the best quality teaching. They must have a simple balance of teaching and research, with the latter being in innovative multidisciplinary product design projects – basically, a design consultant! Industry must be closely involved with the curriculum year on year to ensure courses stay relevant and remain current with industry needs, especially in developments with Industry 4.0.

A team of accreditors (made up of designers and academics from the top 10) is needed to provide a rounded in-house and consultancy-led approach to the formation of university curriculums. This will lead to a balanced moderation and, most importantly, standardisation between grade levels and teaching at all universities. Students need to be made aware of the accreditation standards through UCAS ratings so they can make informed decisions about the course they take and their future employability.

Masters level degrees have to incorporate the additional skills required by industry to make the designers of the future. Skill such as electronics, software and mechanical engineering to project management and business are all vital, especially with the pace of change associated with Industry 4.0.

Looking forward to understanding how we can all discuss, argue and develop this idea further.

Yours,

Wyn Jones

Creative Director, Design Reality

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Wyn Jones

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