Design and Research

Rick Poyner writes on design observer about the weird world* of design academia. I don’t know how much of the RAE and REF (research excellence framework) discussions, or bigger questions of how courses are structured, staffed and operated, filter into the studio environment, but its a pertinent topic which needs airing (to my mind). I thought that the whole article was interesting, and particularly this comment from Gerry Leonides, a tutor at Reading, stood out;

…higher education is undergoing a fairly rapid transition into a world of excessive QA (Quality Assurance), and a brutal breaking up of teaching and learning into tightly measured chunks of contact time, of coursework, and of assessment. This process, driven by a view of education as a massive spreadsheet where all events (and costs) can be prescribed, is having fundamental effects on the students’ experience, and the role of the teacher. On the research side, design suffers especially from QA models developed for disciplines where scholarship is better defined, and where active engagement between researchers and practitioners is a given. Through its impact on funding, the unloved ‘Research Excellence Framework’ you link to is a textbook case of the QA model prescribing practice. Rather than an engine for innovation, it has become an end in itself, jeopardising longer-term planning. In design this has pushed academics to chase publications in journals that barely register on practice. Although there is a recognition that research is an element of some practical work, and practice portfolios are allowed as submissions, we are far from a broad agreement on what constitutes research in design (and the wild range of what passes for a PhD in design testifies to this).

via The Closed Shop of Design Academia: Observatory: Design Observer.

* that’s my attribution of weirdness, not his necessarily.

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