What kinds of seeds? – John Thackara

By john | Published: February 21, 2011

Global design education in a nasty bind. There are hints of the dot com boom a decade ago. New products [courses] have been launched at a frantic rate in recent years. New buildings are springing up. Global aggregators have even started buying design schools; an obscure American multinational, Laureate Universities, purchased Domus Academy and Naba, recently.

Inflation of Tuition Fees, Medical Costs, and Cost of Living 1978 - 2008

But look at this chart. Inflation in US college tuition fees is outstripping not just the cost of living, but even medical expenses. To a prospective student, that top line represents the promise of a $200-300,000 bill for a design qualification whose value, in these transitional times, has to be questioned.

The world’s top-ranking design schools are in a special bind. Their fixed costs per student are so high that they feel compelled to expand student numbers. To do that, they need more space, new buildings. London’s blue-chip Royal College of Art, for example, ‘needs’, in its own mind, to double or treble in size as soon as possible.

Their dilemma is that the best-selling products – or courses – are those that promise a quick entry into fashionable careers: car design, retail design, packaging design, digital design, hotel design, fashion.

These courses do not prepare students for the next economy. They churn out front-line troops for the one we have now.

India, in this context, has a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: to innovate a new kind of design education at the exact moment when the old world’s model is on its last legs – in terms of content, and in terms of affordability.

What the world needs – not just India – is a new kind of design education that:

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About korjan

Partner, Studio Korjan & Independent Design Educator. Believes that complex problems could have design solutions.

One comment

  1. arvind

    There are two Indias, and there will be enough and more takers for the ‘shining’ India. The other India does not need yet another well-intentioned elite design intervention to ‘solve’ its ‘problems’, but an institution that will learn from and serve its perfectly creative and competent population the way they want to be served. In other words, the other design institution should be set up more like an activist CBO or NGO, or to use the outdated term, Volag (Voluntary Agency).

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