Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

06 Jun 2017

5.30pm to 7pm

In the UK, change is afoot in multiple domains – not just the future of the country, its relation to Europe and its constitutional make-up, but also the ways it enables teaching and learning and does research. Like universities in general, UK design schools in particular face a number of challenges including: falling numbers of student applications, limitations on non-UK students studying and remaining in the UK after graduation, reduced academic autonomy, changes in public funding and the valuing of STEM above STEAM (eg, even while the creative and cultural industries grow at a higher rate than other economic sectors. Current emphasis on teaching excellence, graduate employability, audit culture and demonstrating research impact mask a deeper problem – uncertainty about the roles and capacities of design’s higher educational institutions to produce people equipped to deal with lives of change and disruptions to the nature of work, place, well-being and belonging.


Attempts to articulate the specificity and contribution of design higher education are undermined by ignoring its location within institutions that are increasingly expected to reproduce, rather than question, dominant economic models and thinking. Market models of design education such as Hyper Island, Kaos Pilots and General Assembly, online initiatives such as IDEO U, alongside more critical exploratory approaches such as The University of the Underground or the Free University Brighton indicate emerging futures for design schools – which may not be in universities.


Taking an oblique angle to consider these topics, this panel discussion will share insights on higher education in design informed by innovation studies, design activism, philosophy and social design.




Dr Johanna Boehnert, University of Westminster/EcoLabs

Dr Jamie Brassett, Reader and course leader, MA Innovation Management, Central Saint Martins, UAL

Professor Guy Julier, University of Brighton/Victoria and Albert Museum

Professor Lucy Kimbell, Director, Innovation Insights Hub, UAL

Professor Cameron Tonkinwise, University of New South Wales


To book a place please email


Organised by the UAL Innovation Insights Hub and Design Culture Salon