An Integrated Approach to Developing Higher Graduate Skills in Design Education
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Spruce, Jon
Section: Professional Perspectives
This paper highlights some of the current discussions surrounding the appropriate development of design education in the UK. In particular it draws attention to the increasing calls from both industry speakers and UK Government Departments for graduates to possess a broad range of transferable skills which go beyond their traditional subject boundaries. Such discussions are further fuelling the blurring of career paths for design graduates in a market place where commercial awareness, business ‘savvy’ and flexibility are increasingly demanded from graduate employers. Aligned to these calls for developed graduate skills is the introduction of Personal Development Planning (PDP) within UK Higher Education, as a vehicle by which students can more fully engage in their own learning and better develop key employability skills. The paper describes PDP in a national context and highlights the four phases of the PDP process as; planning, recording, reviewing and evaluating. Further to this, methods of PDP’s integration within a practice based art and design curriculum are described. Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) has attempted to uniquely address many of the national issues highlighted for improving students learning experience, via the introduction of WoW (World of Work) skills across the whole university. The WoW programme aims to provide every student the opportunity to develop higher level skills while studying at LJMU. It is the intention to ensure the journey through Higher Education is as relevant, useful and aspirational as possible. Focusing on the requirement of meaningful engagement with students own learning, addressing employer engagement issues and placing value on the transferability of graduate skills sets via a holistic approach – bringing all these elements of student learning together within the WoW programme of skills development. Whilst the WoW skills agenda clearly aims to address highly relevant needs, the practical interpretation of broad strategic visions such as WoW given by University policy makers may not always readily covert into activities and processes that align with a programme’s curriculum. In this paper, methods for the implementation of WoW skills at programme level will focus on the Product Design & Digital Modelling programme at LJMU as a case study. Taking this major University initiative as a starting point, the programme has explored potential alignments between established PDP delivery mechanisms and the meaningful delivery of WoW skills within the programme’s academic schedule. A key aim of this integration was to further enhance the benefits and perceived value of WoW skills, as these increasingly emphasised transferable skills are still viewed by many students as having limited value.