Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

Tuesday 6 June 1730-1900
University of the Arts, 272 High Holborn


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

University of the Arts London,
272 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EY


What’s the future for design schools within neoliberal universities? Is design accelerating the neoliberalisation of universities or affording pathways to alternatives? Should design schools take the lead or take leave of universities?

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.

Free event but booking is essential

To book a place please email:

Organised by the UAL Innovation Insights Hub and Design Culture Salon







This entry was posted in design education, design practice, innovation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times

  1. paulrodgersdesign says:

    Hi Johanna, Jamie, Guy, Lucy and Cameron,

    Your salon on the design school sounds great. It shares many of the concerns that we have been exploring through our AHRC funded research network – Design School: The Future of the Project – in collaboration with the Design Museum London.

    Design School: The Future of the Project encompasses three Design School summits reflecting three significant turns in the contemporary Design School. The first summit (already taken place) “Design School and the Educational Turn” focused on the current issues surrounding the Design School including the development of countless private Design Schools, increased distance learning, and national policies surrounding design education pursued by governments across the world. The second summit (Monday 19 June 2017), “Design School and the Industrial Turn”, will examine the increasingly intensive relationship between industry and Design Schools hopefully stimulating debate over future Design School policy and private companies’ agendas. The third summit (November 2017) will focus on the increasingly close relationship between the Design School and the Cultural Sector.

    We also plan to extend the network with a fourth Design School summit towards the turn of the year in Sydney, Australia.



  2. Pingback: Reflections on Design Culture Salon 25: Design School Imaginaries in Neoliberal Times | Design Culture Salon

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