I’ve been thinking about UAL’s strengths as a provider of Arts Higher and Further education, and apart from the obvious (our size, the range of specialisms in one university, being in London, and the amazing students and staff we attract from all over the globe because of those factors), I came up with three things: industry links, collaboration, and digital developments.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those three factors, since student enterprise and employability came into my portfolio of responsibilities, since successfully bidding for the DIAL project and obviously working closely for the last six years with UAL’s elearning team, and since undertaking a survey of practices relating to assessing team work.
I’d say UAL has a claim to be emerging as a sector leader in all three fields – we did pretty well in the Times Higher student experience survey in April 2012 for ‘good industry connections’, 11th after the likes of Imperial, Oxford and Surrey. Our students say they really value being taught by practitioners, and placements and industry sponsored projects and awards are prominent in our provision. We have many courses which are structured around collaborative working: I’m chairing the final stage of the validation of the MA in Collaborative Performance tomorrow, which focuses on collaboration as a key way of working, and we have excellent examples of group assessment all over the university. Finally, our focus on the visual component in our learning technologies makes us distinctive, and of interest in a context where text has often prevailed to the detriment of all learning, not just that relating to visual disciplines. Our work on Open Educational Practice is also starting to be recognised as sector leading and of international interest.
Continuing to explore and develop these three areas will be good for UAL students who will benefit from excellent practice and leading edge developments, and exciting for the staff involved, as well as good for their careers in the long term. The three combined arguably give UAL a distinctive profile which cannot easily be replicated – and help us answer the question, ‘are we famous for something other than being the largest provider of art and design education’ with conviction and a sense of eagerness and hope for what the future brings.