Featured in new HEPI book about student fees and engagement

I have contributed an essay to a new book put together by Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) entitled ‘What do I get? Ten essays on student fees, student engagement and student choice’.

My essay outlines our view at UAL that the government knows the fees model alone does not work for science subjects so recognises the risk to the supply of talent to a strategically-important industry and provides accordingly, and yet it fails to recognise the same risk to a different industry – that of art and design.

Read more about the book and my contribution on the HEPI website.

Study says fine arts suffer class bias in National Student Survey

I was recently asked to give a quote on new research which shows that the National Student Survey is biased against universities specialising in art and design for Times Higher Education. 

“[...] as this research sets out, the NSS is unconsciously biased against arts and design institutions. Its questions assume that students are being taught in lecture theatres and classrooms. That simply doesn’t reflect the way students learn practice-based subjects, from arts and design to some science and medical courses.”

Read the full article on the Times Higher Education website. 

Letter to the Guardian

I wrote a letter in the Guardian today responding to Theresa May’s proposal to kick foreign students out of the UK once they have finished their studies. Numerous UAL international graduates go on to be pioneers and world-leaders in the creative sector. It would therefore be incredibly damaging to the UK economy if we did not remain an open and welcoming study destination for these brilliant students.

The full letter, co-signed by VCs at three other leading creative arts universities, can be read in full below, or viewed on the Guardian website.

“James Dyson (No Theresa May, we need those foreign graduates, 5 January) rightly says that Theresa May’s proposal to train up then kick out brilliant foreign students would be a major barrier to progress. The home secretary’s proposal must be the first deliberate attempt by a mainstream UK politician to stop the brain drain operating in our favour.

“The creative sector would sustain particular damage were this proposal to go ahead. UK universities train a very high proportion of the world’s best graduates in creative disciplines. From film to fine art, design to fashion, the creative industries depend on international networks of practitioners and businesses. These industries now form one of the biggest sectors in the UK economy.

“As James Dyson, himself an art-school graduate, argues in relation to science and technology, our borders must remain open to the world’s best to attract, train and retain highly skilled professionals and to protect our creative industries.”

All Staff Briefing November 2014

My All Staff Briefings earlier this month focused on the development of the University’s strategy for 2015-2020.

We have finalised the new strategy against the backdrop of very successful student recruitment at all levels and a number of new initiatives and awards. This bodes well for our goal to increase our profile as an advocate for creativity and creative education and as a university admired as a force in global creative education.

We have good reason to be confident about the future, whatever the challenges, and I wish everyone a happy and restful Christmas and New Year.

Please click on the link below to see the slides from the All Staff Briefing:

VC All Staff Briefing November 2014

Writing about the introduction of postgrad loans in Times Higher Education

I wrote for Times Higher Education about why despite the recent introduction of postgraduate loans, the government’s education funding aims still remain a puzzle.

Coherent higher education policy? Far from it

“Should we be grateful for the postgraduate loans system announced in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement? Well, yes – but only up to a point.

The withdrawal of postgraduate funding has been catastrophic for aspiring postgraduates from the UK and elsewhere in the European Union. It is good to have something in its place. The new measure explicitly recognises the impact of postgraduate qualifications on employability and lifetime earnings …”

Read the full article on the Times Higher Education website. 

Letter to The Times

My letter to The Times, written jointly with the heads of University for the Creative Arts and Norwich University of the Arts, was published on 1 December 2014. The full text is below.


An increase in supply is usually taken as proof of demand, with claims of better quality by the new supplier taken with a pinch of salt. And yet your article (“We are in danger of having a generation of trust-fund artists”, 26 November 2014) asks us to believe the reverse in the case of art school.

As some of the world’s oldest art schools, we are glad that newcomers such as Open School East are adding to our number. British creative education is in high demand and we have no doubt of their success. If they see a niche in painting or drawing, or offer reduced fees in order to compete, so much the better.

But their emergence is no excuse to claim that we are only educating the rich or have forgotten about fine art.

Thanks to huge investment in widening participation, our UK students now broadly reflect the country’s socio-economic make-up, even four years after the fees increase. Fine art, ceramics and jewellery courses have not been cleared to make way for new technologies — tradition and innovation exist side by side.

There are genuine threats to art school for you to sound the alarm about, such as the government’s incoherent funding policy for education. The absence of oil paint is not among them.


Nigel Carrington,  Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London
Simon Ofield-Kerr, Vice-Chancellor, University for the Creative Arts
Professor John Last, Vice-Chancellor, Norwich University of the Arts

Reflecting on the future of education in the New Statesman

I wrote for the New Statesman about why we need to reflect on the contemporary context for arts education.

The rear-view mirror is no basis to reflect on the future of education

“Unlike most of my contemporaries, I went to university in the bad old, unfair days. For the majority of you who weren’t there with me, what you’ve been told is true. The free education, the low cost of living, and, of course, the more or less guaranteed job at the end… such was a graduate’s rarity value…”

Read the full article on the New Statesman

Summer Show Season 2014

Degree Show Two Private View, Central Saint Martins, King's Cross LCC_Design_Show_PV_19_06_2014_by_Ana_Escpbar_2

Show Time 2014

The summer shows at UAL are the culmination of years of hard work for the students and their chance to give us a glimpse into the future – theirs and quite possibly ours. The ideas, performances, creativity and energy dazzle and I leave each show full of optimism. UAL students have so much to offer the creative industries.

Wimbledon Degree Show 2014 2

Materials, skills and thinking collide in unimaginable combinations that can result in an entirely cohesive piece of product design or an installation that that seems to turn everything we know on its head. Our graduating students come from 92 countries and the shows celebrate is that diversity is what makes UAL tick.

Camberwell Degree Show 2014 4

There is no better place than London to be an art student, as can be seen in the quality and variety of the work at our shows and the calibre of the students we attract. So far this year nearly 18,000 people have looked at our dedicated summer shows website and more than 80,000 have visited the show across the six colleges. This indicates to me that our reputation continues to grow –anyone visiting a UAL show knows that they can expect to be intrigued, challenged, amazed and inspired.

LCF_Show_BA14_34 2

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our staff involved in putting on these shows across the colleges. Degree show preparation can be a stressful time for both students and staff, but as anyone who visited one or more of our shows can tell you, it’s more than worth it.

Chelsea-College-of Arts-BA-Fine-Art-Sarah-Roberts_low 2

To those who haven’t yet visited any of the shows, I urge you to visit the upcoming MA shows at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon in July and September – you will not be disappointed.

You can see all summer show dates here and more student work on Showtime.


Images from clockwise from top left:

Central Saint Martins, MA Textile Futures by John Sturrock
London College of Communication Design Show by Ana Escobar
Wimbledon College of Arts
Camberwell College of Arts
London College of Fashion, BA (Hons) Fashion Technology by Rebecca Thomas
Chelsea College of Arts





All staff briefing – exploring the staff survey results

My all staff briefings for this term focused mainly on the results of the staff survey, held at the end of 2013. However there were also several other updates, which I will report first. Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons for Government from latest creative industries report

Latest Government figures paint a powerful picture of the UK’s creative industries, which in 2012 out-performed all other sectors of the economy. They are now worth £71.4 billion a year and employ 1.68 million people – 5.6% of the workforce. The full report from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is well worth a read and can be seen online here. Read the rest of this entry »