Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents


Memorandum 70

Submission from United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association

INQUIRY INTO STUDENTS AND UNIVERSITIES

Executive Summary

  United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association (UKADIA), the interest group for specialist higher education institutions working in the creative and cultural industries welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee's inquiry into Students and Universities. The Committee seeks to cover a breadth of material so UKADIA has focused points as follows, recognising other expert material will be submitted from the Burgess Group; GuildHE, HEA; QAA, SPA; UCAS; Universities UK etc. This enquiry is a valuable opportunity to explore these topics more widely and we would be glad to provide more detail in oral evidence on any of the issues we raise in our written submission or on the wider set of issues covered in the call for evidence.

Summary of key points:

    — Important contribution of specialist institutions to diversity, student choice and the high quality of UK creative industries;— Use of student work, such as portfolios and live performance, in fair admissions process and in summative assessments;— Use of teaching input from staff active in the creative professions;

    — That the arts, design and creative industries disciplines are relatively new to the research assessment process and the value of a practice based view of research is an important feature;

    — The experience of robust processes in quality assurance, especially for degree awarding powers but that these various processes need to respond proportionately to institutional diversity and scale.

INTRODUCTION

  1.  UKADIA member institutions -

    — comprise universities, university colleges, or further education colleges that are unique, and specialists in their chosen fields ;

    — include world-class providers in the creative and cultural industries teaching visual arts, music, dance, theatre media and culture;

    — embody communities of practice, with a clear commitment to high quality teaching enriched by research and knowledge exchange;

    — make a unique contribution to the cultural life of their communities and have regional and global impact.

THEMES

  2.  An underlying theme of our evidence is the importance of the specialist provider in an increasingly homogenous sector populated by the larger university model. This is part of a more general agenda for diversity and breadth of opportunity to allow those who can to benefit appropriately from focussed learning provision to produce economically successful outcomes. In this regard UKADIA institutions have been active in the formation and implementation of the Creative Economy programme and have historically been significant in the progression of high quality graduates to the developing creative industry sector.

ADMISSIONS

  3.  The specialist arts and design sector has an excellent record of admitting students from a range of educational and social backgrounds. The benchmarks set for the HE sector are consistently met or exceeded. Of particular importance has been the admission of students with learning difficulties whose performance in normal matriculation does not reflect their potential for advanced study in arts and design subjects. Admission processes we employ allow students to show their real work through portfolio and audition allowing teaching experts to identify latent as well as existing talent. The specialist sector has frequently offered a personalised alternative to the formula of UCAS admission and to the benefit of diversity and individual progression in HE.

4.  The National Arts Learning Network which comprises UKADIA members has enhanced this approach to admissions and has created an internationally respected system which connects talent with institutions and gives real enhancement to the student experience. Evidence of the success of this approach is to be found in the Higher Education Statistics Agency data where levels of student retention in the specialist sector are significantly lower than the national average drop-out rate.

  5.  Areas of concern in regard to admissions:

    (a) the extent to which the current standstill on recruiting additional student numbers, other than those already agreed for 2009-10 and 2010-2011, coupled with the lack of flexibility in the system which prevents the redistribution of numbers from institutions which have failed to recruit, impacts more severely on smaller institutions particularly in subjects attracting high levels of application.

    (b) the candidates for art and design frequently have very modest levels of experience where work is literally "made". An unintended consequence of the national curriculum has been a reduction in workshop practice in the 14-18 age group. This has affected applications for study the three dimensional areas in higher education which, in turn, have produced graduates of high quality. The UK advantage in areas like product design is at risk. Foundation Courses, in which students can be prepared for HE provision, remain of key importance. In addition we believe that a more informed approach, taken by HEFCE towards at risk areas of study would be helpful—with the equivalent for the creative industries of the Science/Language Strategically Important and Vulnerable Subjects.

TEACHING AND RESEARCH

  6.  The balance between teaching and research is of critical importance for our institutions. Whilst we share an approach to teaching which privileges studio-based learning and is highly student centred the characterisation of the specialist sector as teaching-only institutions is inaccurate. The link between research and teaching is a key aspect of higher education wherever it is delivered. There would be concern on our part at moves to concentrate research funding where this would compromise recognition of the developing research in specialist art and design institutions.

7.  In pursuing our interests in research, the ways in which this informs teaching and to ensure a more even spread of funding, we welcome a broader view of research. This should encompass applied and practise based activity, which is more central to arts and design disciplines. Our subjects are relatively new to the research assessment process administered through the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The development of capability remains relevant and we welcome measures to nurture progress which continues to be in a formative stage as well as to support mature research of international standing.

  8.  A defining characteristic of specialist provision amongst UKADIA members is the role of practitioners in curriculum delivery. Staffing in our institutions has substantial input from visiting teachers who are otherwise engaged in professional practice. This gives currency to the provision and offers a business-integrated model of teaching delivery and from which the high levels of student progression to the creative industries is maintained.

  9.  Areas of concern with regards to teaching and research:

    (a) the move towards research concentration set against and a need for stronger recognition of practice-led applied scholarship and the development of capability demands attention.

    (b) The protection of the unit of funding for teaching is welcomed but the removal of the specialist premium and its expression in additionality is a significant challenge to the financial sustainability of areas of provision.

    (c) The capping of additional student numbers has a disproportional effect on smaller institutions particularly in subjects with high student demand

DEGREE CLASSIFICATION

  10.  It is to be recognised that there are instances where the division of the final degree into first class, second class and subsequent categories does not do justice to the full achievement of the students concerned. We acknowledge the recommendations of the Burgess Group that there are ways in which student performance may be more comprehensively recognised. For UKADIA institutions graduates leave with an award but also a portfolio which demonstrates achievement and capability. The summative and the particular are thereby available to potential employers. An elaborate transcript system does not necessarily suit specialist course provision in which subject components combine to form more than the sum of their parts.

11.  UKADIA institutions are well placed to speak for the robustness of the systems of quality assurance which are in place. A number have successfully applied for and been granted degree awarding powers under the criteria set out in 2003 and following the Education White Paper, "The Future of Higher Education" This involved periods of intensive scrutiny and review not easily matched elsewhere. Those members that do not have their own degree awarding powers but work in partnership with a university or other awarding body to deliver programmes leading to a degree will themselves undergo institutional audit. Audit outcomes are in the public domain and we welcome the transparency this brings.

  12.  Much has been accomplished in the assurance of academic standards. Given the position now attained we support the shift of emphasis to student enhancement and a halt to the over elaboration of audit systems which can act disproportionally on smaller institutions.

  13.  UKADIA contributes to the diversity of UK Higher Education. The scale and size of institutions are not variables which diminish quality rather we would argue these are factors which can enhance it.

  14.  Areas of concern with regard to Degree Classification:

    (a) the balance between summative and detailed records of achievement in specialist subject areas

    (b) the need for systems of academic assurance which recognise the diversity of institutional delivery

STUDENT ENGAGEMENT

  15.  UKADIA institutions have a strong record of student retention, achievement and professional progression. This has been assisted by well established networks which link schools with our members and through them to employers. The scale of institutions often favours informal mechanisms in sustaining these relationships and this has proved effective in the development of the curriculum and to the assurance of quality and standards. The good results we achieve reflects the level of care given in the delivery of teaching and learning and the support offered to students prior to entry, throughout their studies and as alumni.

January 2009






 
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