UNIVERSITY-INDUSTRY COLLABORATION: THE MISSING LINK IN DESIGN EDUCATION?

K. Fleischmann

James Cook University (AUSTRALIA)
The value of design has grown far beyond its traditional role as merely a contributor to the well being of society and has been recognised as key to the global innovation process and a key to sustainable long term economic development. For many organisations, design has increasingly become a strategic enhancement tool. These developments are significant because designers and their education become a focus in newly introduced economic agendas and National Design Policies in many countries (e.g. Denmark, India, Singapore). This has led to a process of benchmarking design education in various countries to ensure that higher design education is preparing the designer needed for the 21st century. Throughout this process similar findings emerged and specific to digital media design education it was revealed that digital media design graduates are arguably not sufficiently prepared to bridge the gap between university and industry (Design Council and Creative & Cultural Skills, 2007; 60Sox, 2009, 2010; ISIS, 2011).

While universities are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that their graduates are ready to proactively navigate the world of work (Bridgstock, 2009), it is clear that there are ongoing issues that need to be addressed in order to enable digital media design students to add value to industry and business. In response, some recommend stronger links to industry to better prepare students for the demands of the market (Ball, 2003; Design Council, 2005; Design Skills Advisory Panel, 2007; Livingston & Harvey, 2010). At the same time critical voices question how much should market/industry dictate pedagogy (Adams, 2006, Bhana, 2010).

In context of these ambiguous views the question if integrating industry into the undergraduate digital media design learning environment result in better preparing students for industry practice was explored. In this process various strategies of how industry and also community could be involved were identified and are part of a newly developed alternative learning and teaching approach in design education–the POOL Model framework. The framework was implemented and tested in the Bachelor of New Media Arts’ digital media design major at the School of Creative Arts at James Cook University. Findings from a research period of two years are presented in this paper.