Report and recommendations from the Multi-Disciplinary Design Network
We need more entrepreneurs. We need more innovators. We need more scientists, engineers and designers who can turn ideas into working products James Dyson, Ingenious Britain: Making the UK the leading high tech exporter in Europe
Design and innovation are critical to the UK reaching its economic goals. Reigniting the enterprise economy, commercialising science and technology, and embedding innovation in the public sector, all of which are vital for the country’s future economic and social success, can only happen if the UK’s workforce includes people with the skills to harness design as a tool for productivity and growth.
Over the last few years, universities across the UK have been actively engaged in developing new courses and centres, which enable design students, graduates and researchers to work alongside and in collaboration with other disciplines. In some cases this has led to the formation of new teaching and research centres, while in others the focus has been on creating new postgraduate courses or embedding design within existing ones.
In 2006 the Design Council set up a Multi-disciplinary Design Network, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), which aimed to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and best practice across universities, to improve curriculum design and assess the impact of these new programmes. As well as organising and facilitating knowledge-sharing events attended by academics from more than 30 universities, it also arranged fact-finding missions to universities and design companies in the US, Scandinavia, China, Korea and the UK. These enabled academics setting up new courses and centres to benchmark their activity against international examples, and hear directly how multi-disciplinary design teaching is seen to be relevant to industry across the world.
This report describes the courses and centres that have been created, with the aim of showing why enabling design and other students to experience multi-disciplinary teams and projects is vital for the UK economy. It also describes how multi-disciplinary design activity is being embedded in the UK’s Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
It ends by making some recommendations for ways that HEIs, supported by policy-makers, could most effectively continue to embed multi-disciplinary design education across a range of subjects. In doing so, the report recognises the challenging context that universities are currently operating in, and encourages individuals and institutions to consider the best ways to embed collaboration and multi-disciplinary course offerings for learners within the future landscape of higher education.