Improving Student Engagement and Retention in Art & Design

Authors: Rutherford

Conference: Warrington’s Works Research Festival

Dates: 9 July 2012


In his recent plea to reclaim the idea of universities as institutions for “conserving, understanding, extending and handing the intellectual, scientific, and artistic heritage of mankind”, Collini reminds us that, in our efforts to “equip young people to get jobs in the fast-moving economy of tomorrow” and “contribute to growth”, universities must not lose sight of their social responsibility to inculcate civic values and promote social justice (Collini, 2012)

While I accept without hesitation or reservation that HE has a responsibility to prepare its graduates to be able to pursue rewarding and economically productive careers, those of us who agree with Collini that HE should nevertheless be more than this (that it should also enable and encourage graduates to become both self-aware individuals and informed citizens) are confronted with two significant obstacles:

1. The ‘mental picture’ of higher education with which many students arrive at university 2. And, secondly, the pressure to reduce higher education to ‘job training’ by focussing on the acquisition of practical skills in the short-sighted pursuit of ‘customer satisfaction’.

I will briefly sketch out why I believe these two factors to be detrimental to the interests of our students – not only in terms of their capacity to realise (in both senses of the word) the traditional goals of higher education, but also for acquiring the skills identified as essential by industry. I will then suggest how we might profitably challenge the first – in order to constructively address the second.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Rutherford