Twelve art colleges are planning to join forces to carry out a major study of the contribution of art and design students to the national economy.
Led by Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, collaborators will include Surrey Institute of Art and Design and the five art colleges of the London Institute.
Project leader Nick Stanley, based at Birmingham, said the results of the two-year project, due to start in September, would be "nationally significant" and help to produce facts and figures of use in managing and planning within art and design colleges. "It will also produce feedback covering the 'career usefulness' of art and design degrees from both graduate and employers' perspectives," he says.
The longitudinal study will document the careers of graduates from the participating colleges over the past five years. It will build on a recent study by Birmingham Institute of Art and Design of its own graduates. The project covered 668 graduates in ceramics, fashion and textiles, and silversmithing and jewellery.
Four-fifths of surveyed graduates were in some form of paid employment five years after graduating with a third self-employed. The highest employment was among fashion and textile graduates, while ceramics respondents were most likely to undertake further study or training.
Half the students had undergone some form of further study or training during the survey period. Most said they would have liked more work experience, placements and commercial awareness on their degree courses.
The number undertaking voluntary work was insignificant and had declined markedly by the fifth year. A third of the cohort were unemployed in the first year but by the fifth year only 10 per cent of this group were jobless.
Professor Stanley said the pilot study highlighted the shortcomings of the snapshot of graduates produced by the Higher Education Statistics Agency six months after they left institutions. "Very important changes take place between six months and five years. It takes students at least a year or two to settle down. We really need data for up to ten years," he said.
The Birmingham study found that most students were still involved in art and design five years after graduating, with their income from the area rising steadily from the first to the third year and then stabilising.
One-fifth of the cohort ended up employed as teachers of art and design in schools and colleges.