Universities urged to put the future first

June 4, 1999

Universities need to focus on the future instead of just funding if they are to keep in touch with the business world, the National Advisory Committee for Creative and Cultural Education reported this week.

Committee chair Ken Robinson, professor of arts education at Warwick University, said that the real debate should be on how to address the mass expansion of higher education.

"The issue of university funding is extremely important, but the increase in the number of people with university qualifications means we need to review the system," he said. "It can't just change from elite to mass."

Tackling the sidelining of creative arts from the education sector as a whole, a report from the committee has recommended that universities should provide the qualifications that industry now demands.

"Some companies are turning graduates away because they do not have the creative skills, such as team-building and communication, they are looking for," Professor Robinson said. "There is a growing pressure to provide more vocational rogrammes with usable qualifications."

The report predicts that new technology will take its toll on traditional academic methods, as people continue to find ideas and new ways of creative thinking.

Professor Robinson said: "We need constantly to retrain and rethink strategies. The training of an artist, for example, is often very tight when it needs to be more broad-based. Areas of educational, cultural and technical importance should also be included."

Professor Robinson fears that the government's drive towards high standards risks narrowing the scope of qualifications further. "Those who believe that A levels are not as hard as they used to be because more people have them today, argue for an intensification of qualifications. For many people, a first degree is just a baseline.

"Instead we need to listen to the employer's needs. Many are not delivered by degree programmes because they are just not designed that way."

This problem needs to be addressed, he said.

"We are all born with creativity. But it diminishes somewhere along the way. Companies now send employees on courses run specifically to develop creative qualities. These are skills that education should provide."

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