Design Academy Eindhoven
masters heads resign

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Jan Boelen

Dezeen Wire: the heads of all three masters courses at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands have resigned following a disagreement with the school over educational reform.

Joost Grootens

Jan Boelen (top), Joost Grootens (above) and Louise Schouwenberg (below), who respectively headed the Social Design, Information Design and Contextual Design masters courses, have stepped down with Nederland Dagblad reporting that they "fear that the autonomy of the Masters [is] at stake, and that [is] compromising the quality of education" (translated from Dutch).

Louise Schouwenberg

The resignations came on the day that 31 masters students at the school, which is one of the best regarded and most influential design schools in the word, celebrated their graduation.

Eindhoven Dagblad reported Boelen as saying "the Design Academy [is] in great need of an artistic director" (translated from Dutch).

This week also saw the departure of masters school head Gijs Bakker. The Droog co-founder left after 25 years at the academy with Boelen, Grootens and Schouwenberg  due to share responsiblities for the department, according to nrc.nl, which also reports Boelen as saying:

"We had a discussion with the board would like to carry on the vision of the school on the changing role of design in society. But substantive discussion does not occur. Instead, a bureaucratic school system implemented where managers in charge and we professionally as staff no longer have decision-making. " (Translated from Dutch).

Related: Li Edelkoort to resign as chair of Design Academy Eindhoven (June 2008) | See all our stories about Design Academy Eindhoven

Design Academy Eindhoven have posted the following statement on their website:


New phase master education

After our official announcement that the heads of the master department resigned, information was send to the media by the heads themselves. We still respect their choice and meanwhile stick to our strategic mission regarding renewed education. For us it is important to continue the dialogue with the people involved. Today we have spoken with stakeholders like tutors, employees, students and the student council. The Executive Board has informed them personally  about the DAE strategy which safeguards the quality of our master course.

We now focus on the continuous development of the master education which meets the high standard we all set. We strongly believe in our human centered design focus. And by doing so, we want to stimulate all skills of our gifted students who look a the world with the use of heart, hands and head.

Previous offical anouncement

As we celebrate the annual graduation of our master students - the heads of the three master research programmes have decided to leave our academy. Jan Boelen, Joost Grootens and Louise Schouwenberg will continue their careers elsewhere. We thank them for their effort and expertise and wish them all the best on their journey.

Meanwhile, we proceed to develop the position of the heads to guarantee the best solution possible which safeguards our values in the field of master education.

We will evolve our master education on an excellent level with a strong, highly valuable focus on design, research and strategy within the context of the world we live in. We cherish our DNA and believe in the cultural meaning, social relevance and economic value of design. This is carried out by our highly skilled students and teachers from all over the world.

| 21 comments

Posted on Friday, July 6th, 2012 at 10:14 pm by . See our copyright policy. Before commenting, please read our comments policy.

  • http://twitter.com/thoughts2design @thoughts2design

    A good design schools is 'good' because of its teachers. With the masters leaving its an unfortunate event for a design school such as this.

    • Guy

      Not totally. This is reminiscent of when Satyendra Pakhale rather flippantly quit the former Humanitarian Masters in mid-session a few years ago. It didn’t much affect the quality of that year’s output, I think because the standard is so high across the whole school. All the students see and learn from one another and this plays a big role in the success of the school.

      I do feel a little sorry for the 1st year students going into their final year with so far unknown teachers, but in the end it won’t matter so much because the real secret of the school is how it pushes you to develop your own personal identity.

      Admittedly, Bakker was sharply great at that, but it can done without him, and there is a whole bunch of good teachers still in the Bachelors program.

      • Andre

        But Satyendra was a single person who quit for personal reasons. The current issue is institution wide and it is also rumbling at the bachelor departments… I am afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg, albeit a large tip.

        Also remember that many of the master mentors are personally selected and appointed (often on semester basis) by the heads so if they leave many mentors will not be returning. Only a chicken walks without a head.

      • Ariel

        Guy, you are missing the point. If students come and pay it is to learn FROM respected teachers. ‘Pushing to develop your personal identity’ is not the same as sitting in an empty warehouse with a pad of blank paper and your thoughts.

      • Laura Adami

        The fact of the matter is Satyendra Pakhale quiet because of the dirty games played by school administrative politics, he has said openly when he was first invited to devise and head the masters program – that if any politics comes on my plate I will just leave as I am not interested in that, I want to be engaged with projects.

        He just stuck to his words, but he was wise not to talk about it then, specially to the graduating students to not affect their studies. He personally went out of his way to support students, who got guidance – including myself. Thank you SP for your generosity and help.

  • Doe

    The most important thing would be for the school to learn from this resignation, of the heads of master department and also from other mentors who will not come back unless some changes are occuring. So far it seems they are happy not to have to deal with them to find a solution, rather than learning from the situation.

  • Carl Harris

    Surprised to hear the three heads of masters at DAE have resigned. When will the board and chairwoman realise that it’s not about PR, politics and design bureaucracy that gains you a top 5 school but the quality of teaching, talent of students, and an environment that praises and rewards revolutionary thinking, socially and scientific development and a passion for design evolution.

    Stick to the simple formula Mrs Eggenkamp, let the mentors guide, let the students think and evolve, and provide a space and environment where they can blossom… which subsequently keeps you in a job.

    Good luck Joost, Louise and of course Koen

  • Guest

    It is awkward that master departments are affected this much by the resignation of just one teacher for each.

    I admire and respect Louise Schouwenberg, Jan Boelen and Joost Grootens, and am aware of their effort and great contributions on each department, but whatever the reason is, one of the top design institution at such high level, should not be this much dependent on just one tutor. The quality of the education should be on a corporate and independent level.

    These changes in school system are a must regarding international accreditation, and the conversations about them, maybe not in details but more in general, have been going on for a year now with participation of students, tutors and employees. There have been lots of meetings about this topic during the year and even newsletters were send out to whole school explaining the new system. What's more, even the school building was improved and new rooms were made as they will be needed with the new system; so things are not that new as mentioned here.

    Moreover, I haven't heard any tutors resigned from the bachelor departments, even though there are radical changes in them too. So, I see this collective resignation of master department heads, not so reasonable nor constructive, and definitely not professional.

    Without further ado, I wish all the best for Louise, Jan and Joost.

  • incognito

    Masters at DAE was a huge joke. That educational mistake should be discontinued as soon as possible!

    I regret that those personal/bulky stuff has to affect students and their professors’ overview. They should kill that headless chicken and stick with brilliant bachelors departments. Peace & love, but not at DAE.

  • calderonp

    It is sad how all the buzz and discussion around this situation has focused on two parts of the story, school and heads, and has missed to stress the issue from the point of view of the people why the heads and school exist(ed): the students.

    I am one of the students that are ‘in between’ this situation: I just finished my first year of Social Design under the guidance of Jan Boelen. Of course, some people say the Masters at the DAE are a huge joke, because it has not been made ‘magazine-friendly’, as the Bachelors are, and doesn’t have the imprint of ‘Dutch Design’ as strong as the Bachelors also have.

    The truth is we are both sad and disappointed with the situation, trying to come through with a satisfactory solution. What is sad is that just a few days ago the finals for the 1st years and graduation of 2nd years had passed with a great success, seeing major improvements and healthy departments… why wouldn’t you want to keep nurturing this as a school? Yes, there are mayor changes going on in the school, but one things that has to be clear is that Bachelor education is different to Masters (education?), and we have not seen a clear attitude towards this from the school.

    The heads of the Master courses where strong figures, which had good and bad things; they put their strong mark on the creation of the programs (think of Information Design, what is THAT in Holland if not Joost Grootens?), and formed a team that coincided with their vision of it. We could say that the bad part of it is that the programs are dependent on the people (that are ‘personal’)… but isn’t that always the case? When we we try to abstract our personality from our professional or academic practice, we are just lying to ourselves. In that we feel very skeptical…

    We, as a group of Master students, are coordinating dialogues to find the best way out of this, but also to be regarded as the main actors in this situation that has us, up until now, marginalized us.

  • http://www.zero2020emergy.com Marc O Riain

    Administrators are always focused on the bottom line rather than the quality of the graduate. The lecturers are the front line, and are best informed to direct a course to ensure its success. It is quite an indictment to any University where all three heads resign. It is regrettable that this should be allowed to occur and will be to the detriment to the course, students and college. Perhaps it is not too late to moderate a solution?

    Marc – lecturer and supervisor in interior architecture

  • Agata Jaworska

    Worth reading statement by Jan Boelen which he posted on Facebook (Part 1):

    After a long struggle with the board, in which we have tried to safeguard the values and the qualities we deem necessary for a good design education at masters level, we received final answers to our requests and demands last week. Answers we could impossibly agree with. What to do? There was no doubt in our minds that we should give you the proper end evaluations and the proper exams that you all deserved. And so we decided to continue working with you and not informing you one week before the finals, so you could focus totally on your work alone. Yesterday was the first day we actually felt free to announce our decision, the farewell of Gijs Bakker. Summer holiday starts and will take 2 months: that is a lot of time for the board to find solutions and fill in the gaps we leave behind. Will those solutions be good? We cannot predict and I truely hope they will be good. Trust that we leave with pain our hearts, we would have loved to work with you and have looked forward to do so for a long long time.

    Included is our resignation letter to the board. And below I sum up in more details why we chose to quit:

    This school has become famous because of it’s accomplishments since the 80s. Everyone in the cultural field knows that Dutch Design became an international important phenomenon because of the Dutch design education system and because of some additional factors, such as the subsidies system etcetera. Design education had a turn in the 80s because at the time two directors of DAE, the one focussed on content, the other on management (Jan Lukassen and Jan van Duppen) decided that education could only become big if they would be able to attract important designers to the school, professionals with strong own careers and strong views on the designfield. How could they attract these people: by giving them autonomy, freedom to choose their own themes and freedom to choose teachers which were equally professional. It worked fantastic, the school attracted very good heads of departments and teachers and as a consequence DAE started to have fantastic output: among the alumni of DAE: Hella Jongerius, Piet Hein Eek, Richard Hutten, Jurgen Bey, Maarten Baas, Bertjan Pot, Job Smeets, Wieki Somers, Joris Laarman, Demakersvan, Formafantasma, Traxler and Mischer, and many more.

    When these visionary directors left the school by the end of the 90s, Li Edelkoort became artistic director, and Liesbeth in ‘t Hout was the general director. They continued the infrastructure of freedom the education system granted to the heads of departments and the teachers. And they made the output more visible to the international community. The students benefitted from that high quality, and the school continued to ‘deliver’ high quality output.

  • Agata Jaworska

    Worth reading statement by Jan Boelen which he posted on Facebook (Part 2):

    After Edelkoort has left, the school has struggled with various directors, and in my view the lack of artistic content started to be felt when the board decided to totally reform the school’s system, whereas there were no obvious reasons for such drastic changes. The infrastructure of autonomy and freedom is in our view the only valid (and even psychologicallly sound) way of working with the best professionals in the world, who as a consequence have the best views on design. However, the current board thinks differently. They have started to talk about a reform in which a web of many educational and managerial positions would interfere with the autonomy of the professionals: those people of whom we believe they are the only ones that really count within a high standard masters school.

    Literally this means: in the new system we, heads of departments, would become Deans of Design, focussed on content only, able to deliver advices about themes and advices about teachers, but having no decision power anymore. In the new system we would not appoint teachers, not be responsible for applications of new students, have no financial resources to create research programmes and create presentations, etcetera. New people are appointed within this school, the so-called Deans of Education (educationalists, not design professionals, and managers), Translators, Facilitators, Connector, …… That web would mean: many many meetings to standardise criteria for evaluations, to come to agreements about the relation between content and education, etcetera.

    We think that new system will stifle all possibilities to give students the education and research possibilities we deem necessary. And most of all: we see that this new system, that maybe has some necessary qualities of organization for the bachelor departments, definitely has no qualities for the master departments, which need to be focussed mainly on research, not on teaching skills.

    We fought hard to reverse all these plans, at least for the masters. We expressed our opinions and views in many many meetings with the board and meetings with others within the school. We made demands, we tried to postpone decisions. Sometimes the board promised us things, such as: we will not change anything in the masters structure for at least 3 years. Later that promise changed to 1 year. And finally, last week, we found out that we could appoint mentors for the next three months only. After that time others (a new Dean of Education) would take over this part of our job. From this moment onwards we would also have to quit the mentoring, our direct contact with the students would be severed. For us this is unacceptable, as we think in the masters we don’t ‘teach’ in a traditional sense, but we guide the students in research capacities. In our view, for high standard research the mentor needs to be a professional who knows from his/her own career what that entails.

    All these answers we received last week, after a year of many many discussions, were a slap in our faces. Not a single demand of ours was met. If we take our principles serious we can only leave the school. Trust me when I say that this grieves me tremendously. I also feel as if I am abandoning you: the mentors and I gave you promises and we cannot hold on to them, as we are not given the permission to create a context for research we deem necessary.
    What will the future look like for you? Some of the teachers will leave with us, some will stay. Others will come in and naturally they will have good intentions to give you a good guidance in your final year. And who knows: maybe we are deadwrong with our worries and maybe the new reforms will actually improve the school. We have other views, as described above (and described in our resignation letter).

    I hope this long letter gives the explanation I owe you for leaving too early. If there are still questions, please ask them. From today onwards I will be on the move, but I will check mails regularly.

    Best jan

    • apoiuz

      How on earth can a school let someone like this go? Don’t they fight for him?
      I am in shock! Knowing Jan as an mentor, I can only say he was my favourite! I consider design as something which can not be taught but only learned and guided!
      It’s a lot about individuality, and teachers like Jan Boelen, who know a tremendous lot, are the best way to help a young designer to find their individual path.

      There is really something wrong in this school.

      I wish Jan all the best and I am really happy that I had the chance to be guided by him!

  • gerald

    I’d love to see the bureaucrats faces if the students simply decided not to come back in September but to continue their education directly with the heads with out the intermediary of an institution. There is no reason not to.

    The 3 heads most likely will be needing new work and it’s probably also a whole lot cheaper for the students too. They would be cutting out the overly expensive bureaucrats who create no added value for them anyway.

    This would leave the school only the weaker students. Those who need to rely on a diploma labeled Design Academy instead of on their own ability, development and guts to become independant designers.

    • sam

      What a ridiculous thing to say. A complete lack of understanding of what an educational system represents and offers students. Weaker/ Stronger students – based on who would opt out of it?!!
      Different people respond in different ways to educational structure and learning. There are different types of designers and different way of learning.

    • Agata Jaworska

      While the heads recognized that their most powerful move–in a situation in which they increasingly were losing power–was (unfortunately) to collectively resign, the students also have a possibility to make demands and respond collectively.

      DAE now needs to clarify their side of their story (the voice of the heads is present but the voice of DAE is so far lacking) to the students and now, the public also, plus, DAE needs to (quickly) propose the new scenario.

      I am happy to see that the current students are demanding this.

  • Doe

    From the inside we can confirm that some mentors also resigned with the heads of departments, because the changes are taking the quality of the master down.

    Since the begining of the crisis, they already made changes in the structure, coming back on some points, such as the Source lectures that will continue the way they were.

    As students we need freedom for our heads, we need them to have the possibility to create their own team and have contact with the students.

  • vsd

    The thing that might be a problem for students is that people know about it, so people’s view will changed towards the masters work from now on.

    The thing that might be a problem for the school is that people know about it, so the school might not be able to easily collect rich students who just want a value from these mentors.

  • wik

    Why didn't the heads at least try to see if the changes are for worse or better? They could have always resigned next year.

    • Ladislav Kubo

      They had simply foreseen from the outline