Dezeen Magazine

Designers call for government to improve "f*cked" UK education system

Brexit design summit: UK design education is "very weak" and studios will continue to rely on overseas talent unless the government invests in schools, leading designers have told Dezeen.

Speaking at our Brexit design summit last week, designer Michael Marriott said "the British education system is so f*cked at the moment."

"Funding is being stripped and there are less facilities," he added, saying that UK students were being forced to study overseas, where facilities are better.

"I had a young English guy working for me," Marriott said. "He looked at a couple of British universities and for a quarter of the price he's gone to Amsterdam to study in way better facilities that are beyond anything we have in this country."

Brexit design summit
Speaking at the Brexit design summit, designer Michael Marriott said that UK students are being forced to study abroad where facilities are better

Architect Amanda Levete agreed, saying she had to employ architects trained overseas because they are better than home-grown ones.

"The reason that so many of the young architects we employ come from outside of the UK is because the architectural education in Europe is frankly better," she said.

Half of Levete's 50 employees are from overseas.

"Conceptually the architectural education here is very strong, but technically it's very weak," she added. "So architects who have been educated outside of the UK are kind of office-ready."

"They're straight from school, they can do the detail, they can draw their blueprints and that's just not case with students from UK."

Industrial designer Benjamin Hubert agreed that graduates from the EU often had better skills than their UK counterparts.

Brexit design summit
Architect Amanda Levete prefers to employ architects trained overseas, where they receive a more technical education

"Some of the guys who come from the EU in my studio have studied longer than most people have studied in UK, where three years of study seems to be okay to then move into a discipline as complex as design," he said.

"You never really get that if you’re studying in France, or Italy, when every student tends to do four, five, six or seven years."

Three quarters of Hubert's studio are from the EU and the remainder are from the rest of the world. Hubert is the only British person at his company.

"Like many people round this table I'm nervous that because we can't have those talented individuals in our studios, it just becomes more difficult," he said.

The UK vote to leave the European Union could exclude the UK from the Erasmus student exchange programme, and make it harder for UK studios to hire EU staff.

Dezeen's Brexit Design Summit
Industrial designer Benjamin Hubert is the only Brit in his company, and believes EU graduates have better skills than their UK counterparts

It could also make it far more expensive for EU students to study in the UK, and vice versa.

Designer Ilse Crawford, who was unable to attend the summit but sent a message of support, previously told Dezeen that British students wishing to study at Design Academy Eindhoven may face fees that are four times higher than those paid by EU students as a result of Brexit.

Interior designer Ab Rogers said the implications of Brexit could be "massive" for British universities, with EU students having to pay much more to study here. "It's fundamentally disastrous," he said.

Judy Dobias, president of design PR agency Camron, also questioned whether EU students would still want to come to leading UK architecture and design schools such as the Royal College of Art, Central St Martins and Kingston University if they had to pay higher fees.

Brexit design summit
Telegraph journalist Bethan Ryder (left) and Camron president Judy Dobias also joined in the debate

"I don't think so and that really worries me," she said. "If they come here to study they fall in love with it here, they stay here, they love it. But now maybe they’re going to say screw you, I’m going to go to MIT or Design Academy Eindhoven. We don't want to lose those people."

However Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic said UK schools would not be forced to charge higher fees to EU students.

"The RCA doesn’t have to charge [higher] fees," he said. "They can choose what they charge European students and that's a decision for them."

Johanna Agerman Ross, founder of Disegno magazine, said it was important for the government to make it easier for overseas students to remain in the UK after graduating.

Brexit design summit
Legal adviser Margaret Briffa said the UK government needed to invest in home-grown UK talent in the wake of Brexit

"We have far east students at the Royal College who can't stay for very long after they graduate and we kind of just lose out on so much potential there," she said. "Now we potentially have the same issue with EU students."

Margaret Briffa of Briffa, a legal firm that advises creative businesses, said the UK government needed to invest in education so firms are not starved of skilled graduates after Brexit.

"We want to grow talent here, we want to run exchange programmes and all the rest of it and that's what the government should be investing in," she said.

Dezeen convened the Brexit design summit last week, inviting leading practitioners, retailers, writers and lawyers to discuss the implications of the vote to leave the EU and explore what action can be taken.