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Changing Student Profiles

Paul Middleton

The paper will address how we maintain and enhance student achievement in a context of changing government policy and funding, a question that has become especially urgent, given the variety of student profiles currently found in undergraduate art and design courses. The intention is to explore how we respond to these challenges, while supporting a curriculum that promotes creativity, problem solving and innovation: aspects which characterise British art and design education.
The paper will investigate the specific factors driving change; the decline of pre-degree art and design courses and the rise in student entry direct from A level study. As a consequence of tuition fees, applicants favour entering higher education from A-level study, in a bid to reduce the cost of funding their education. It is widely recognised that these factors affect undergraduate student achievement, as our learning and teaching strategies are redirected to address a new student profile that has previously not directly engaged with creative thought and process in an educational context. The paper will propose the scope of skills and knowledge essential to successful undergraduate student progression. A case-study analysis of a pre-degree summer school delivered by the Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design at the University of Lincoln will explore how these skills can be developed, supported and enhanced by this means. The enquiry will seek to confront the question: are our courses sufficiently responsive to the changing needs of students, or are we passively resisting the inevitable?
The notion of supporting the student through a diagnostic experience, that enables the individual to locate their area of interest before progressing to undergraduate education, has been a factor that has defined art and design education. It is associated with supporting the students’ ability to assimilate their thinking and enhance their achievement. The paper will explore how these aspects can be supported by a linked undergraduate experience, investigating the potential of using pre-degree short courses (that is, those delivered during the summer months – summer schools) as a means of supporting students wishing to strengthen specific skills areas. The investigation will also seek to identify the successful strategies within the pre-degree experience, by monitoring a cohort of students as they progress through their courses. Using the case study experience, the paper will conclude by considering the implications for undergraduate, and indirectly, postgraduate, course design and learning and teaching.

Author Bio(s)

Paul Middleton trained in the disciplines of Graphic Design and Illustration and is Head of Department of Design at the University of Lincoln where he is responsible for programmes at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. His experience spans a broad range of developments in art and design from undergraduate to research levels, including course design and learning and teaching strategy setting. He has worked in education for 22 years and acts as external examiner and specialist advisor to various HE art and design providers in the UK. Paul was engaged by the Quality Assurance Agency in 1999 as a specialist reviewer and has continued in this role. His research interests centre on the image as a means of visual language using a range of media; drawing, photography and typography and his outputs for 2004-6 include exhibition and conference papers in Chicago, Philadelphia, Berlin, Holland, Spain, London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Sydney.