Creative Education as a Global Driver for UK Economy and Society Post-Brexit

November 25, 2016

This was the clear message from a joint event co-organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) and CHEAD at the House of Lords today (November 24 2016). Gillian Youngs, Professor of Creative and Digital Economy and Head of Innovation and Impact at Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design, reflects on the event which was hosted by Baroness Whitaker, APDIG, Co-Chair, and involved around 40 leaders of media, arts and design education from across the UK in the discussion.

CHEAD chair Professor Anita Taylor, Bath School of Art and Design at Bath Spa University, opened the meeting with a clear outline of the comprehensive contributions of arts and design education to economy, society and culture.

Professor Robert Mull, Head of the School of Architecture and Design, University of Brighton, focused on the global picture and the wide contributions of the fields to communities and culture.

Two key areas were highlighted in the introductory remarks and discussion that followed:

  • The multidimensional role of media, arts and culture sectors in economic strength and potential both nationally and internationally—not least linked to their global outlook and integration with technological innovation.
  • Their contributions to attracting international investment, overseas students and talent, and sustaining the thriving tourism industry.

Many of the exchanges highlighted the need for close attention to the pipeline role of education as a basis for these areas of success including the need to look at creative education in schools.

There was a sense that this is a vital moment for policymakers to think in the round about creative skill-sets and contributions in the Post-Brexit scenario when the UK needs to reshape its vision for success in the wider world—Europe and beyond.

Participants argued that media, arts and design are central to this new vision as well as being at the heart of regeneration and place-making around the UK, in partnership with industry and with key actors such as LEPs and local authorities as well as communities and third sector. The transformational power of arts and culture was emphasised as well as their role in individual and collective meaning-making which is so important at a time of enduring austerity and national challenges such as Brexit.

Major concerns were expressed about the uncertainties that Brexit had created, notably for the substantial numbers of EU staff and students actual and potential, but also in relation to EU research funds and networks. There was pressure for this uncertainty to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
Several participants noted that the impacts of this uncertainty were already being felt and would grow, one example being the unclear situation for EU students applying for three year courses now. Participants clearly saw urgent resolution in these areas as part of the ‘Britain is open for business’ message being stressed by government. Prolonged uncertainty may lead to loss of vital infrastructure which will be needed if we are to maintain the global leading role of our arts and design Higher Education sector post-Brexit.

Other points included the role of the sector in the ‘Next Generation Internet’ where much innovation will combine technology and creative applications in an expanding immersive and experiential economy. This includes the development of smart environments including the home and diverse virtual reality applications across not only entertainment and leisure, health and well-being, but also generally applicable areas such as training.

In closing Baroness Whitaker confirmed that it had been a very useful discussion and that the issues could be fed into APDIG’s policy work on the topic at government level.

CHEAD will be taking forward outcomes from the event working closely with APDIG as we collaborate with the sector to develop a Brexit roadmap for creative HE. CHEAD’s 2017 conference will explore Global Connections Through Arts, Design and Media – Brexit and Beyond is in March 2017 and is free to CHEAD Members. CHEAD is also signed up to the Dezeen Manifesto

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