Buckinghamshire New University Furniture
Bucks New University in High Wycombe, northwest of London, announced last month it will cease recruitment for its renowned undergraduate programmes in furniture design and there will be no new intake for September 2014.
“This isn’t just about getting rid of furniture courses, it’s about making a statement that creativity isn’t welcome within a university environment,” Austin told Dezeen.
“If Bucks goes down, it’s a big signal that universities themselves aren’t interested in the type of education that is needed for creatives,” he continued. “This is beyond furniture, this is about creative courses.”
He believes the main problem is that the space and resources needed to teach subjects like design make them less financially attractive for universities than more academic subjects.
“Creative courses are a little bit messy and a little bit big – they need workshops, they need facilities and they need space to play,” he explained. “Universities like sticking 100 students in a lecture theatre with one lecturer for an hour, two or three times a week. That’s the business plan.”
Rather than simply abandon courses that don’t fit the neat business model universities have been forced to adopt, he suggests that academic institutions should balance the more lucrative courses against those that are more expensive to run in order to continue equipping graduates with skills required by industry, in particular the creative sector.
“Any good university has got to get the balance right between making the income and supporting courses that foster skills and intellectual pursuits which are needed in the country,” he said. “If some of those other courses with one lecturer and 100 students are able to support the courses that make less money, then so be it.”