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2 Changing contexts

2.0.1 Changes that have taken place since the publication of the CHEAD Survey are reviewed as they provide the background to this report.



2.1 Art & Design Education

2.1.1 Art and design practice plays an essential role in national well-being. Those students with an art and design education find employment not only as traditional artists and designers but also within a wide range of occupations and increasingly in the new media and computing industries. Both nationally and internationally, artists and designers make significant contributions to the economy, to the creation of employment and to enriching cultural life.


2.1.2 The Technology Foresight programme recognises this within the UK when it describes the significant role that artists and designers will play with respect to the UK economy. It says,

" .. it must not be assumed that producing more technical skills alone is the key to economic growth. Design and performance across a range of areas such as fashion, music, TV, video games and film are essential to the economy."

The point is amplified in the CVCP position paper on the case for a new Humanities and Arts Research Council,

"Art and design underpins a range of industries which collectively form a major UK sector with very large global markets"
"Humanities and arts subjects underpin those activities which sustain, stimulate and transmit the cultural life of the nation."


2.1.3 Within the EU, the Info 2000 Programme views the multimedia content industry as crucial for the European economy and European society. It estimates that this industry had a turnover of 150 billion Ecu and employed over 2 million people in the EU in 1994. It describes the positive role to be played by artists and designers in terms of employment, improving the competitiveness of the European economy, and developing Europe's cultural identity and linguistic diversity. It says,

"... content-related activities cover a whole chain whereby value is added during the various steps in the process from source material to end-user".

It sees the crucial participants as those involved in the creation of source material in the form of images, text, graphics, music, and sound, and it specifically names photographers, designers, actors, directors, musicians, and animators.


2.1.4 Though there are opportunities clearly spelled out in these documents, stereotypical attitudes still exist: e.g. that artists and designers do not need new technologies, that they are not economically significant and that their work is marginal to the national interest.



2.2 Higher Education in the UK

2.2.1 In recent years art and design, along with all other areas of higher education in the UK, has experienced acute problems with a declining level of resource per student coupled with particularly severe restrictions on capital funding. The CHEAD survey called for recognition of the genuine needs of the art & design sector and since its publication there have been some initiatives. There have been a number of new projects which have emanated from the funding councils which have improved the situation in parts of the sector. The formation of a new CTI Centre in Art & Design, projects funded under the JTAP Programme, projects funded under the eLib programme and the continuing support of AGOCG for developments such as CADE have all been welcomed. There have been initiatives, particularly within specialist colleges, that have supported networking. However important these projects are, the worsening general situation in many institutions means that the crisis described in 1995 is still with us.


2.2.2 Quality assessment, both through Teaching Quality Assessments and the Research Assessment Exercise have had their effect as agents of change within HEIs as increasingly the provision and use of new technologies becomes a quality assessment issue, even though resources are often not immediately at hand to meet the expectations.


2.2.3 Whether or not there will be any long-term changes with respect to the funding or role of these technologies in higher education as a result of the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (the Dearing Committee) is unknown. Information technology has been identified as a central issue in many submissions. Issues that have been raised in the context of teaching and learning include: whether IT can reduce the cost of delivering courses; whether computer and communications technologies can enable institutions to offer more flexible education packages; whether they can facilitate more sharing of resources between HEIs and whether the costs of IT developments should continue to be borne solely by institutions.



2.3 Changing Technologies

2.3.1 The CHEAD report in 1995 highlighted the rapid growth of multimedia and the opportunities and demands it placed upon departments. The report drew a distinction between two types of computer, which it called a "standard art and design computer (SADC)" costing around £5,000 for hardware and software, and a "high performance art and design computer (HPADC)" costing around £25,000 for hardware and software. It argued that the average desirable level of general provision was 1 SADC for every 8 full-time equivalent students (ftes), and 1 HPADC per 50 ftes.


2.3.2 The situation with respect to multimedia workstations has not changed significantly. The costs have varied but not by much (SADCs are slightly more expensive, HPADCs are slightly less) and a serious shortfall persists.


2.3.3 The extension of the Joint Academic Network ( JANET) into the art and design sector has opened it up to facilities such as electronic mail, electronic information services and the world wide web. The past twelve months have seen a large number of art and design units coming on-line and the implications of this are only just being felt. Networking, it is now realised, is more than the provision of another new technology, it is a radically different kind of computing environment that can lead to new forms of administration, new opportunities to access information in the public domain, a new medium within which to produce artefacts and new possibilities for collaboration. While some aspects of these developments build upon the similarities between art & design and other disciplines, other aspects necessitate the identification of what is distinctive.