The second Spring Forum at Rovaniemi

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The second Spring Forum discussed about the design education collaboration models at the Cumulus Conference held in the Lapland University, Rovaniemi. A session organized by the Finnish Design Academy gathered around 60 participants interested in hearing Finnish collaboration model for design education and discussing about collaboration in their institutions and countries. The discussion was lively and successful in providing useful examples globally. 

Text: Tarja-Kaarina Laamanen
Pictures: Emmi Putkonen

The project leader Ari Känkänen from Lahti University of Applied Sciences opened the session and gave overview of the ongoing project and collaboration model in Finland. Two moderators Piia Rytilahti from the Lappland University and Pirjo Seddiki from Häme University of Applied Sciences told in their forewords that collaboration has been fruitful. Instead of competing there is now possibility to join resources and enhance Finnish design education with one voice. 

Ari Känkänen presenting the Finnish Design Academy project.

The first topic about types of collaboration models gave us several examples what is going on in the participants’ countries.

International collaboration or networking was mentioned by several participants. For example, Missouri University of Art representative told about their shared campus initiative which is co-operation for international art schools for educational formats but also for research. It’s global and includes also research and teaching. They have also started discussion groups on different topics and they are about to extend their collaboration outside the design field. The network consists nine Universities internationally. Also, the recognized global wide Leaning Network and Sustainability (LeNSin) was mentioned. 

There were also examples of international collaboration with partner universities such as the collaboration model with Nanjing University and Coventry University. They have programs where the students in Nanjing study the first three years at their home campus and last fourth year is in Coventry. The students are encouraged to work in teams from both universities. These two universities will also arrange an open event for enterprises where university alumnus are invited to share their expertise as well.

Interesting internal examples came from Germany and Netherlands. In Germany, Cologne University has collaborated successfully with nine schools since 2011. They have an agreement that all the courses are open for all the design students in the neighbour universities. Main reason for students to attend other university is that they want to have courses different from their own offering. In this collaboration model students are themselves responsible for contacting and registering to courses in the other universities.

In Netherlands at the Rotterdam University, Willem de Kooning Academy there is a possibility for double degree with Erasmus Universities and it takes five years for the bachelor double degree. Students have also a possibility to go for exchange to have minor studies where ever they like within’ the academies in Netherlands (that have major- minor system). Students are keen on moving in between universities in the Netherlands, because the tendency across studies is much more interesting. As in Finland, Netherlands has identified comparable need to profile universities. In a small country specialisation was considered essential. 

The second topic was about to enhance the deeper understanding of design and what kind of discussion there has been about future competencies. 

Considering the contemporary changes in the design profession competences are of course very topical around universities. For example, in France there is group of professionals discussing about the competences of the interior architects. The goal is to elaborate an education system which is kind of guarantee for a job. At the moment it’s not easy to get a job in France. 

The Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar shared their experiences about the two-year process of redesigning whole new curriculum in collaboration with their two campuses (in Doha and Richmond). The starting point in this project was to define the competences of a graphic design professional and the goal was to adjust the education to answer to the need. What they found out – and what is interesting for Finnish Design Academy as well – was that if they got too definitive about competences, they were making graphic design to appear too narrow and specific instead of multi-disciplinary and holistic which they were pursuing. From this process they distilled four keywords as main competences: making, research, collaboration and cultural literacy. During the following years they are going to find out how well these will work, but at the moment they are optimistic that these keywords or pillars are going to build them up well. The main idea in their model is that instead of being in the mode of knowledge transfer and too strict about the definitions they give to teachers, they support co-creating those competences with the students as they go along.

A suggestion about international research platform within Cumulus members was also aroused in the discussion. The idea was that there could be a common platform that is an international research pool including research topics and possibilities for students to collect data for their design process.

To conclude, Finnish Design Academy found the second Spring Forum very educating and inspiring. We wish to keep discussions going on in the international network. We are thankful for the Lapland University and all the participants attending and sharing current developments!

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