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Study Design in Australia

Diverse Creativity: Helmut Lueckenhausen 

National School of Design

Australian tertiary education evolved from European and British models, and Australian universities are also increasingly reflecting the cultural reach of the United States as they consolidate their role in a truly global network. In fact, university life has been tempered by this development of one of the world's richest and most varied multi-cultural societies. 

Graduates from Australian universities now pursue careers throughout the world,  particularly the diaspora of Asian, South East Asian and Pacific Rim markets. Business, industry and the professions look outward for opportunity, and many European and American companies operate in Australia due to its economically, socially and politically stable culture, promising the next great age of development and prosperity.

Design in Australia

The design professions have the potential to thrive in this promising climate. In September 1999, Australia will host the International Design Congress, focusing designers from around the world on the international practice of  design - Australian designers acutely reflect the national character of being outward-looking, connecting professionally with the region and the world, working and thinking on an international level.

Design courses in Australia now host increasing numbers of students from Europe and the UK, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Middle East, amongst others. Australian applicants compete for places amongst the: highest numbers in any field of study. Graphic design and interior design:   courses in particular attract many times the number of applicants for positions available. From the start, these courses are peopled by motivated and prepared students with high standards, demanding that those standards be met. Selection on the basis of preparedness, educational background and language skills is equally applied to international applicants. Most design schools depend on their reputation for educating talented designers, ;and will ensure that international students are counselled and selected on the basis of their ability to succeed.

Universities have quality control systems in place, which include monitoring of student satisfaction, progression and employment. Demonstrably high employment rates after graduation are naturally linked to high application rates at the beginning of a course. Almost all design courses in Australia have a strongly vocational flavour, blending the appropriate training with in a context of liberal education (including Design History and Critical Theory) and heightened intellectual engagement. Many de- sign schools sit within schools of fine art and design, some within schools of architecture or the built environment, with a few being stand-alone schools. There is also a variation ,between universities as to whether craft courses (Gold and Silversmithing, Ceramics, Textiles) are included in art and design.

Clearly, it is foolish to begin a course without adequate preparation, as it lessens the chances of successful completion. Whether local or international, some applicants are referred to courses that offer enhanced preparation for further study, such as the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) sector, which offers such courses in both design and language training. Some Australian universities are multi-sectoral, and have both TAFE and Higher Education divisions, but even where they do not, a suitable preparatory course can be recommended.

Course Structure

The primary unit common to most universities is the three year Bachelor of Design. Some design schools also offer a fourth Honours year, and some offer four years as a minimum. There is variation across the spectrum - interior design courses, for example, are often offered at a minimum of four years, and some courses can take five years, particularly when they include components of Indus- try-Based Learning.

Post-graduate study also involves variation between institutions, but a Graduate Certificate is usually one semester's study, a Graduate Diploma two, and a Master of design four (two years). Some universities offer these three as 'nested stages', where a student can take the first two components and leave, or go on to the second before leaving, or progress on to Masters. Alternatively, the Honours (fourth) year of an undergraduate degree  is accepted as sufficient prerequisite to complete a coursework Masters degree with only one more year of study. Speciality design extensions, such as Master of Design (Multimedia Design) are a case in point.

Increasingly, the field of design study reaches into post-graduate research as well as coursework. Masters and PhD- level research is undertaken, to varying degrees, in Australian design schools. Combination and/ or double degrees, frequently combining industrial design with engineering, or design with business and marketing, are also developing throughout the country.

Industry Based Learning

Any design school worthy of its role takes liaison with the appropriate professions and industry very seriously. Components of work experience, either by sending students into pre-arranged and monitored positions in industry, or by taking 'real life' projects into the school are important to any good Australian design school's programs. A co-ordinated Industry Based Learning (IBL) placement is even more effective. Some universities and design schools incorporate quality IBL placements into their undergraduate programs, to combine university education with' on the job' training. The result is a graduate who is a well- prepared designer with immediate appeal for prospective employer, having real experience of project work, design management, client liaison and most importantly, budgets and timelines. Australian design education is a professionally contextualised, highly vocational undertaking for that group of students with the necessary ambition, commitment and intelligence.



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