Policy and practice: Design education in England from 1837-1992, with particular reference to furniture courses at Birmingham, Leicester and the Royal College of Art.




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This thesis is an examination of policy-making and practice in design education in England from 1837-1992. It takes a longue durée approach to the history of the development of design education to provide a new narrative which shows a pattern of recurring debates concerning the purpose of design education and how it should be taught. Using the curricula of furniture design courses at three art schools to illustrate the way policy was put into practice, this thesis argues that historical context is key to understanding why debates regarding the way designers should be trained for industry have recurred since 1837. Based on a wide variety of primary source material the thesis contributes to historiography by extending the scope of previous histories of art and design education, and also, for the first time, focuses solely on the development of design education, whilst acknowledging its place in the wider development of art and design education.

Following the introduction, chapter two of this thesis examines the events which led to the 1835-6 Select Committee and argues that many of the issues raised during the Committee influenced the teaching of design education through the remainder of the nineteenth century; this is further demonstrated through chapter three. Charting the development of design education into the twentieth century through chapters four, five and six, this thesis shows that changing historical contexts, such as the development of industrial methods or wider changes in higher education, have also had an impact on design education. In the light of changing historical contexts, policy makers for design education have continually questioned what design students should be taught and how they should be taught, which accounts, in part, for the recurring nature of debates in design education.



design, education, furniture, art school, Birmingham, Leicester, Royal College of Art, policy, history, Select Committee, school of art, curriculum, Industry



Research Institute