Course Correction

Design education is booming in India. Some may even call it mushrooming. Private universities now have a mandatory design vertical, teaching Textiles, Fashion or Graphics. Small, boutique institutes are dotting the landscape, teaching Fashion or Interior Design. New NIDs are being set up in remote locations like Kurukshetra and Jorhat, besides Vijayawada and Bhopal. Every state now has a mandate to open a State Institute of Design, the first one having come up in Rohtak, Haryana and the second in Kollam, Kerala. New design institutions are being set up in collaboration with foreign ones, even while old ones are busy re-inventing themselves.

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Pic: Kerala State Institute of Design, Kollam

Design courses do not come under the ambit of the AICTE norms that govern higher education in this country. NID, the first and the foremost design institute does not come under the education department of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, but is governed by the small Department of Public Policy, (DIPP) under the Ministry of Industry. It has also been given a status of ‘Institute of National Importance’ that enables it to be independent and autonomous. Therefore, most new design colleges do not come under the HRD ministry’s purview.

Design education, in this country, is fragmented. And there’s a lot of chaos. There is an acute shortage of design faculty.  Most institutes, make do with visiting faculty. There is no mechanism in place to evaluate the contents of any programme. So, a Communication design programme in NID can be way different from a similar programme in Srishti. The contents of a PG programme in Product Design, even amongst established institutes like NID, IIT and IDC can vary dramatically. Tall claims by private universities can be neither vetted nor questioned. Contents of a course, in most places are drawn from other programmes. Facilities like workshops required for a robust programme in design are either absent or shared. Assignments are plagiarised or carried on from one institute to another. Most faculty are trained to teach design with a western context. Almost no one has re-interpreted the courses for an Indian scenario. Fees and durations, vary, too. You can do an Interior Design degree in One, three, four or five years! Course evaluation is iffy and unregulated.

Meanwhile, programmes are being taught and graduates are coming out of these institutions with little or no idea of what the profession expects of them. In the absence of transparency, students look at tell-tale signs to evaluate institutions. Speak to the graduates, see where they are employed, visit the campus, look at the faculty list, question credibility, Design aspirants are looking at various ways to arrive at their own methods of standardisation.

There is a crying need to regulate these. The India Design Council has the mandate to do this, but precious little has been done to keep fly-by-night institutions in check. Certainly, there is a need to set up minimum standards? How many of us know what standards are being maintained? What is the vision of these different institutes that dot the map? Who are the faculty? Where do they see the graduates employed? Where do they want to go in, say, five years? How do they maintain quality?

Employers need to understand where institutions stand. Graduates need to know what to expect. Faculty should be of a desired calibre. Parents must understand where they are sending their wards. A robust system of checks and balances need to be in place. Before it goes the engineering education way, something needs to be done.

India Design Council has to step up and fill the gap. Institutions should be graded and universities should be evaluated. New institutes should meet minimum requirements, before announcing a new programme. Quality should be the key. Vision first, should be the mantra.

Design education needs a desperate course correction.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi
    I came across your blog today and clearly you are someone who can help me make some decisions in my career. I am a digital marketeer, I have worked as product manager as well and now want to seriously make a decision of pursuing degree in art/design. Will you be open to giving some advice? Can I connect one on one over email or call?

    Reply

  2. I completely agree with your views on the state of design education in the country today. I’m doing my Master’s thesis from CEPT , Ahmedabad on the Position of Interior design education in India, and it is quite disturbing to look at numerous small and big schools , offering various durations and intensities of study , mushrooming more than ever. My concern is regarding not only the quality of education (which in no way is regulated and benchmarked) , but also impact on the profession. Is there a larger vision or goal to this development? where are we headed ?

    Reply

    1. You make a good point, Niharika. The impact of this there for all to see. There are all kinds of graduates who come out of these institutions, which are at best, producing CAD-monkeys ( a term I learnt recently and I have decided to use it in the place of an old favourite term I use: Photoshop-donkeys).

      The profession is already feeling the difference. We are clearly heading for a disaster.

      Reply

  3. I absolutely agree. This ‘mushrooming’ of new institutes has led to growth of many institutes making false promises. I have been a victim at the post graduate program in Retail and Exhibition Design at MIT Institute of Design in Pune. We faced (and students are still facing ) serious faculty issues. The course structures promised were misleading. They were never adhered to. If only there was a way to check competency of a professor. We have all been victims to professors who simply cannot teach or give substantial inputs.

    Two years of my PG program caused great stress to me and my family. It was a sheer wastage of my time and money.

    It’s incredible that India allows such institutes to get away with such unethical practices.

    Reply

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