Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008

Summary of Projects

Project Title

Expanding the delivery of Associate Degrees in Design

Project Leaders

Hendrikus Berkers

Funds Approved


Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination

The project sought to interrogate the concept of a generic Associate Degree qualification in the Design discipline area. This was proposed as a possible joint sector offering that might align with the RMIT Associate Degree strategy and provide vocational outcomes for para-professional Design practitioners. Changes in the nature of inter-disciplinary practice, rapid technological developments, a tightening funding environment, and an emphasis on sustainability in design education all informed the study. The project also undertook to investigate the viability of a potential industry partnership for such a learning program. Research included the following:

Interviews with relevant Heads of School to identify potential academic offerings and internal support for the concept

Interviews with key persons at Design Institute of Australia to identify vocational shortfalls

Interviews with key industry personnel

Meetings with key School of Architecture & Design personnel

Mapping of local and international design programs

Mapping of design occupations in demand for immigration

Mapping of courses in existing RMIT design programs

Review of current industry research and position papers

Review and investigation of potential industry partner proposals

At mid-project stage, the research identified three possible program options:

Associate Degree in Sustainable Design

Associate Degree in Interior Design

Vocational Graduate Diploma in Event and Exhibition Design

After further investigation, the project found:

It was difficult to establish viable vocational outcomes for such qualifications

The qualifications did not enjoy high visibility or status with end-users (employers) or potential clients

There were significant strengths to the development of joint sector qualifications with decided advantages in improving delivery but these strengths were not unique to Associate Degrees

There were significant impediments to the creation of pathways to cognate degree programs with serious concerns about their negative impact on the degrees, potential confusion over the University’s offerings and doubts about standards

There were viable alternatives to Associate Degrees which enjoyed greater popularity with industry clients and end-users

The funding context for Associate Degrees had radically changed during the project time frame with negative impacts upon the university’s profile and strategic planning.

Final recommendations are as follows:

Consideration be given to the development of vocational graduate qualifications in the discipline of interior design

Consideration be given to the development of vocational graduate qualifications in the discipline of event and exhibition design

Industry engagement be re-examined in regard to new program development and potential partnerships, especially in the context of the Skills and Innovation Reform, contestability and competitiveness

Consideration be given to the ongoing investment in dual sector collaborative research to support development of complex, industry-responsive scoping of new program initiatives & viable markets, i.e. a needs-driven investigation to develop new programs.

Notably, the project highlighted an opportunity for program development in the discipline area of event and exhibition design, particularly in the evolving arena of ‘temporary design’. The School of Design TAFE is currently assessing how a more detailed development brief and process might be constructed in alignment with the School’s strategic priority for an articulation pathway for Visual Merchandising programs. The ‘temporary design’ discourse offers exciting potential for industry engagement with both the commercial and cultural sectors through event, exhibition, theatre, film, art installation and festival contexts - and an opportunity for the School to benchmark innovative, vocationally-oriented content and modes of delivery though project-based, work-integrated learning.

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