The relationship between education and practice in any discipline is complex. In an ever changing world, it is also in flux. In a context such as the built environment, it is also interdisciplinary. Today, educators in the liberal arts still identify learning as an end unto itself, and designers still draw on ideas about intuitive knowledge. By contrast, the businesses behind urban development or city and regional growth call for graduates armed with the skills required in practice from day one. At the same time local government and cultural or city management firms need creative thinkers capable of continual adaptation. In the industries and sectors such as construction, transport and engineering, managers focus on a foundational baseline and value engineers and designers as both pragmatic problem solvers and visionaries.
These alternative perspectives have been reflected in multiple changes to the practice and structure of the education sector. One such example was the Boyer-Mitgang report which restructured architectural education in the US to reflect other professions. As in other areas, it resulted in a ‘degree arms race’, with MAs and doctoral programs multiplying more rapidly than the research and teaching methods they required. At the same time, the ‘widening participation’ agenda produced an explosion of research and funding for new pedagogical approaches and initiatives. Attempts to fuse education with the creative arts, industry and business through university led partnership schemes also proliferated. More recently, changes in the financing of the HE sector in places like the UK, mean universities now stress educational efficiency and guarantees of graduate jobs.
Working within this context, educators in sectors connected with the design, management and construction of the built environment have developed new and innovative ways to teach, they have embedded collaborative practices into their pedagogy, have forged unique partnerships across disciplines and outside the academy, and much more. However, research into best practice learning and teaching in the classroom is still evolving and educational initiatives can sometimes be seen as contradicting on-the-job realities in practice. The Education, Design and Practice conference explores this complex and contradictory scenario from multiple perspectives, seeking examples best practice teaching and critique in the design, management and construction sectors.