Education must get creative.

The latest headlines in education make rather depressing reading.

Cuts of almost £1bn between 2010 and 2012 are predicted with a further £1.5bn by 2013 if the government is to achieve its target of halving the national debt by then. The number of university places may subsequently fall by 300,000.  These cuts will almost certainly lead to increased competition between educators and some institutions may be forced to close their doors completely. Many institutions may be tempted to raise tuition fees even higher pushing education further out of reach of poorer students. The student grant is a distant memory and many of us are still repaying (or endlessly deferring) our hefty student loans as it is.  Following several years of intense focus on inclusivity this all seems rather ironic.

Having visited and worked with a wealth of British and Irish Universities over the past four years we suspect that it will be those institutions that are attempting to think differently about how and where to deliver education that will survive.  Usually this happens in the younger institutions, those that have only achieved University status in the last 20-30 years.  In order to compete with more established and ancient institutions these Universities have had to think creatively about what they can offer.  As a result they are more than used to thinking laterally about the delivery of education and the most dynamic means to achieve this.

Whether the cuts to education budgets are right or wrong the impact will likely be both substantial and lasting. On the bright side we hope is that this will act as a catalyst for innovative thinking and that we will soon see a wealth of new types of opportunities.  We have two clients at the moment, both in new Universities who are challenging us to imagine the future for them and are investing in relatively radical concepts.  To do this we have been working alongside staff, students and academics accessing their thoughts and ideas as well as revisiting our own research and knowledge base and it is surprising the enthusiasm and quality of creative thinking/solutions available on each institutions’ doorstep.

Like many others we too fear that the budget cuts could cause cataclysmic damage to our education system, however these projects have shown that there is hope and we are optimistic and that more Universities will embrace this type of innovative approach to the future.

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