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The State of Education

These are notes from different messages to: Heydon Pickering and Andy Bell. They’re, as yet, loosely structured, just capturing conversation.

The state of education – across the board in the UK – is a disgrace. I have friends who are school teachers, who are buying school books (and – really? – toiletries!) for their school children. This stretches right up to universities.

I’ve just bought a sizeable roll of NFC tags, with my own money, so we can run an NFC workshop next year. In the past, there would have been a discretionary budget that I could use for out-of-pocket expenses.

No more, the cupboard is bare.

Of more concern, I had to buy a great deal of my own computer equipment (a tablet, a smartphone, a watch…), which is – disappointing… – given that I have to teach interaction design for these devices.

We used to get a discretionary budget throughout the year, but that was pre-austerity. Now, it’s as though we’re living from hand-to-mouth. As Channel 4’s Dispatches’ notes, however, there appears to be budget for other essentials:

University Vice-Chancellors and senior staff have claimed almost £8m in expenses in the last two years, according to data revealed by Channel 4’s Dispatches. [2018]

When VCs get massive pay rises, huge pensions and drink porn star martinis you can imagine it’s frustrating. What’s disturbing is the distribution of equity. Again, based on Dispatches’ research:

More than 60 Vice-Chancellors are earning over £300,000 a year and the country’s universities rake in almost £17bn annually from their students.

Sadly, the fruits of educators’ labour is unevenly split:

Lecturers and their academic colleagues […] have seen annual wage rises of one per cent since 2012 – a fall when adjusted for inflation.

Why am I writing this?

I’m on a three year career break. I’m now half-time (and I will never go back to full-time) and this first year I’ve put a lot of thought into education. My daughter is currently racking up £60,000+ in eye-watering debt at Glasgow School of Art. It’s ridiculous. UK education is full-immersed in marketisation.

I am working on a web-based school to at least help address the design part of the equation (mostly focused around digital products). It is called designtrack.

My initial focus will be: UX, UI, Strategy, Business… Down the line, Front-End will be a part of it, plus wider aspects: Typography, Branding, etc.. (This will all be based on my UI book for Adobe and my UX book for Smashing.)

I wrote some further thoughts here.

Pickering’s post, ‘You Pay (Or Maybe You Don’t)’ at Every Layout, has come at a very good time for me. I need to think about how I make designtrack accessible and diverse… This is forefront in my mind as I start building.

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