Design Academy: 3 Heads of Masters Programs return

Max Bruinsma, 20 juli 2012

"Educational reform" postponed

The three heads of Masters Programs at the Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) have resolved their conflict with the Board. After heavy pressure – notably from Design Academy students – the boards of directors and governors have concluded that the damage caused by the departure of the three – Jan Boelen, Joost Grootens en Louise Schouwenberg – would become too great for the academy to sustain. Concurrently, the broadly supported criticism of the academy's educational innovation plans seems to have penetrated the academy's leadership as well.

Jan Boelen (Social Design), Joost Grootens (Information Design) en Louise Schouwenberg (Contextual Design) resigned on July 5th "out of discontent with the educational reform plans under development. Educational and organisational aspects were expected to prevail over the artistic autonomy and the content for which department heads and mentors are responsible. Moreover, according to the three heads, the plans would not be in accordance with the special character unique to a Master Programme of Design."

Thus a press bulletin issued by the DAE Friday, which announces that the academy has reached an agreement with the three to "return as Heads of Master Programmes under the conditions that were applicable to the Master Programmes within DAE to date." In short, the three remain leading concerning their own territory, with the authority to choose educational themes, select students and invite tutors. This means that the educational innovation trajectory, on which the DAE wanted to embark, with new deans of education and translators to help disentangle the ensuing Babylonian confusion between design managers and teaching professionals, is on hold at least as far as the Masters department is concerned. The academy states that they will take a closer look at the subject: "In the course of the year, [Boelen, Grootens en Schouwenberg]  will hold regular meetings about the future of the Master Programmes with Igor van Hooff, member of the Executive Board, and Dr T. Wagemakers, currently member of the Board of Trustees of DAE, who will join the Executive Board as interim director and be in charge of the Educational Reform portfolio."

The appointment of Ton Wagemakers, ex-director of the Audax Textielmuseum in Tilburg, as interim director is remarkable. A second remarkable aspect is the fact that in the entire press release the name of co-director Anne Mieke Eggenkamp is missing. Her position has been seriously damaged by the matter, and although there are no indications at this moment that she is considering to resign, few will be surprised if she doesn't return as general director after the summer, especially now that one of her core tasks in the Executive Board, educational reform, is taken over by someone else, if only temporarily.

Meanwhile, the  DAE's former chairwoman, trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort, has joined the debate in an open letter published by and NRC Handelsblad. "Since there is nothing wrong with the system, something else must be wrong," she writes concerning the "destructive policies" of the Academy, which lead to the resignation of the three heads.  Edelkoort thereby joins the growing choir of authoritative voices that reject the DAE's innovation plans as a bureaucratic dead end. With the re-instalment of the three renegade Heads of Masters Programs, the DAE Board seems to have heard this critique as well.

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