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FREE - Situation of Print Education in London Raises A Question: Do UK Printers Know A Good Thing When They See One?

Last week there was a series of excellent articles at WhatTheyThink on the subject of education within the printing industry.

By Andrew Tribute
Published: November 14, 2006

Last week there was a series of excellent articles at WhatTheyThink on the subject of education within the printing industry. Two of these were a review by Patrick Henry on what is happening in US-based degree programs in graphic communications; and a columnby Frank Romano on the future of graphic arts education. After reading these I wanted to find out how the situation outside of the US compared in the area of education. The largest printing school in the world outside of the US is the London College of Communication (LCC), which used to be called the London College of Printing, the college I studied at in the 1960s. To find out the situation in London I spoke with Sue Pandit, the Dean of the School of Printing and Publishing within the London College of Communication.

She remarked that the situation in London is uncannily similar to the situation described by Frank Romano at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). However, she also commented how different the situation was in the US, where so many universities run courses putting printing into graphics communications courses. Outside of London, this is something that hardly happens in the UK. In the UK there are only three universities with a major emphasis on printing, these being the LCC, Leeds and Leicester Universities.

One problem with print education in the UK is the printing industry does not appear to be demanding such education and few companies are prepared to sponsor students in training or even to value employing graduates.

Preaching to A Tone-Deaf Choir?

In London the situation is identical to Rochester in the difficulty in attracting school leavers (corresponding to high school graduates in the US) into print. London however has a major international student intake as well as those from the UK. In the international area there is still a strong demand for graduate level printing education. One problem with print education in the UK is that the printing industry does not appear to be demanding such education and few companies are prepared to sponsor students in training or even to value employing graduates. Very short-term thinking drives the majority of printing in the UK by management. Companies have become used to providing a very limited level of training for their employees.

The LCC is very different from almost every other university around the world, with the possible exception of RIT. The LCC is the largest constituent college of the University of the Arts London, and within the LCC are four separate schools, some of which are working together in providing courses. These are the School of Printing and Publishing, the School of Graphic Design, The School of Media, and The Marketing School. The School of Printing and Publishing has an affiliation with the Heidelberg Print Media Academy and it has developed a new MA in Print Media in association with them.

The worrying aspect where printing technology is being taught as parts of courses in areas such as graphic design, publishing and marketing is that the buyers of print will be more knowledgeable concerning printing than the printers they are buying from.

Mix, Match, and Matriculate

With the wide variety of topics being offered through the four schools the LCC is able to create new courses that may be more appropriate for the future structure of the printing industry in linking up different subjects. It also allows for elements to be added to existing degree courses to give a print constituent to them. As an example of this, in the B.A. in Graphics Design course, students in their second year have the option of studying within the Printing and Publishing School. Within the publishing area there is a new B.A. in Magazine Publishing course that is being very successful and this has an element of print production within it. A course that is under consideration for the future is a B.A. in Design for Print. Pandit said she was also seeing the possibility of linking up direct marketing using personalization with digital printing with marketing degrees from the Marketing School.

The worrying aspect of such developments where printing technology is being taught as parts of courses in areas such as graphic design, publishing and marketing, is that the buyers of print will be more knowledgeable concerning printing than the printers they are buying from. This will probably exacerbate the situation already existing in the UK through the strength of the print management companies, where print prices and margins are so low that there is little profitability left in the printing industry.

What the industry really needs is a higher level of education for printing executives of the future - a course suited for the changing structure of the printing industry, in which print is just one element to be offered.

What the industry really needs is what the LCC is trying to introduce. This is a higher level of education for the printing industry executives of the future. In this it is just starting with the two-year M.A. in Print Media for the Heidelberg Print Media Academy. This is a full-time course with two periods studying in Heidelberg. The first of these courses is mainly attracting international students. The LCC is considering next year also offering this course on a part-time basis and changing it to an M.A. in Print Media Management. This, Pandit feels, will be of more interest to established executives within the printing industry. Such a course is ideally suited for the changing structure of the printing industry where it is becoming a part of the communications industry, in which print is just one element to be offered by companies in the future.

Editor's Note: No matter where you are located - London, Japan, Europe, Australia, Canada - we encourage you to support industry education. In the US, the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation is helping over 240 of the top students at 100 colleges this academic year. Yet the Foundation had to turn away numerous applicants due to lack of funds. Please contact the the Printing and Graphics Scholarship Foundation and find out more about these efforts. Also ask how your company can get involved either as a volunteer or as a financial contributor. Email pgsf@piagatf.org or call (800) 910-4283.

 

 

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