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March 7, 2017 in Uncategorized


Employability, Tragedy and the Meaning of Life

March 6, 2017 in Thesis, Uncategorized

The day after the PESGB seminar on entrepreneurship and the performing arts, I attended an education research seminar at Queen Mary on engagement with employability and graduate attributes. The seminar was given by Finola Farrant, a lecturer in Criminology at Roehampton, and for me it raised plenty of juicy questions of the type that are likely to arise in my conversations, the first one being – what is the problem that ’employability’ is the answer to? 

This question – along with most of the others I scribbled down during the session – is chewed over fairly comprehensively in the HEA’s recent report – Employability: A review of the literature 2012 to 2016. So I’ll bring the two things together if I can.

Citing Kettis et al. (2013) and Rich (2015), the HEA report describes a fault line ‘between those who argue that higher education’s primary purpose is the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and those who argue that higher education serves a research and development function for the country along with the development of a skilled workforce’ (p13).  The research and development agenda (as promoted by CP Snow in his 1959 Rede Lecture The Two Cultures) was no doubt a major influence on the 1963 Robbins report and the subsequent expansion of higher education. The skills-shortage argument can be questioned, particularly in terms of this expansion. Is it true, for example, that there are lots of vacancies for criminologists that cannot be filled due to a lack of suitably qualified candidates? Here’s another question I wrote down in the seminar:

If we imagine a highly employable person, what are the skills or attributes that makes them employable? Are highly employable people taught these attributes at university? Could they be?

I felt these were important questions that were glossed over at the QMUL event. I’ve recently been reading Baroness Alison Wolf’s 2004 book Does Education Matter, which questions whether the skills employers are actually using and looking for are those gained at university (rather than those gained at 14, 16 or 18, for example). Wolf argues that the skills most wanted by employers are ‘the ability to read and comprehend, write fluently and correctly, and do mathematics’ (p37) – traditional academic skills that are taught at school, and – it could be argued – that all those headed to university already have.

The HEA’s 2013 Framework for embedding employability (which features heavily in the 2015 report), describes and defines employability in terms of key aspects (p10):

  • confidence, resilience and adaptability;
  • experience and networks;
  • attributes and capabilities;
  • specialist technical and transferable skills;
  • knowledge and application;
  • behaviours, qualities and values;
  • enterprise and entrepreneurship;
  • career guidance and management;
  • self, social and cultural awareness;
  • reflection and articulation.

The Government’s 2015 Employer Skills Survey seems to support the theory expounded by Wolf – that the skills employers are finding in short supply are those that are supposedly learned at school – numeracy, literacy, time management, etc. – as well as specialist and operational knowledge that is best learned ‘on the job’. While the survey findings have been used to argue for greater state investment in vocational education, they surely provide a better argument for employer investment (in apprenticeships, traineeships, etc). Their relevance to higher education seems debatable.

As an aside… it’s the glaring, unacknowledged contradictions in reports like these that cause me to reach for the salt when digesting their conclusions. For example, the report presents a concern about under-utilisation of skills, which apparently ‘represents not only a waste of individuals’ talent but also potentially a missed opportunity for employers to increase performance and productivity, improve job satisfaction and employee well-being, and stimulate investment, enterprise and innovation.’ (p8). But the most common reason given by employers for such under-utilisation was that staff were not interested in taking on a higher level role; i.e. they made a personal choice in the service of their job satisfaction and wellbeing. We are dealing with people here, not machines.

Back to the HEA report – which cites Speight et al. (2013) in reporting that some see the employability agenda as a threat to disciplinary learning. It is this aspect of the ‘fault line’ that intrigues me and is the foundation for my thesis. I’ll nail my colours to the mast – I’m still right up there with Pádraig Hogan, defending the intrinsic value of education – but I’m happy to acknowledge that the other side has a point, albeit a secondary one. I went to university in the first instance both because I liked learning and it was a prerequisite for the kind of work that I thought would suit me best. Embarking on an MA and then an EdD was prompted by a similar motivational blend (and a pretty standard one at that, I guess – to survive and be happy?).

In their report, the HEA argues that it is possible to combine the two viewpoints through careful revision of the employability agenda to integrate academic and employability learning, and cites Rust (2016) in claiming that many people operate somewhere between these two poles (something I’m curious to discover through my institutional conversations). The report offers the following definition:

‘Employability in higher education (HE) is about preparing students to become workers, citizens, community members and lifelong learners.’

It could be argued that universities have many responsibilities to the young people they take on – and this broad description touches on several of them. But the statement in the HEA report that universities have a moral duty to educate for employability on the basis of student investment and expectation of improved life chances does not sit comfortably with me. For me, a more pressing moral imperative is to curb the excessive inequalities in society that validate such dubious statements (another suggestion in the report that really irked me was that universities were partly to blame for the financial crash of 2008, by not producing graduates with the right skills). I don’t want the life chances of graduates to be ‘better’ than those of non graduates. Different, yes – but not better.

The consensus presented in the report (citing Cole and Tibby 2013) that employability is about meaningful participation in society rather than simply getting a job is all very well, but ‘meaningful’ is a difficult word. Let’s google it:

  • Significant
  • Relevant
  • Important
  • Consequential
  • Worthwhile
  • Purposeful

…see where this is going? When we describe an action as ‘meaningful’, we acknowledge it is a means without commenting what it is a means to, i.e. a specified end or purpose.

In a recent interview, the philosopher David E Cooper had this to say about ‘meaning’: “I don’t think we should just ‘muddle through’ and ignore the question of life’s meaning. Or better, perhaps, I don’t think it is a question that can be ignored once the business of asking about the worth and significance of what one is doing – one’s work, one’s pleasures, one’s ambitions and so on – has got going.”

So, there’s the rub… that’s my issue with the employability agenda, that’s where I think the fault line arises, and that’s why I’m with Pádraig. I want to live in a society where it is commonplace to interrogate the purpose of our actions; their worth, their consequences, etc. I would like that to be the foundation of employability education.

Here’s another question I wrote down during the QMUL seminar – it might seem a bit obtuse at first, this one, but bear with me:

Can we imagine a person whose employability attributes diminished through going to university?

This question doesn’t really feature in the literature as far as I can see; the assumption is that university increases employability; it’s just a question of how and by how much. But having had a rough time at university myself, and spent a year working as a resident tutor looking after others who were having a rough time, this is an issue I really care about. The transition to independent study and living can lead to problems such as a decline in mental and/or physical health, risk-avoidance due to stress of debt, substance abuse, etc. Personally, I found school and college pretty easy, but I really struggled to cope socially at university. I found living with other students intolerably invasive, and the expectation that I would make friends for life only increased the isolation I felt. Having alienated virtually everyone I met over the three years, I left immediately after my final exam to take up a job at the other end of the country. Getting the job was easy; it was a small educational publishing firm run by a guy who thought he wanted a bright, eccentric young woman on his writing staff.  But the fresh start I was expecting turned into more of the same, and again I failed to connect with people in an appropriate or normal way. I soon became acutely depressed and was fired due to erratic behaviour, ending up on Jobseeker’s Allowance of £46 a week. I struggled to get another job, and it took several years of temping and bar work (and the rest… better not ask) to put myself back together.

The thing is, I know I’m not alone in this. My experience as a resident tutor at Bath revealed how other kids struggled to adapt to university life, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Lots of them had a great time, of course – and that’s why it can be really hard to admit to having a bad one; you don’t want to rain on everyone else’s parade.

Looking at this from another angle, I now work in a specialist arts university, and I often stumble across the suggestion that angst, adversity, tragedy – even mental illness – can be the basis for great art. In another recent 3:am interview, my friend Richard asked philosopher Dennis Schmidt whether tragedy is ‘the perfection of the possibilities of art’. Schmidt responds, first citing Hegel and Nietzsche, that ‘if we are beings who are multiple and full of irreconcilable conflict, and if we are beings who make artworks in order to understand ourselves, then tragedy is at least “a” if not “the” perfection of art’s possibilities.’ Schmidt believes that the technological world has shifted the possibilities of art – perhaps in productive and creative ways but also in restrictive ways.

The last couple of questions I wrote down during the seminar sound mildly facetious, but they come from the heart:

In response to Roehampton’s Graduate Attributes, one of which is ‘Curious and creative with a passion for knowledge’, I wrote: How does the love of a subject and learning assist someone in a common graduate desk job? Wouldn’t it just make them more bored and frustrated?

On hearing Farrant’s own reasons for going to university (‘I wanted a job that was fulfilling, engaging and interesting, and hopefully offered me suitable recompense’), I wrote: If you have been fortunate enough to succeed at school and university and land a job that is fulfilling, engaging and interesting, what exactly is society compensating you for?

This last one really got me thinking. Other than increased competence and/or experience (productivity hmm), what are justifiable grounds for one person being paid more for their time than someone else? I jotted down a few ideas:

  • Unsociable hours – e.g. tube drivers
  • High-stakes (emotional stress) – e.g. surgeons
  • Low autonomy – e.g. factory operative

Why are graduates paid more than non-graduates, just because we got to faff around going to lectures, reading books, getting shamefully drunk on cheap beer and playing Ultimate Frisbee while they were putting in an honest 37 hour week? I just don’t get it, and it’s important, because the entire issue of HE funding and the public/private good debate hangs on it.

Farrant finished off her seminar with three questions for us to ponder, so just for laughs I’ll show you my responses:

Q1: What do you wish you’d known at the outset of your career?
A: That trying to make your parents proud of you is a futile, empty goal that will occlude and obstruct your own aims and desires.

Q2: What has been the most valuable advice you’ve received?
A: When things get hard, just keep breathing. Also, if someone asks you ‘what do you know about (x)’, never say ‘nothing’. Always say something.

Q3: How might you take forward employability on your programmes?
A: Now, there’s a question…

UAL Learning and Teaching Day 2017

March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Looking forward to attending and presenting at UAL’s Learning and Teaching Day later this month!

Full details at

UAL Digital Learning Services Support Blog

March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

Everything you wanted to know about Moodle, Workflow, OAT, myblog.arts, process.arts and more, now at

job shadow: Ama.

March 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

job shadow: Ama. sign making/installing


This research was conducted in small local workshop, I had a chance to visit their workspace and see how they make signs that are found on our high streets corner shops, the process of sign making goes in stages, knowing which material is better for a job, cutting it, fittings/ joining, testing.

  I have come to learn some of the sign could take more than a day, two or even weeks to b finished and installed.  this could be for a various reason egg: the size of the sign, sourcing materials, adding lights and etc...

the group I was introduced too was of 4 men, each working a different job. one has to laser cut the plastic and let it cool, while the others clean and help each others to join the finished cut parts together.  It’s a delicate job which involves a lot of focus and gentle touch as a small mistake could set you back hours If you are not careful.

there are things you can not predict- Danny, one of the stuff who seemed experience as he was helping others in the workshop told me that sometimes you improvise when things go wrong, it might not look like what you had in mind then grab attention of others for its difference.

The sign I have experience them put together was a small side sign which goes on the top corner of a building for a housing company based in west (hayes) London, another stuff I had a chance to speak to advised large sign he told me that the big the sign is the more effect it has and clear to see.

After the joining and all parts are dry they are transported to client and hanged, and tested if it has lights inside once all testing is done, its back to the studio and do more work.


March 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Call for Papers

Do check out the stream on ‘Radical Hospitality’ organized by Louise Garrett and Cecilia Canziani


LCCT 2016: Birkbeck, 24-25 June 2016

The sixth annual London Conference in Critical Thought (LCCT), hosted by the School of Law and Social Sciences at London South Bank University, will offer a space for an interdisciplinary exchange of ideas for scholars who work with critical traditions and concerns. It aims to provide opportunities for those who frequently find themselves at the margins of their department or discipline to engage with other scholars who share theoretical approaches and interests.

Central to the vision of the conference is an inter-institutional, non-hierarchal, and accessible event that makes a particular effort to embrace emergent thought and the participation of emerging academics, fostering new avenues for critically-oriented scholarship and collaboration.

The conference is divided into thematic streams, each coordinated by different researchers and with separate calls for papers, included in this document. We welcome paper proposals that respond to the particular streams below. In addition, papers may be proposed as part of a general stream, i.e. with no specific stream in mind. Spanning a range of broad themes, these streams provide the impetus for new points of dialogue.

  • Art in the Time of Capital
  • A/Political Feeling
  • Bridging Memory, Temporality and the Digital
  • Constructing Cultures of Collective Freedom
  • Desire and the Political: Exploring the Not-All of Language
  • Economies of Cultural Knowledge
  • Theorizing Ethics and Politics in Ethnographic Practice
  • The Good is Perfected by Care
  • Habit, Addiction, and Thought
  • NUDGE: Interdisciplinary perspectives on choice architecture
  • Politics and the Theological
  • Politics of Poverty
  • Radical Hospitality
  • Vernacular Aesthetics of the Global City

The Full text of the call for papers can be found at:



LCCT 2016: Birkbeck, 24-25 June 2016

Contact us

Twitter: @londoncritical


Register for the conference via Eventbrite. The conference is free for all to attend.



You are Material

March 2, 2017 in Uncategorized



IEPP Event Surface Design Show 2017

March 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

Surface Design Show 2017


The surface Design Show focus on interior and exterior surfaces returns to London’s Business Design Centre 7 – 9 February 2017. The shows  was  bringing together of designers, architects and specifiers to immerse themselves in the latest materials for the built environment and gain new insights. The show had different types of products and materials. Also it was a great way to gain new insights and network with designers.

The show all of sort of materials that I got to learn about how it can be. There were some intriguing surface finishes using natural materials, but the one that was really grabbing attention was the Moss panel. Aimed as an ‘easier to maintain alternative’ to living walls, these panels are in fact made from real sustainably harvested moss, cleaned and preserved to retain its soft natural feel. These super-tactile panels are died in a range of colours from natural greens and browns, to saturated reds, pinks and blues for those going for a bolder look.

In a visual contrast to the other wall panels at their stand, the Perla panels Created an each bead is individually clad in fabric and hand stitched to a fabric backing; the effect created is of subtle colour bleeding.

Also learning about the colours and the trends within the industry such as muted tones were a popular choice, particularly blues and greens, paired with copper accents.

There were many different types of design such as subtle textures and patterns were seen across many different surfaces. Glass and mirror were hugely popular, either distressed or vintage in appearance, or with a modern spin through geometric patterning.

Overall the show helped me to understand about materials and to explore different types of materials that can be used for different surfaces. And also show I got chance to interact to the designers and find out about they work and how they produced it.img_0956 img_0958 img_0959 img_0960 img_0961 img_0962 img_0963

IEPP Industry Research2

March 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

HAO Design

blue apartment

The element for this project that caught my attention is the colours that they use such as the blue.

Have a natural wood is used in the space

this apartment was to create a home that has the right balance and caters for the couple’s family and social life.

he scheme named ‘blue and glue’ focuses on the communal area with an open kitchen placed facing the generously-sized living room; this enables the parents to gain a full view of the children, while they play. different shades of cool blues have been used on the walls, with timber grid paneling on the ceiling that serves as simple, harmoniously detailed spatial partition. the living room, used as their children’s designated play space, is furnished with lazybones style sofas and low-sitting furniture and round coffee tables to give the overall vision more of permeability.

Every part of the sapce of the  apartment is standing out because they use different types of materials in Each section

I like how wood is standing out and contrasting with the blue It makes the space more and makes it look brighter.

This Projects is design for living

They are mainly engaged in construction interiors, residential, commercial, office space planning and project management. The good space is not the kind of extravagant, they try to design the space that people have better ways to interact and feel of the space temperature, the story of people to fill the space.

HAO / Holm Architecture Office is an international design collective founded in 2010 by Danish architect Jens Holm.HAO hao-design-blue-and-glue-apartment-taiwan-designboom-03 hao-design-blue-and-glue-apartment-taiwan-designboom-09 hao-design-blue-and-glue-apartment-taiwan-designboom-11 hao-design-blue-and-glue-apartment-taiwan-designboom-08

IEPP Industry Research 1

March 1, 2017 in Uncategorized


Small  Home  Smart  Home

with house prices in hong kong some of the most expensive in the world, LAAB designed 8.7 square meters of floor space.

The element that really catch my attention is how they fitted in a full kitchen, a large bathtub, a home cinema, a gym, cat friendly spaces, and plenty of storage into 28.7 square meters of floor space.

laab began considering time as a factor, eventually designing the space around a ‘form follows time’ philosophy, which means that spaces open and close depending on the purposes needed at that particular time.

what reallt Fascinates me how the house has been smartly designs considering how much space they have. Liked the way they used multifunctional design.

LAAB is a Chartered Architectural Firm with an unorthodox team comprising architects, artists, designers, engineers, and makers.

Yip Chun Hang, Ricci Wong and Otto Ng cofounded LAAB in 2013.small houses laab-small-home-smart-home-hong-kong-flexible-interiors-designboom-05 thumbs_g3

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