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Chinese universities are churning out design graduates while the UK government needs educating – says Design Council chief executive after Gove u-turn

Design Council CEO John Mathers has welcomed news of a government u-turn on proposals to reform education which would have left art and design out of the national curriculum, suggesting the plans showed “the government needs educated”.

Education secretary Michael Gove backtracked on new reforms

Education secretary Michael Gove announced plans in September to replace GCSEs with English Baccalaureate Certificates (EBC), which would focus the curriculum on core subjects such as maths and English, but exclude the arts. However, after pressure from arts organisations and criticism from MPs, Gove announced earlier this month the plans were being scrapped.

Speaking to twistorsticks’s Marc Shelkin as part of The Drum’s How To Get a Job in Design series, Mathers said: “The government needs educated. They need joined up thinking. They’re talking on the one hand about the opportunities for growth in the UK - let’s make sure we do that from the very start. Our role in that is to help the process of education and I think we were all very pleased when we heard the news.

“If you think about the number of graduates that are being churned out of Chinese universities in design and technology, that’s a real worry, we’ve got a fantastic reputation here in the UK and we need to keep that going.”

Mathers left his role of CEO at the Holmes & Marchant Group to take up the position at the Design Council in September 2012. Before that he led a number of marketing, brand and design consultancies and spent five years as head of design at Safeway.

“The real challenge here is the government, on the one hand, was looking at not including design and art in the EBacc, on the other they’re talking about design, innovation and entrepreneurialism being the things that are going to make the difference to the growth agenda in the UK,” he continued.

“Where does that come from? It comes from people who’ve done creative industry training, education, who think differently, think entrepreneurially. We’ve got to keep that in the curriculum. We’ve got to include design, art and creative subjects now more than ever.”

The Commons education committee said the changes were “too much, too fast” and Gove admitted plans for the new exams has been “a bridge too far”. Campaigning organisation #includedesign welcomed the news with a statement on their website.

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