Lawrence Zeegen, Dean of Design at London College of Communication, on educational politics, student loans and elitism
As part of the What’s Next? series, KK Outlet tonight hosts a discussion between those at the fore of the education system, including Michael Slavinsky of the Brilliant Club, Ed Stephen from Hoxton Hall, and members of the Precarious Workers Brigade and Carrotworkers' Collective. Chairing the debate is Dean of Design at London College of Communication, Lawrence Zeegen, who we caught up with earlier this week to discuss some of the issues at stake.
Dazed Digital: Were the Labour government wrong to encourage so many people to go to university, when many would have benefited from gaining professional experience instead?
Lawrence Zeegen: How could it be wrong to encourage new generations to explore higher education? University should be a life-enhancing experience, should be about changing lives, preparing people for life-long learning, should ask as many questions as it answers and should be about enriching the person and the community too into which each of our graduates emerge - locally, nationally and internationally, whether these are business or cultural communities.
DD: What are some of the benefits of vocational training?
Lawrence Zeegen: The benefits of vocational training are enormous - training people for a world of work is a responsibility we must embrace, and we do at London College of Communication, but understanding how our graduates must inform industry as well as be informed by industry and how we must continue to produce graduates that will rock boats as well as row boats, is critical. Equipping students with skills for today is important but equipping them to understand how they maintain currency for the future is vital.
DD: How can we challenge the elitism that seems to be creeping in?
Lawrence Zeegen: Elitism is in the government that we, as a nation, have chosen to elect and the policies we are now being subjected to are being formed from a right-wing perspective of how our society should be run. Education and the arts are suffering from underfunding at a scale that may mean it takes decades to recover from. I wish I had the answer but it could be argued that we deserve the government we choose to elect...
DD: Will we ever pay off our student loans?
Lawrence Zeegen: The only official answer has to be yes - but over time and only when in employment over a certain salary. But that doesn't get away from the fact that many people this year are opting to stay away from university. Fear of debt, uncertainty of their future in uncertain times means that many young people are understandably shying away from walking into £27,000 of debt for an education that just a few years ago was free to all and free on entry. Again, how did we walk into electing political parties that have made sure that university education has come at a cost?
DD: What advice do you have for young people embarking on internships?
Lawrence Zeegen: Learn as much as you can from the experience, meet as many people as you can through the internship, make yourself invaluable to the company you're at, be yourself but an enhanced super-positive version of yourself and take up every offer of a free coffee and lunch, and attend every opening, launch and networking event and think about the future - if you're good now, you're better following the experience and it really can pay dividends. And don't give up the evening bar job!