DesignMENA Summit 2019: Industry-university link ‘disrupted’

DesignMENA Summit 2019: Industry-university link ‘disrupted’
27_08_19 Design Mena summit 2019 panel CID
Published: 21 October 2019 - 5:43 a.m.

Architects and designers need to improve the “disrupted” link between industry and education to ensure students graduate with the right mix of soft and hard skills, according to RMJM’s design director.

Sotiris Tsoulos of Scotland-headquartered RMJM blasted the connection between industry and universities in the Middle East and has called for greater efforts to ensure graduates entering the labour market are equipped with the tools to succeed.

“The connection between the universities and the industry has been disrupted somehow,” he said. “The trend came from the UK and the US, where the young architects were trained to be perfect image makers – and there is no substance behind it.”

Speaking at the designMENA Summit 2019 advisory panel meeting, he added: “How can you get a student with five years’ education who doesn’t know how to design a toilet, and why is that okay today?”

Tsoulos, who has lived in the UAE permanently for two years but worked in the region for much longer, said he wanted a return to classical education where students learn to sketch with pen and paper, rather than on digital touchpads. He also wants more architects and interior designers to build bridges with educators.

“In Dubai we have a multitude of successful architects that should be visiting universities on a weekly basis; universities should invite architects to give lectures about our process – not our projects, but our process.”

Pallavi Dean, founder and managing director of boutique interior design firm Roar, agreed with Tsoulous that all students are not always coming out of university with the right skills.

“This is a big problem. The students are conceptually really strong but sometimes the university is unable to make that conversion from application to reality.”

Dean, who was educated in the UAE and has been an assistant professor of interior design at the American University of Sharjah, added that graduates need softer skills in order to thrive in the regional design industry.

“Getting the right talent with soft skills is important – they don’t teach you that at university. People might think they’re great at software but that’s not very useful if they can’t write an email or show empathy to a colleague or client… We talk about gaps in the market from academic to professional life and soft skills are so desperately missing.”

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