This article reports on research which explored the opportunity for extra-curricular undergraduate learning afforded by the Young Design Project (YDP), aimed at bringing together HE Design students, industry and schools. The research was undertaken in the context of the importance attached to ‘employability’ as a key driver for recent policy developments in Higher Education (see Leitch review and Cox report), as well as the political importance of Widening Participation initiatives between HEIs and schools. This research investigated the second iteration of the YDP in 2007, with 32 undergraduate students from two design degrees at University College Falmouth (BA Graphic Design and BA Spatial Design) on a project based in four Cornish schools (three secondary, one primary). The research sought to answer the question: what do undergraduate students learn from working with pupils as clients and industry practitioners in the context of a school-based project? This question is explored through a case study drawing on four triangulated phases of data collection: desk research of relevant policy documentation; pre-project semi-structured questionnaire; post-project focus group interviews and individual face-to-face interviews with key gatekeepers. As well as reflecting on the opportunity to engage with innovative learning in design, the findings offer fruitful insights to HE practitioners and policy makers considering issues around off-campus learning. This research recommends notions of ‘employability’ be subject to greater scrutiny in HE policy, since a key finding from this research is the crucial importance of appropriately resourced authentic project partnerships for deep and worthwhile undergraduate learning to take place.
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