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Verbeke lectures on changes in European design education

Professor Johan Verbeke described the higher educational process in European design and art schools. (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor) Professor Johan Verbeke described the higher educational process in European design and art schools. (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor) Verbeke lectured on teaching strategies in fields related to architecture.  (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor) Verbeke lectured on teaching strategies in fields related to architecture. (credit: Kate Groschner/Photo Editor)

Johan Verbeke, a professor from the Sint-Lucas School of Architecture (LUCA) in Belgium, presented the lecture “Developments in Higher Education in Europe and its impact on arts, architecture and design,” last Thursday in Porter Hall.

Verbeke served as the Head of the School at LUCA from 2003 to 2009. He noted that LUCA “at the moment has over 2,000 students, not only in architecture but also in design, so it’s one big entity.”

The school is “very well known for having a strong design competence.” Verbeke has held various positions throughout his career, including project leader at the European Association of Architectural Education.
Verbeke focused his lecture on developments in European higher education and the effects of those developments.

Student reaction to the lecture was positive. Liza Otto, a first-year Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student, said, “It was interesting to see him talk about how the whole system was reorganized.”

Verbeke spoke of the Bologna declaration, a major document created in June 1999 during the Bologna Process, which sought to enhance and clarify the qualifications and standards of Europe’s higher education process.
“The declaration mainly was to put forward the system of two main cycles, where access to the second cycle requires completion of the first cycle.

The first cycle has a minimum of three years, and completion of the first cycle should also be relevant to the European labor markets as an appropriate level of qualification. The second cycle should lead to the masters and doctoral degree in European countries.”

He noted that after the adoption of the Bologna declaration, the European Association for Architectural Evidence (EEAE), “came to the consensus that in order to enter the profession, at least five years of education is required. So it more or less neglects the requirement or advice to have a level of qualification of three years.” Years after the Bologna declaration, in 2005 Verbeke stated that three cycles of qualifications were established: “A basic bachelors degree of three years, then a more advanced master’s degree of two years, then a Ph.D. degree of two years, which stimulates time towards mastery of methods with the field and research efforts.”

He went on to say, “there are different levels to make scientific judgments: On the bachelor level it is gathering and interpreting relevant data, on the Master’s level it is the ability to deal with more advanced knowledge and complexity and formulate judgments on incomplete data, and on the Ph.D. level it is the capability of analysis and synthesis of complex ideas.”

Particularly with the Ph.D. level, he noted that “students are expected to make original contributions … by developing a substantial body of research work. All is part of a movement which stimulates degree programs to formulate a list of learning projects in competence.”

Verbeke said that areas like arts, architecture, and design place more emphasis on research in their disciplines.

“All of Europe and these schools of art are setting up Ph.D. programs and developing doctoral schools and collaborations on research,” he said.

Verbeke also claims that funding for Ph.D. programs will be affected by this research output because it proves the worth of a Ph.D.

“Getting a Ph.D. is seen as getting eight years of education that shows you really wanted to become an expert in the field … and will become necessary in the future to teach and for higher education in art and so on, which is clearly a change,” said Verbeke.

He noted other effects, including the creation of the Life Long Learning Program at the European Commission, which “creates commissions really stimulating mobility between universities. Students as well as staff are really stimulated to work together and learn together in research collaborations.”

He praised collaboration between universities, saying “as an individual university, you will never be able to obtain this kind of research findings; you need to collaborate.”

Without much Ph.D. tradition in the arts, Verbeke felt “fields are not about the truth but exploring possibilities and making descriptions.”

He believes that new types of knowledge are being encouraged, including tacit-knowledge, ineffective knowledge, implicit and explicit knowledge, embedded knowledge, and embodied knowledge that all focus on five sections: The problem, planning, field work, interpretation, and conclusions.

To Verbeke, architectural arts and design research have seen improved understandings brought on by the modified secondary education system. With more intensive research and collaboration, he contended that these particular fields have made knowledge much more valuable than before.