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Design school reputations

When potential students or project clients ask me which is the best architecture or design school, I usually give them the names of a few institutions but also insist: ‘don’t take my word for it, get hold of current students or researchers there, and ask them what it’s like’. Even that approach is limited: people inside one institution are not ideally placed to compare their own experience with that of their peers in other ones. Citation league tables are a guide, but tell only one part of the story. I’m struck, in this context, by a Pew report which states that 33 million people in the US have rated a product, service, or person using an online rating system. If reputation systems already help so many people buy books, movies and so on, how long can it be before such systems extend to big ticket purchases of things like a design education?. Design portal Core 77 already hosts a lively forum in which potential and current students exchange opinions about design courses and schools. So far, these exchanges are anecdotal, but someone soon will surely build a ratings system for them to use. Some colleges have already implemented online ratings of individual teachers, and many students are assessing themselves and each other. In 2003, Yale’s online course evaluation system processed 24,000 evaluations in its first semsester alone. I’m not sure that many design school directors have thought through the consequences for their institution once online user ratings take hold. There’s a bibliography on the subject here.

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