Issue #5: The First

Call for submissions

The next issue of IE:Studio, scheduled for January 2020, will explore the theme of First Class student work in design studio. IE:Studio always focuses on teaching & learning from the perspective of design studio; we are interested in receiving papers from colleagues who wish to reflect on the nature of First Class work, based on graduating work from 2019.

Reportedly, the number of First Class degrees are rising in UK Universities (in some institutions, quite dramatically); students increasingly expect a First Class degree, and may even be disappointed with an Upper Second. But what is a First Class design project? How do we recognise it when we see it? Is our teaching getting better? Are we “marking up”?

You may wish to reflect on one or more of the following questions, or introduce a new question or theme:

  • What makes a First Class design project (by which we mean, design projects scoring 70% or higher)? Can it be quantified, or are assessors looking for an additional quality that is somehow beyond measure (the work is simply “special”)? Are there attributes of first-class work which are not covered in a typical assessment matrix?  Is awarding a First a purely academic judgement?
  • Do First Class design projects need to be excellent in all respects? Is it enough for a project to be conceptually excellent, or visually excellent, to achieve a First Class mark? What are the essential elements of a First Class piece of work? Can First Class work under-perform in certain respects?
  • Does a First Class student take creative risks? What of the student who bravely (or brilliantly) departed from the brief or standard practice to attempt something genuinely innovative, though perhaps fell short in spite of their efforts? Might this student be awarded a First Class mark?
  • What is the value of a First Class degree? Do academia and professional practice consider First Class work in the same way? Do academics prize certain qualities in student work (perhaps a theoretical underpinning) that matter less to recruiters (or vice versa)? 
  • Is there such a thing as a “first class student” who, for any number of reasons, does not deliver First Class work? Indeed, is it always the work that is assessed; is the student, also, being assessed?
  • There are 30 marks in the First Class mark band. Do assessors confidently use this band width? And if not, how to we address this? Is this symptomatic of the discipline? Is it more difficult for an Interiors /Spatial/Architecture project to be “First Class” compared to other design subjects?  
  • As our student body becomes increasing International, is our degree classification system outdated?  What should we use instead?

We would be interested in hearing from academics who would like to reflect on First Class design projects from students who graduated in 2019. This might include reflections on student work which was nominated for an Interior Educators national design award. Texts might focus on the work of one student, or more than one. We would be interested in hearing from design tutors who felt that a particular student was “always” going to receive a First Class mark; equally, we would like to hear from staff who tutored students who somehow lifted a competent and relatively “middling” project into the First Class category. What was it that made the difference? Did the “First Class-ness” show itself immediately, or did it emerge through ever closer scrutiny? 

In the first instance, we invite design tutors to submit an abstract of 200 words, outlining the First Class project/s they wish to reflect upon, stating briefly why these projects were awarded such a classification. Please reflect on one or more of the issues listed above, or introduce a further element for consideration if you wish. Developed papers for publication must be more than mere project descriptions.

All developed published papers will be illustrated essays of 800 words (plus or minus 100 words). Each paper must be illustrated with 5-10 images of the student work being reflected upon. 

Please email your abstract to by 7 October 2019. Abstracts will be double-blind peer reviewed. Authors will be notified of the outcome of this process by 23 October 2019.

Developed texts must be submitted by 25 November 2019.


This issue of IE:Studio is edited by:

Shelley McNulty, Senior Lecturer, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

David Littlefield, Senior Lecturer, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

IE:Studio is the bi-annual publication of Interior Educators.