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Design Sustainability (c) Ana Escobar

Design Creativity Partners Up with Social Sciences to Tackle Big Public Policy Issues

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Published date 07 April 2016

University of the Arts London (UAL) and King’s College London have started a new partnership to bring together staff and students on research, teaching and public engagement to tackle some of the biggest public policy issues.

Image (c) Ana Escobar

Image: copyright (c) Ana Escobar

A joint collaboration between the Policy Institute at King’s and the Innovation Insights Hub at UAL, presents a unique context for students to explore, develop and assess the intersections between design and policy. The collaboration includes two new joint PhD studentships bringing together UAL’s design thinking and King’s policy expertise, to contribute to the emerging field of policy innovation.

Announcing the plans, Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of UAL said:

‘This is an exciting step which combines UAL’s expertise as one of the world’s top five universities for art and design, with the wealth of knowledge in the social sciences and technology at King’s to bring about positive change in policy. It builds on UAL staff collaborating for over a decade with government policy makers to help them generate and prototype new creative solutions to some of the biggest public challenges.’

Professor Evelyn Welch, Vice Principal, Arts and Sciences of King’s College London, said:

‘We’re delighted to be partnering with UAL on this innovative new project. The Policy Institute at King’s is one of the many parts of the university which make King’s one of the top twenty universities in the world and we hope that collaborations of this sort will help to make King’s an even stronger world leading education institute.’

The partnership will see the first joint fully-funded PhD Studentship in Design Thinking for Policy Making Practice between UAL’s Innovation Insights Hub and the Policy Institute at King’s. This post will lead the research in further understanding how policies can be developed and tested using approaches from design. The work will be supported by interdisciplinary and interfaculty research seminars, exploring future joint research projects.

Dr Lucy Kimbell, Director of the UAL Innovation Insights Hub and leader of the PhD Studentship in Design Thinking for Policy Making Practice programme, :

“We’re looking to bring imagination, creativity and science to the forefront of public policy, exploring design solutions for today as well as future generations. This programme joins our current project in collaboration with Policy Lab in the Cabinet Office, delivering training on design thinking for civil servants and supporting the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre to develop an EU Policy Lab.”

Professor Jennifer Rubin, Professor of Public Policy & Director of Analysis at King’s Policy Institute, also commented:

‘There are many areas where policy thinking has not yet caught up with and responded to people’s behaviour and needs in order to improve outcomes. We are delighted that this partnership will bring together rigorous social science, policy and design thinking in new ways to help tackle societal challenges.’


The first three-year joint PhD students will start in October 2016.