Design and Arts education cannot continue to be dictated by a market driven agenda, nor can independent critical thought sustain the gradual debasement of value by the university. School of Speculation is a nomadic design school, traveling between existing pedagogical institutions to form a new model of affordable, independent and critical thought.

︎The State of British Arts Education

︎Design and Architecture should interrogate, confront and challenge the status quo

︎Design and Architecture must be free in order to achieve accessibility

︎An alternative to the higher educational model must be found

︎The Future SOS

The State of British Arts Education

SOS believes that design should challenge the status quo. For over a decade following the global financial crisis, design has failed to critique existing socio-economic systems it operates within, harboured by an educational system intent on providing consumable education / consumable products. SOS will create an alternative model, inviting students to consider how to challange and provoke the frontiers of 21st century society from outside of the traditional university model.

We are facing a systemic crisis in the Arts. The UK Arts are being continually undervalued as schools and universities slowly dismantle a pedagogical approach that teaches more than narrowly focused professional education. As over-burdened universities move closer to a fully capitalised consumer-style education, the arts have been too easily forgotten as industry and governments lobby for vocational and skills-based courses. Recurrent emphasis on STEM subjects has seen the arts squeezed year on year resulting in a crisis in the creative arts in the UK.

Since the removal of Art and Design from school core subjects, the arts have seen a reduction of up to 32% in some GCSE courses.
– Press Association 2017.

Often perceived as leading to poorer career prospects, the well-rounded advantages of an Arts education are failing to reach BAME and working-class students and their families. In the past decade this has seen universities push a vocational style education, reinforcing STEM subjects and ties to industry - narrowing the intellectual scope of education. The UK is entering a crisis in the creative arts resulting in limiting the pool of talent for creative disciplines at a time when the UK brands itself as a creative industry world-leader.  

Yearly state funding in the arts has decreased £100million since 2011
– Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government 2018.

Since 2011 the percentage of students taking a subject in the Arts at A-level has never exceeded 14%
- Ofqual 2016.

Set up to counter highly specialised vocational course, our mission is a belief in the benefit of a rounded education in the arts that promotes self-evaluation and critical thought. Bringing together cutting-edge practitioners in leading cultural institutions, SOS aims to bring the most contemporary debate to students with real ambition to make a shape the future.

SOS is founded on 3 aims that are interdependent from each another. No single aim can be achieved without the integrated support of the other.


Design and Architecture should interrogate, confront and challenge the status quo.

Critical design is an under represented form of counter – affirmative design, allowing space for designers to critique contemporary society through the power of their medium. Education in design and architecture has been relegated to solving the issues of a pro-capitalist elite, but this does not have to be your only agency as a designer!

Design and architecture has the potential to be something other than the backdrop to the everyday. Uniquely positioned at the junction between culture, politics and economics it can challenge society, provoking the current unquestioned norms around us.

Traditionally, this methodology has been reserved to an elite establishment of higher education in the UK. SOS aims to demolish this tenet, democratising a way of doing things and making critical design accessible.

A Control Room for a Lottocratic Nation (2018). Dele Awoyemi (SOS_19 Guest Tutor).


Design and Architecture must be free in order to achieve accessibility.

SOS is an independent and nomadic critical design school that aims to challenge current models of delivering higher education. Through partnerships between museums, galleries, libraries and other public institutions, SOS aims to build relationships between the diverse latent pedagogy in our cities to create a different kind of educational offer.

Universities today gravitate toward market-driven education, not only through the education as product model, but in their delivery of market-ready students. SOS disputes this approach. SOS is an alternative model of education afforded by its own institutional framework outside of the traditional university. SOS is workshops, speakers’ events, summer schools, writings, lectures and discussion, making and drawing, visualising and critiquing the status quo using critical design.

The 59th Factory of Culture (2018). Dele Awoyemi (SOS_19 Guest Tutor).


An alternative to the higher educational model must be found.

Enough is enough. An inclusive university model cannot sustain this increase in cost whilst devaluing the importance of critical and non-linear learning in the Arts. In order to establish our aims, it is inevitable that an alternative model of education will emerge. If SOS is to challenge a way of design thinking and its component financial model, then SOS will require a new educational model. 

SOS is committed to developing finding methods that rely on diversifying financial income for its projects and courses, establishing collaborative relationships with cultural institutions and reaching out to private and philanthropic sources of finance, public grants and funding.

Modelled as a network of relationships, in-between cultural institutions, SOS will invigorate existing spaces of cultural pedagogy and exchange to build a school from a network.

Building Without Bias (2018). Hannah Rozenburg (SOS_19 Guest Tutor).

The Future SOS

SOS is founded on its future ambition to provide a multitude of truly affordable critical design courses, offering students a range of durations that suit their commitments and aspirations. SOS will work toward a sustainable financial model that allows it to operate year-round.

SOS will continue to develop its relationships with institutional partners, always with the aim to providing students with the best learning environments. SOS will continue to expand its network of funders and contributors.

Recontextualising Decontextualising Dagenham (2018). Ryan Cook (SOS_19 Guest Tutor).