The Research Excellence Framework (REF) presents both challenges and opportunities for UK-based practitioners to present their work. Invited to submit to Unit 34 in the form of portfolios, how designers and makers build narratives through which the rigour, significance and originality of their practice is articulated is an art form in itself. With a diminishing window of opportunity to discuss and prepare for the REF, we chose to take the opportunity to run a session led by Dean Hughes, Head of Art, Edinburgh College of Art to explore the subject. Fresh from conversations across the CHEAD network (Council for Higher Education in Art & Design) Dean will present the latest thinking from the art and design community for the expectations of how portfolios submissions can demonstrate research quality through evidence.

With the central focus for RTD being on the presentation of critical frameworks for practice, the conference offered a vital opportunity for leading practitioners to explore how research that is embodied within artefacts or events can best accessed and understood. Beyond the rhetoric that we use to convince ourselves that our work matters, what are the characteristics that define a good research portfolio? How do we account for failure and risk if they are central to discovery? Through an initial presentation Dean will unpack what I meant by the criteria rigour, significance and originality that will become the lenses through which we will present our practice in 2021, and offer insight into the current discussions that are constructing the criteria for a strong portfolio.

Dean Hughes – University of Edinburgh

Dean Hughes is Head of Art, Edinburgh College of Art. Dean work doesn’t begin with materials but with objects that are perfunctory and overlooked. His work has involved embroidering London bus seats (1996), sewing the shape of dropped thread into paper (1996), refilling puddles on days when it hadn’t rained (2001, 2011), reorganizing lined A4 paper (2013).

He has exhibited work in exhibitions such as British Art Show 5 organized by the Hayward Gallery in 2000 and most recently he was included in Newspeak-British Art Now at the Saatchi Gallery, London (2011). He has held solo exhibitions at Laure Genillard Gallery London (1996, 2000), Gian Carla Zanutti, Milan (1998), Jack Hanley Gallery, San Francisco (2001, 2003), Dicksmith Gallery, London (2008) and he is represented by Maria Stenfors Gallery, London. His work was included in Phaidon’s Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing (2005).