Hywel James was a fine art student at Brighton College of Art between 1962 and 1967. He was a teacher in schools and further education before joining a national degree-awarding body, the Council for National Academic Awards, eventually becoming its senior officer for art and design in 1982. He later became a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Schools, a vice-principal of what is now the Arts Institute at Bournemouth, and finally principal of Herefordshire College of Art and Design.

On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Brighton College of Art in 2009, Hywel wrote:

“In 1962 Brighton College of Art occupied a Victorian building that looked as though its architect had been asked to reconstruct the Bastille out of liver sausage. Few people, least of all the students who used it, were dismayed when the building was demolished and replaced by a steel and glass number with an open staircase rising from the entrance lobby through three floors. Hailed in an architectural journal as a ‘coup de theatre’, the staircase was in reality a health and safety nightmare which put at risk the lives of the aged (the teaching staff), the unwary (teachers and students returning after lunch from The Norfolk Arms), and the overburdened (applicants carrying foundation course portfolios).

“My decision to go to art college was taken by a far-sighted schoolteacher who recognised that at that time a good art school offered a practical education which emphasised high levels of technical skill, professionalism and hard work, all of which could be applied in a variety of jobs not necessarily concerned with the practise of art.

“I feel sure many of my teachers at Brighton were justifiably frustrated at my lack of interest in becoming a professional painter or printmaker. Some saw the vocational goal as natural and inevitable, and a number of students became highly successful practitioners in art or design. But by no means could all of us have become full-time artists or designers. In any case I thought that a general education through the practice of art and design was both legitimate and rewarding, and so it proved to be. At Brighton I grew up, gained a measure of confidence in myself and my capabilities, made a number of lifelong friends from among both the staff and my fellow students, learned a great deal about the arts generally, and validated that early conviction that a practical education in art and design remains one of the best preparations for the challenges of life.”

Hywel James, 2009