Make your mark

Dr Harriet Riches

Harriet Riches

Dr Harriet Riches is coming back to her roots. She studied her foundation art course at Cambridge School of Art and now, 25 years on, has returned as Head of School.

As well as writing about photography for international journals, Harriet has delivered talks and presentations at venues including Tate Britain and New York’s Guggenheim Museum. So why return to Cambridge?

My foundation year at ARU was the most exciting in my educational career and having built my academic career in art school environments, I decided to come back to lead the next generation of students.

ARU's commitment to its students really attracted me. Student experience is everything

I chose to work for ARU because I really feel it aligns with my own values. I’ve worked at other big universities, but ARU’s mission and its commitment to its students really attracted me. Student experience is everything; ARU really promotes that. It’s focused on providing a great education for students in terms of their outcomes – but also on giving them opportunities and enabling everyone to succeed, whatever their background.

Cambridge School of Art is a historic institution. I’ve mentioned that I did my foundation course here many years ago – and the presses are the same ones I used back then for printmaking!

I think there's great potential to build on that wonderful heritage and history, and develop it for the future.

We know that creative skills will be among the most important skills in the future. I’m coming into an art school where we need to think: how are we going to support our graduates to be that next generation of creative, critical thinkers that industries will need?

My foundation course gave me the opportunity to explore different areas of creative practice, and the same is true today. We can help our students to identify their career path or the specialism they might want to follow. By developing expert knowledge and skills and an entrepreneurial outlook, they leave us ready to set up their own creative business or manage a freelance career, but are also well-equipped with the skills many different industries and occupations are crying out for.

I’m a real advocate for the importance of art and design education. There’s less and less opportunity for creative subjects at school, but at the same time there’s growing resistance to that, because young people want to do something creative – whether it’s music or art or design. People will always do it. You can’t suppress it.

In some ways, studying in Cambridge was the best year of my life: being 18 and exploring lots of different art and design practices. I want that for today’s students, too. The creativity at the heart of art and design education is empowering. It’s transformational and gives people a voice – as well as the foundations for a rewarding and fulfilling future.

We've been teaching art and design courses in Cambridge since 1858, when our art school first opened its doors. Want to play your part in its story? Explore its brilliant facilities (including those vintage printing presses) for yourself at an Open Day.