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Debate: Generalist versus specialist learning

Men on the roof of CEREB

What sort of education can best tackle the challenges of sustainability?

Event type: Free public debate
Date: Tuesday 15 November
Location: The Clarence Centre, London South Bank University

Learning in all forms, from the education of students to the continuing development of professionals, is key to a sustainable built environment. The issues explored in this debate were around general cross-disciplinary learning versus focusing on the specialisation of disciplines.

Live stream

Watch the Periscope live stream of the debate.

Comment piece

Chloe Hampton
Read Chloe Hampton's pre-debate accompanying article (PDF File 179 KB) about the main factors influencing the debate. You can also read a post-debate summary (PDF File 184 KB) of what went on.

About the debate

To deal with challenges of sustainability, is deep and narrow knowledge more beneficial or is shallow and broad knowledge more desirable? We know that collaboration between disciplines is essential, but so is detailed understanding of technical issues. How do we create graduates and professionals who have the skills and knowledge to create and maintain a built environment that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable?

Key considerations

The debate was centred around three key questions:

  • A common language: how do we create graduates who can address the environmental challenge?
  • Lifelong learning across built environment professionals: when to specialise?
  • Feedback loop between education and practice: how can this support and drive generalisation or specialism?


Nigel Tonks, Buildings London Leader, Arup
For specialist learning

Satheesh Jacob, Head of Excellence, Building Services, Ramboll

Alex MacLaren, Assistant Professor – Architectural Design, Heriot Watt University

For generalist learning

Paul Tymkow, Director of Learning and Knowledge, Hoare Lea

Robert Schmidt III, Senior Lecturer, Loughborough University

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