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Robert Sharl is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communications in the School of Visual Communications at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design. He is also Deputy Director for the MA in Visual Communication, and Course Coordinator for the University’s partner course in Visual Communications at the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) in Hong Kong. He joined the University in 1999.
Robert Sharl is changing the way that industry and the School of Visual Communications collaborate. Instead of having external businesses being a plug-in part to the students’ time table, he wants the University to be at the centre of creative activities in the city. It means that major events, such as the Flatpack Festival – a film festival that is held in Birmingham, are integrated into the curriculum.
“In the last couple of years, we have started to structure our courses around the external communication with industry. It is a great benefit to both our students and the course. We are structuring our course around the commercial and professional world, ensuring that these events are central to what we do. It means that students can document aspects of the festival or event, as well as interview practitioners or assist in it.”
“It really is a two-way relationship that is valuable to both employers and students. This is a real opportunity to think and develop this relationship. We want our courses to connect at the deepest levels with industry and become really embedded.”
Before he was a lecturer, Robert was very much engaged with the creative community in the region, having run a consultancy business that focused on digital, online and interactive media. He was brought into the academic world because of his expertise, which included getting business and creative’s to realise the potential for digital engagement. He helped to develop the first cyber café in the city and was instrumental in making the Custard Factory the first public building in the UK permanently connected to the Internet.
“I have a real interest in empowering people and making the digital world accessible.”
He still collaborates on external projects. He worked as a consultant for Digital Central, helping music industry professional’s access funding for projects. He is working on a number of projects with Hong Kong photographer, Kwan Chun In. Last year, he worked with her to produce a digital exhibition at the New Generation Arts Festival at the Custard Factory.
Robert is co ordinator of the Visual Communication awards programme run at School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) in Hong Kong.
Students from eligible diploma courses can enrol in the final year degree programme and graduate with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communication from Birmingham City University.
Every year, he sends lecturers to Hong Kong to work with the students. This year, he spent three weeks there and engaged 45 moving image and graphic communications students on live brief to create a promotional video, t-shirts and other merchandise, as well as a CD cover for a band called Muchuu [CORR], which has just been signed by a record label and is about to release its first CD.
“Rather than us going over there and looking at their work and just commenting on it, they are working on real briefs. Whether we are in Birmingham or Hong Kong, we are developing students of international calibre. We produce international standard designers.”