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The Lighting Education Trust is 21 years old

September 26, 2023

I took an early opportunity to discuss the threat to the MSc with David Rowden (Holophane) who, at the next LIF Council meeting, convinced members of the necessity to save the course. Agreeing that it was too important to let go, a quick round of the table saw pledges from many companies to provide a modest sum, initially over a 5 year period, as industry support. The Council and the LIF Director, Ernest Magog, thought the project would best be administered as a charity through the professional institutions and all eyes fell on me as I had held the Council Chair of Education for many years – since the development of the LIF Certificate courses – was CIBSE Vice President and recent Lighting Division (SLL) Chairman and a signatory of the Memorandum of Understanding between ILE and SLL.

I wasn’t looking for a job as I was also just completing a year as Master Lightmonger and thought I ought to devote some time to my ailing business. Persuaded that I would just be overseeing an annual grant, I found enthusiastic support from CIBSE Council and its President, David Lush, ILE Council and its President Mike Simpson and practical backing from Andrew Ramsay, CIBSE Secretary, who registered the charity. CIBSE and ILE became Joint Trustees and I became the third Trustee because the Charity Commission insist on a “natural person”. My first Management Board included David Rowden, Mike Simpson and Bob Venning. David retired in 2013, Mike is the second “natural person” Trustee and Bob now runs the Trust as Chairman of the Management Board. Others whose names will be recognised by many and who gave invaluable support in the early years included Vick Neal, Gerry Brown Alan Spalding and Pasha Fuad, as well as Les Norman, formerly of London South Bank University, who continues as a stalwart.

As a result of the concern and commitment demonstrated by the lighting community, UCL was able to direct additional resources and facilities to enhance the course. For several years this was compounded by government and other grants being won, each £1 of LET funding attracting up to an additional £6 of external funding for lighting research and teaching.

Phase two

Once LET support for the Bartlett MSc was consolidated, the sponsoring companies drew attention to the lack of advanced though sub-degree structured courses to meet majority needs. It was many years since the demise of the City & Guilds courses, without alternative national qualifications at this level. The few day-release courses offered by some providers were poorly supported, not only because of catchment area but also because of the reluctance of employers to enrol staff due to pressures and shortages within their offices. Distance learning had to be the way forward, as had already been demonstrated by the success of the LIF Certificate course.

Hence the LET Diploma in Lighting came into being, developed by Les Norman and Pasha Fuad of London South Bank University, in association with Vic Neal who led a working group that included representatives of CIBSE, ILE, RIBA, LIF, IALD, the Bartlett, and co-opted specialists. The Diploma was launched in 2000 with some fanfare at the House of Commons in the presence of a number of MPs whose interests were through Lighting companies in their constituencies, the sponsors, the professional institutions and the supporting universities. The LET Diploma, originally aimed at the UK, soon attracted students from around the world and has also been run at a university in India. Because of changes within London South Bank university in 2011, the partnership arrangement with the university was revised. LET assumed full responsibility as the course provider with LSBU remaining closely involved as the external examiner.

After several updates, Kelvin Austin oversaw a major revision, with additional material, that transformed the course to full e-delivery and was completed in 2015. Renamed The LET Diploma in Lighting Design, it seeks to produce within the student a comprehensive knowledge in all ‘art’ and ‘science’ aspects of lighting design. The course is divided into Learning Modules covering both fundamental and core subjects in easy to handle sections, made available through the LET web site. To pass the course successfully, students must complete all the Project Assignments from the modules plus a final Design Project and an end of course Examination. The LET Diploma in Lighting Design takes some two years of study and is a coveted qualification in the profession.

Phase three

It has long been held that most people come into a career in lighting by chance and it was not until 2012 that the prospect of a first degree in Lighting became more than an aspiration. In collaboration with Brunel University’s School of Engineering and Design, a specific lighting design pathway was developed within their current undergraduate provision, based on the platform of existing product design degrees. Three years on, we now see people coming into the profession by choice and by study, rather than needing potential employers to train them from scratch. 

The UCAS website lists many degree courses that include ‘Lighting Design’ in the title but these are invariably related to theatre, entertainment and events lighting, not mainstream ‘architectural’ lighting design where Brunel is a first. LET has also assumed sponsorship of the well established and highly regarded annual SLL Young Lighters of the Year competition.

Behind the scenes

The list of sponsors – see separate page – has extended beyond manufacturers, who have been joined over the years by consultancies, independent Lighting Design companies and, importantly, IALD. We really do span and unite the industry and profession.

LET has always been staffed entirely by volunteers; other than a part time administrator, nobody is remunerated and all income goes towards our objectives. The successes haven’t ‘just happened’, they are the result of much dedicated work. I pay tribute in particular to (alphabetical order) Kelvin Austin, Dominic Meyrick, Les Norman, Peter Raynham, Jeff Shaw, Bob Venning and Barrie Wilde, without whom the recent achievements of LET would not have happened. They have all played a part in bringing the LET to its present maturity and service to the Industry.

I wish Bob Venning and the team every success at this exciting time for the Trust and the industry.

Hugh Ogus MBE

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