HOWEST UNIVER­SITY COL­LEGE

Sit­u­ated in north­ern Bel­gium, this in­sti­tu­tion has a strong in­ter­na­tional fo­cus

EDGE - - TIME EXTEND - Lo­ca­tion: Kor­trijk, Bel­gium INGE DEFOUR In­ter­na­tional of­fi­cer, Dig­i­tal Arts And En­ter­tain­ment www.howest.be

“WE FO­CUS MUCH MORE ON PRIN­CI­PLES – THE TOOLS SHOULD NEVER BE THE REA­SON YOU CAN’T DO SOME­THING”

Voted ‘most en­tre­pre­neur­ial in­sti­tu­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion in Flan­ders [Bel­gium’s north­ern re­gion]’ by em­ploy­ers and the govern­ment five times in the past eight years, the univer­sity col­lege Howest has built a for­mi­da­ble rep­u­ta­tion. We talk with Inge Defour, in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cer for Dig­i­tal Arts and En­ter­tain­ment, about Howest’s in­ter­na­tional fo­cus and unique per­spec­tive on the videogame in­dus­try.

What makes your Dig­i­tal Arts And En­ter­tain­ment BA stand out?

Our stu­dents have a unique pro­file when grad­u­at­ing. Most stu­dents still grad­u­ate with a tra­di­tional arts or pro­gram­ming pro­file, and this is where our course dif­fers: in close co­op­er­a­tion with the in­dus­try, we have cre­ated a ‘tech­ni­cal artist’ pro­file. Af­ter a more holis­tic ori­en­ta­tion year, stu­dents can spe­cialise in ei­ther Game De­vel­op­ment or Game Graph­ics Pro­duc­tion, and over the course of three years they learn all the skills, tech­niques, prin­ci­ples and in­sights to cre­ate in­ter­ac­tive 3D en­vi­ron­ments.

Do you have an in­ter­na­tional fo­cus all round when it comes to learn­ing?

Ab­so­lutely: not only is it taught in English, we also or­gan­ise loads of in­ter­na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing sev­eral in­ter­na­tional semesters, in­ten­sive pro­grammes and sum­mer schools. And Howest is built on a solid na­tional and in­ter­na­tional net­work. For in­stance, ev­ery Tues­day af­ter­noon, we or­gan­ise in­dus­try ses­sions where Bel­gian and in­ter­na­tional guest speak­ers share their thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences with the stu­dents. This year, the last week of our classes is re­placed by an in­ter­na­tional work­shop week with var­i­ous work­shops: Chanel Sum­mers will talk about au­dio de­sign for games, Daniel Do­ciu is to give a con­cept art work­shop, and Kim Goossens will teach stu­dents about pro­ce­dural graph­ics. We co-op­er­ate in­ter­na­tion­ally with in­sti­tu­tions in the US, Canada, Mex­ico, ev­ery Euro­pean coun­try, Rus­sia, In­dia and China.

Does your ‘tech­ni­cal artist’ pro­file in­clude a heavy fo­cus on tools?

We fo­cus much more on the prin­ci­ples; the tools should never be the rea­son you can’t do some­thing. We try to teach our stu­dents that if you know your pro­duc­tion pipe­line and your part in it, and mas­ter your tech­ni­cal and artis­tic skills up to a high enough level, that the tool you use to com­plete the job isn’t as im­por­tant. As long as you get the job done. How­ever, it goes with­out say­ing that we do use the lat­est in­dus­try tools, soft­ware and tech­niques.

Howest has a rep­u­ta­tion for push­ing its stu­dents pretty hard, right?

Many stu­dents don’t seem to re­alise that play­ing games is to­tally dif­fer­ent from de­vel­op­ing games. We ex­pect our stu­dents to at­tend classes for 25 hours a week, and to work at home for an­other 25 hours. This re­sults in an aver­age work­load of 50 hours per week, which in­cludes pe­ri­ods with lots of work and plenty of dead­lines, and calmer pe­ri­ods. We try to sim­u­late the re­al­ity of game de­vel­op­ment in the best pos­si­ble way.

Howest con­sists of five cam­puses in Bruges, Kor­trijk and Os­tend. Around 6,000 full-time stu­dents are en­rolled on cour­ses cov­er­ing a wide range of dis­ci­plines, with em­pha­sis on high-qual­ity and prac­tice-ori­ented cour­ses

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