Participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in South African higher education has been below acceptable levels and recent reports indicate that it is still in decline. Much has been discussed about the link of under-preparedness to poor performance of students. However not much has been discussed about under-preparedness of universities curricula for teaching an evolving student population in the design disciplines.
This paper explores the implications of an increasingly diverse student body for curricula of design disciplines in higher education institutions. The paper uses the University of Johannesburg’s jewellery and architecture programmes to discuss curriculum change that has the capacity to enhance performance of students. The paper argues that student background can be used to develop responsive curriculum which contributes to effective learning for students in design disciplines - jewellery and architecture. The paper suggests a curriculum framework, based on students’ spatial origins, to developed teaching and learning practices that would enhance student performance and chances for success in their studies.