Exploring the Current State of Fashion Education in the UK

Exploring the Current State of Fashion Education in the UK

Words Sophie Henderson

As the country prepares to go back to school, we take a look at the creative sector.

A-Level results are fresh out of their envelope and thousands of students are all set to join the UK’s top-rated art colleges and universities. The industry’s outreach has grown extensively over the past decade and according to Business of Fashion’s rankings, London’s Central Saint Martins is still rated as the best in the world for fashion undergraduate courses, inspiring a new wave of creatives each year.

Despite their immense success, art schools face uncertainty. Hardly a new concern as the government has long defended its position to exclude creative subjects from the English Baccalaureate. They see no correlation between their dismissal of the arts and the creative economy. But although the latest figures emerged suggest a decline, it seems the unwavering battle to save the arts won’t end anytime soon.

It all comes down to a controversial opinion, transparent to those working in the creative sector. There is such a wide-ranging choice, with over 30 UK colleges and universities offering fashion courses. But why are so many favouring academia? Fashion and art education has to compete and sell an achievable dream and encourage job prospects. Exams regulator Ofqual studied all registrations for summer 2017 exams, and GCSE entries to arts subjects have fallen by 100,000 since 2014. The decline in take-up of arts at GCSE has flowed into examinations post-16, with AS and A levels in these subjects falling by a combined 45,000 since 2016.

Sarah Mower MBE—a veteran fashion critic and editor—rightly continues to support young fashion talent. As the British Fashion Council’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent and Chair of the NEWGEN committee (the scheme responsible for the rise of design stars who show in London Fashion Week), she has taken to Instagram to condemn the current decline, and respond to the statistics. Mower wrote: “The government is laying waste to art and design and technology subjects in schools. Within five years, the great British art tradition which has bred so many brilliant people – artists, designers, costume designers, product designers, filmmakers, graphic designers -you name it- will be dead… add the closure of Foundation courses and you have a destroyed cultural economy – the thing Britain leads the world in.” According to Fashion United, there are currently around 555,000 people are employed in fashion, textiles and fashion retail in the United Kingdom. Although more should be done to protect our creative industries and future talent, each year that students enrol on their fashion courses, one thing is for sure, the spirit, hope and determination of fashion students will never disappear.

Image with thanks to CSM