Business of Fashion: “Is Fashion Education Selling a False Dream ?“
September 15 2015
The demand for fashion education has exploded over the past decade, with some schools experiencing "enrollment increases tripling student populations" according to Sara Kozlowski, Director of Education and Professional Development at the CFDA. Imran Amed and Robin Mellery-Pratt of Business of Fashion wonder if these schools are actually delivering their promises.
According to the survey conducted by BoF, in the United Kingdom, there are more than 30 colleges and universities now offering fashion degree courses, with thousands of fashion design graduates each year. Private institutions, including the Condé Nast College of Fashion and Istituto Marangoni, are setting up educational programs worldwide. To navigate through this increasingly complex fashion education landscape, the industry website has published global fashion school rankings, with the aim to help prospective students to inform themselves about fashion degree courses, while initiating a global discussion about fashion education.
The ranking is based on a rigorous methodology that incorporates 60 different data points collected directly from 24 participating fashion schools in 11 countries, a survey of more than 4,000 fashion students and alumni, as well as a survey of 88 HR professionals and fashion influencers.
Business of Fashion has found that, although students are generally happy with teaching staff and university or college facilities, they are usually underwhelmed by the career support they have received. “Brilliant school, brilliant exposure, zero help afterwards,” said one former Central Saint Martins student. “Parsons tested my work ethic and exposed me to a diverse student body and resources, but poorly prepared students for the realities of job placement and career development,” echoed a Parsons alumnus. This shows that there is a significant gap between the students’ expectations and their actual experiences while in school and after graduation.
Of the 4,032 students surveyed, only 57% were satisfied with the careers services, only 53% were satisfied with networking events, and just 49% were satisfied with the quality of recruiters on campus. And afterwards, many disappointed students report that they end up taking jobs outside of fashion, or not finding jobs at all. BoF points out that some areas of the fashion industry, like design roles, are becoming saturated, as there aren't as many jobs as there are graduates who want them. According to data compiled by Graduate Prospects, only one in seven UK-based fashion design students that graduated last year found employment as designer, with the rest taking on roles in retail, marketing, sales and administration. However, BoF also highlights that there are many new career paths emerging in today’s fast-changing fashion market. Schools are adapting to this by offering a broader range of fashion education, like theLondon College of Fashion, that launched a new Fashion Business School earlier this year.
The rankings show that London is still a very important hub for fashion education, with Central Saint Martins taking the top spot of the top 10 list, among other British schools and institutions. Interestingly, the most reputable fashion schools received the lowest rating, in terms of business training and overall student experiences. Conversely, those schools that did provide the best student experiences are neither those with the best reputations, nor those that are the most selective, such as the Bunka College in Tokyo, RMIT in Melbourne, Drexel in Philadelphia, Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta and Ryerson in Toronto, all featured in the top ten lists.