A Fashion Degree: A Fashion Faux Pas?
Fashion school or no fashion school? While various magazines have debated the value of these degrees, let’s discuss what it’s actually like to be an international student who is studying in one of the top 10 fashion institutions of the world. Why do almost all of them end up questioning its worth once they've completed the course? They aren't undermining the importance of an education. But when tuition fees cost approximately £17,000 per year for a BA/MA degree, one can’t help but notice flaws in the system - do you get your money’s worth? And as any management student would ask, “What is the return on investment?” Honestly, I’m beginning to wonder.
Almost a year after graduating with a masters in fashion journalism from the prestigious London College of Fashion (LCF), I’ve had the luxury to reflect on my time there - right from the application process to the graduation ceremony I could not be a part of. Here’s my two cents on the matter, and I’m assuming my fellow classmates would concur:
Scholarships are hard to come by, especially if you're an Indian student. Primarily since it’s simply not available to Indians wishing to pursue the course I did. Whatever happened to encouraging learning no matter where you come from? But it’s not all bad, if you can afford it. The faculty is truly talented and I adore them. Our guest lecturers were of the same, if not of a higher caliber. Professors aren't the issue here, the moneymaking structure of universities are.
During the length of the course (15 months), we wrote two articles. Who would've guessed that being a fashion journalist was that easy! In a survey conducted and published by The Business of Fashion, a Central Saint Martin alumnus has been quoted saying: “There is a lot of controversy around the training at Saint Martins though, like the fact that we didn't have a single technical class or business course throughout our BA. If you want to have that, you are told you can go somewhere else.” I guess the MA fashion journalism students shouldn't complain, we did write two articles as opposed to none.
When you do finally make it to the very end, working on your final project keeping the library’s closing time and their summer/winter break in mind, it feels great. And the moment every student waits for - graduation. The time to decide which pair of heels you can pair up with the robe. That’s when an international students luck runs out. Mainly because it’s held five months after the course has been completed and non EU and UK students are forced to go back to their respective countries due to the expiration of their visa. So in order for you to attend your own graduation ceremony, you would have to apply for a new visa, buy a return ticket and spend over £1,500 in doing so. That’s all. Easy peasy!
Now the exciting part. Jobs. And yes, we’re all aware about the demand vs supply argument of fashion schools across the globe - who churn out fashion professionals at a higher rate than employment opportunities available in this current market. So how do universities help their students? And how do the university student recruitment centres fair? After attending a bunch of their seminars, only to learn that most of the jobs available were for students other than my course (fashion journalism), needless to say, they are unsatisfactory.
Some say that they could’ve gotten the same exposure doing a summer course and saved a lot of money. Whereas others make sure they make the best of the hand that has been dealt. “I wasn't happy at that time because there is no guidance and not enough ‘teaching’, says Helen Woltering, a London College of Fashion Alumnus. “But looking back, I feel that this freedom can be a good thing because it forces you to get out of your comfort zone. The most valuable thing is the environment - you are amongst like-minded, highly motivated and creative people and you won’t find that anywhere else.” What did I take back from my stint at fashion school? Unmet expectations, a depleted bank account and the overarching quest to somehow make it all worth it. So is a fashion degree worth investing in? I guess it’s all about perspective. Whether you're the glass half full or half empty kind of person.