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CCW Fine Art on Careers and Employability in the Curriculum

CCW Fine Art Enterprise & Employability Discussion 29.06.15

Enterprise and employability', ‘Professional development.’ These words are regularly used in art and design higher education yet students and staff find them quite uncomfortable. Recently BA Fine Art (BAFA) tutors from CCW sat down at Chelsea to get to the heart of reevaluating enterprise and employability in the Fine Art Curriculums: 

What do you think is the student perspective on E+E? Are students prepared when they leave CCW? Do the Undergraduate Fine Art curriculums enable students to understand the necessities of the current economic climate? Is there a discrepancy between institutional frameworks and real life?

How would you like to see E+E articulated within the Fine Art curriculum?


An informal round table lunch was held; the aim was to have a relaxed conversation, to allow the tutors to have an open discussion and to get behind the issues. In attendance were: Martyn Simpson (Associate Dean, Chelsea), Martin Newth (PD Fine Art, Chelsea), Lois Rowe (PD Fine Art, Wimbledon), Sarah Woodfine (CL BA Sclupture, Wimbledon), Fran Cottell (Senior Lecturer, Camberwell). The event was co-hosted by David Webster (Associate Dean, Learning and Teaching Enhancement), and Patricia Ellis (CCW Academic Coordinator, Student Enterprise and Employability).


· What do you think the student perspective is on E+E and how has that changed in the past few years?

•       Issues surrounding PPD delivery at Camberwell and Wimbledon as being ‘adjunct’ to programmes; it was agreed it should be embedded throughout the courses. Experience at Chelsea is that PPD is not recognized by/of interest to visiting industry professionals, PPD is often written into revalidations but not initialized, seen more as clarification for academics.

•       Academics feel the current priority areas are adaptability, literacy, and autonomy.

•       Students want to be autonomous. Students want to know ‘skills’ ie. how to apply for residencies, set up taxes etc., however, there is also a strong student desire for PPD as debate (rather than taught content) esp re: free labour in current political/economic climate.

•       There is a strong desire and need to attain a Fine Art specific E+E language. Students find the tacit knowledge they are learning is hard to articulate, and don’t relate E+E vocabulary – ie. resourcefulness, collaboration, self-reliance – to art making. It was agreed that PPD ‘skills’ are less important than the attributes that sit underneath them and that attributes are more important for employers. Significant comment: “I wonder how popular a session on experimentation would be if pitched as PPD?” 

•       Students recognise the currency/value of studying at UAL and parents are very much part of the decision. How Fine Art E+E is communicated to parents and the public needs to be more clearly articulated.

Are students prepared when they leave CCW?

•       There needs to be a change in the assessment evidence to enable students to possess genuine E+E currency when they graduate. There are concerns that PPD has become more about ‘branding’ and needs to go back to a model where it is genuinely embedded within the curriculums.

•       Entrepreneurship is a problem word for students in the current climate. Recommend asking artists and institutional practitioners to establish a vocabulary for E+E (this is already being done via SEE’s HEA Re/Claim research). ‘Individual skill sets’ is a term proposed by this group to describe students’ self-directed trajectory supported by courses. Vocabulary will be very different for each student, more could be done with alumni to present a variety of models.

•       Students want to have a portfolio so they can get shows, tangible crafts and skills. CCW is an art school (not arts school), we teach concept over craft: even if students won’t become artists, the characteristics are transferrable: resilience, responsibility, citizenship, dedication. This path lacks academic structure, and more could be done in the curricula to create opportunities and initiatives for students to realize their ‘individual skill sets’ as ie project managers, technicians, teachers, curators, promoters, social media, design etc. Significant comment: “Learning while you’re doing and discovering yourself along the way.”

Do the Undergraduate Fine Art curriculums enable students to understand the necessities of the current economic climate?

•       Concerns that students should feel confident after graduation. Priority areas are: verbal presentations, IT skills, literacy. Communicating through writing: we have a responsibility to deliver graduate level literacy.

•       Academics preferred the term “thinking for yourself”, and did not use “critical thinking” or “ambiguity”.

•       It’s important to remember that we work within the parity of national E+E framework.

Is there a discrepancy between institutional frameworks and real life?

•       We are not confident enough as an institution to create more/utilize potential space within the curricula. Marking matrices are an example of limitations, as is expense of running Live Project/Work Placement units. An ideal would be to run a programme based entirely on events.

•       There is quite a lot of learning outside curriculum, but these extra curricular activities often go unnoticed. Concern that these extra curricular opportunities are exclusive to weaker students and the experience is not fair and equivalent to all.

•       We have a responsibility to produce well socialized graduates. ‘Communities of practice’ is a term often used, but many graduates won’t enter that community, we could do more to support alumni through ‘after care’.

•       Externally partnered projects (ie with Grisdale Arts) are very successful in transitioning students from uni to employment. More could be made of work placements within the curriculum, and to make students more aware of the diversified possibilities of their degree.

•       Course Leaders and tutors have the expertise, but not the resources.

How would you like to see E+E articulated within the Fine Art curriculum?

•       Most things are best taught live, allowing students to draw relationships between attributes and the world.

•       Compress tutorials to free up time for live projects.

•       There is visibility problem when it comes to public understanding of Fine Art education.



• CCW Fine art tutors bid for SEE curriculum development funding in 2014-15 and are involved in 3 out of the five awarded across UAL.

• Fine art students also put in the majority of bids for the MEAD scholarship awards in 2014, writing up the best proposals compared to other subjects.

• Internally at UAL, cross-discipline and cross-college initiatives area being set up, e.g the SEE funded joint project with Chelsea and CSM “the University Gallery”.

Fine Art is a good partner for collaboration as Art is perceived as an outward facing subject, with a great variety of output seen across the three colleges from Foundation to Phd level. However the historic notion of a graduate Fine Artist still pervades, who is perceived as less likely to find an established career path than perhaps other ‘professions’ in Art and Design such as Fashion or Architecture, which feed into established industries.

Pedagogical advances from the HEA

Currently UAL’s Cara Lee Roth is engaged in a strategic educational prosposal from the Higher Educatio Academy entitled Re/Claim


Upcoming events

Student and Alumni Experience Discussion Nov 2015

Fine Art Summit 2015-16

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