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A Fashion Education Centred on the Student at The British School of Fashion

Based in London's Spitalfields Market, the school offers postgraduate courses designed to instil adaptable, future-proofed skills and a sense of confidence in its students.
British School of Fashion students | Source: Joe Navin for British School of Fashion
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LONDON, United Kingdom — The British School of Fashion offers specialised postgraduate programmes in the business of fashion. Based close to the influential Spitalfields Market at the London campus of Glasgow Caledonian University, the school's mission is to educate, challenge and develop a new generation of fashion and luxury business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.

Offering programmes including Luxury Branding, Fashion and Lifestyle Marketing and Fashion Business Creation, the school hosts industry practitioners to speak on a weekly basis and incorporates high amounts of contact and teaching time into its curriculum. This enables students to have a deeper learning experience, which is a balance between theory and practice.

In addition to the academic experience they have, students are developed on a personal basis, with a curriculum rooted in nurturing their curiosity and self-belief. The school instils confidence into students individually in part because of small class sizes where they engage in seminar discussions, presentations and discussions of live industry topics.

BoF sits down with Timothy Jackson, head of school at The British School of Fashion, to hear more.

How would you describe the DNA of your school?

The British School of Fashion is part of the highly regarded Glasgow Caledonian University, and reflects its very Scottish values of innovation and the common good, two values that Scotland is well known for. As a postgraduate school, each of the four masters programmes is highly unique. For example, we have the only MSc Fashion and Lifestyle Marketing programme in the country. Equally, we are one of a few places in Europe to offer an MBA in Luxury Brand Management. We also have a very innovative MSc in Fashion Business Creation, which is really about how to set up your own fashion enterprise. These programmes are underpinned by innovative teaching, research and are strongly supported by industry.

Please describe the character of the British School of Fashion campus 

We are based in an exciting part of London, next to both the City’s financial district and the creative hub of Shoreditch and Brick Lane. There is a unique cross culture, with a wide range of creative and technology-focused businesses and institutions surrounding us. It's massively inspiring. You really live and breathe that atmosphere when you are in the area.

The campus is beautifully designed and maintained, and although it is not as big as some of the London alternatives, smaller student numbers really provide the opportunity for those studying here to have a more individual and personal learning experience, and the campus reflects that. It is almost a family atmosphere as everyone soon gets to know everyone else. The tutors are very accessible and it is easy to mix with students from across the other postgraduate programmes.

The other thing I would say, is we are roughly 95 percent international. So we have students from all over the world, including: Afghanistan, China, Mexico, The Middle East, USA, Europe and Russia. It is incredibly diverse and that is massively helpful, especially when sharing examples of business and consumption patterns across so many different countries. This obviously helps students conceptualise how they could apply those perspectives on marketing and branding campaigns also.

What defines your school’s approach to fashion education?

I think there are two things. The first is in the way that the modules are delivered. We have a great emphasis on taught modules, especially on the specialist programmes such as the MBA Luxury Brand Management where only 40 credits relate to a dissertation at the end of the course. This allows us to provide a larger number of taught modules (such as law, wealth management and luxury practice).

Also, we can look at the way the modules are taught. We have blocked contact time for lectures and seminars, but that time is often broken up with guest speakers. Last semester we had industry specialists in eight out of 12 weeks in one of those classes. These speakers were a really diverse group too, from brand managers and financial analysts, through to real estate consultants, often at MD and CEO level but also including operational level buyers, social media managers and so on. These are not randomly put together, but are carefully timetabled using selected practitioners whom we know.

How do you prepare your students for their future in an industry that is in flux?

I think this is often a bit of a judgment call to try and create a range of modules now that are going to be relevant over the next five years. But certain things are always going to be important, such as managing reputation, building identity, and ethics. These are still going to be important, one way or another. However, the execution of how you engage in branding or brand management will probably be very different in the future, leveraging a lot more technology, for example, voice recognition technology and AI. To a large degree, we want students to think creatively and understand the concepts, the theory, and the practice around what for example "brand" means, but also appreciate, through their exposure to company visits, projects, and guest speakers coming in, how the execution of branding, if you like, will vary in the future.

What kind of students thrive at the school?

I would say the vast majority thrive and we always have a very good set of results. We rarely have any failures and I think that is partly because of the postgraduate nature of what we are doing. Students tend to be much more motivated and driven at this level, being clear about what and why they are studying. As I said, 95 percent are international so they've made a huge commitment to come here. We try and make sure the end product is a graduate who is inquisitive and can think critically and creatively, because no matter what knowledge and skills you develop, things change over time. The more creatively you can think and apply your knowledge and skills the better you will be able to adapt to change.

When many of our students come here, it is their first experience of British higher education. What a lot of people do not understand is how much education around the world is rote learning, in other words, many students are not actually used to being asked for their opinion or evaluation of something. We give them the knowledge, skills and capability to think differently while supporting them to be confident in what and how they communicate. Another characteristic of successful students is the ability to discover things on their own. London has so much to offer during their studies, that this is often very easy and great fun.

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