You may have seen a debate unfold on social media around diversity at UAL, specifically London College of Fashion (LCF), and more broadly in the fashion industry.
At UAL we are proud of what we’re doing to tackle these issues and believe we’re moving in the right direction, but fully recognise there is still a lot of work to be done.
Our diverse student body is something we champion. Across UAL, around 30% of our home undergraduate cohort are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – an increase from 27% in 2010. This is much better than other specialist art and design HEIs but we have set ourselves targets to further improve, not least to reflect our position as a London-based institution.
Retention and Attainment
We understand that recruiting more BAME students is only the start of the journey; we are also working hard on improving the retention and degree attainment of BAME students. We have made commitments as part of the University’s ‘Access Agreement’ to undertake programmes which aim to raise awareness of, understand and tackle the gap in retention and achievement rates between White students and BAME students.
There is a retention and attainment “gap” between white and BAME students across the whole higher education sector. This is reflected at UAL. However, we have a significant range of initiatives in place to close and ultimately eliminate this gap. We are pleased to see an improvement in BAME student retention for 2014/15 (from 74% to 75%) but are keen to improve this figure.
At LCF, around which much of the social media debate has centred, we have made a number of strides forward. In September last year we appointed a Head of Attainment – a new role tasked with tackling this issue head-on. We are also developing training for staff, which will consider the role of ‘unconscious bias’ on individual behaviours and the impact this has on our ability to create an open, fair and inclusive culture.
The Fashion Industry
With regard to diversity in the fashion industry, we are proud to be at the centre of the debate. As the leading supplier of talent to the fashion industry it is something we take seriously.
We believe that fashion should be used as a tool to challenge political, social and industry norms. At LCF there are numerous initiatives, events and projects that are tacking this issue. For example for the past five years the College has been pioneering the practice of street casting to expand the modelling world to reflect greater diversity. We have also collaborated with MOBO on their Rise with Us campaign – a season of events to celebrate black culture as well as established and future talent from across the creative arts. We are also planning a range of ‘Conversations with’ key BAME representatives within the creative fields as part of a ‘Success Talks Fashion’ series in conjunction with Dennis Owusu-Sem, founder of ‘Success Talks’.