Why more creatives are turning to postgraduate study during a global pandemic
The global pandemic hasn't just made us notice glorious birdsong each day or learn how to make banana bread; it's shone a light on our entire lives. For some of us, that has meant taking a long hard look at our careers.
We've realised we aren't enjoying our work as much as we'd hoped and that perhaps a change of focus might be on the cards. Or we've spotted gaps in our skills and knowledge that we now want to address. Sadly, some of us have lost our jobs and are struggling to find employment.
In a recent survey for Creative Boom, over two-thirds of respondents said they were considering a professional course or training to learn new skills in the next 12 months – all to level up or rekindle creative passions after a year of uncertainty.
And for those who've recently graduated, it seems further education has become a priority. Why? It's a pattern we've seen before. During the global economic crisis of 2008, a survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found nearly a third of respondents were more likely to enter into postgraduate study immediately after graduation. This finding was later backed up by data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), which revealed a marked increase.
A recent article in The Guardian predicts a rise in postgraduate applications, prompted by a challenging jobs market and the impact of Covid-19 on the economy.
University of the Arts London (UAL) is seeing early signs of this trend too, with plenty of interest in their range of postgraduate courses. Ranked number two in the world for Art and Design by QS World University Rankings 2021 for the third year running, it's home to more than 2,400 postgraduate students working across the fields of art, design, screen, communication, fashion, media and performing arts with over 100 creative courses, including MAs, MBAs and MScs.
So with so many opting for postgraduate study in 2021, how might it help you? We'll explore some of the benefits right here.
You get space to find your creative passion
When studying at UAL, you get the chance to flex your creative muscles without any restraint. No idea is too big or too small; you have room to explore and discover your creative path.
Diamond Nuchjalearn is a graduate in architecture and industrial design from Thailand who wanted to learn pottery, sculpture, graphic design, UI/UX design, product design and more. He enrolled on a postgraduate course in Fine Art: Drawing at UAL last year, hoping to become a "better artist".
"I find that the word 'drawing' here at UAL is much more than creating artwork with charcoal on paper," he says. "It's more like the process of expressing visuals in my head out into the real world in any media necessary. It could be a sculpture, traditional drawing or even a video. With this, the course gives lots of possibilities and makes the student more creative."
You learn from a diverse range of artists and designers
Nothing beats immersing yourself in a thriving creative community, enjoying the company of experienced tutors and other students who bring their own perspective to the course. Not to mention the ability to brainstorm ideas, get that hugely beneficial feedback and gain inspiration from those much-needed interactions.
"I'm able to exchange ideas and technique with other students through seminars, meetings or even when I'm working in the studio space, improving my thoughts and the way I work," says Diamond.
There's also the added benefit of being part of UAL's wider network, giving you the chance to network with artists, designers and makers from all over the world. And it's helpful contacts and friendships you'll make that will follow you throughout your career.
It helps you prepare for the "real world"
Postgraduate courses aren't like anything you've done before; there isn't as much hand-holding as you might find elsewhere. You're instead much more independent, taking control of your work and schedule. This required discipline gives you a taste of what's to come post-graduation.
There's also a vocational element to postgraduate courses at UAL. "At Camberwell, I'm reminded I'm just one step from becoming a better artist," says Diamond. "The course prepares us to face the real world, teaching us how to sell our work, how to communicate with clients and audiences, and it also provides talks and lectures from many successful artists."
Moisés Hernández agrees. A graduate in Design and Business Administration from the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, he chose to study a masters in Biodesign at Central Saint Martins and has found the experience incredibly useful – and not just for boosting his creativity. "UAL has definitely helped in terms of time management and professionalism," he says.
You get to be in one of the greatest cities in the world
UAL is a world-class university with six renowned colleges across London, including Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, London College of Communication, London College of Fashion and Wimbledon College of Arts.
Being a postgraduate student based in the city undoubtedly exposes you to many benefits. "It's a great experience," says Moisés. "London is the perfect place to get creative. The atmosphere and multiculturalism are the best way to be on the latest trends and get a grip on the latest technology. It gives you a sense of what the pioneers in life are making and creating."
Diamond adds: "London is a huge city and comes with a lot of galleries, museums, art events and so much more for a creative student to keep learning and improving. There is a bit of inspiration everywhere. As an artist, just exploring the city can inspire me to make more artwork."
It will get you ready for employment, post-pandemic
It might be a competitive jobs market over the next year or two, as expected, but out of recessions and periods of uncertainty come great opportunities. And with a postgraduate qualification under your belt, you'll have a super-strong CV and heaps of experience compared to your fellow applicants, hopefully with a laser-focus that helps you land your dream job.
Diamond has one final piece of advice for those considering a postgraduate degree at UAL: "Think first about what you really want to do and who you really want to be. There is always a course that can support you to your goal; you need to find the right one. And with the right course, you can improve yourself here at UAL in a way you'd never imagine."
Study a postgraduate course at UAL
If you find yourself at a crossroads in your career, want to fill gaps in your skills or have just finished your BA and want to learn more, postgraduate study can help you survive and thrive post-pandemic.
There are loads of benefits to studying at UAL: you'll attend one of the best universities in the world for art and design, gain access to networking and social events (virtually for now) and will be given the space to find yourself and rekindle your creative passion. Check out postgraduate courses at University of Arts London to find the right one for you.