Creative Courses Now in East London
No less than six world class universities have now gravitated to establish campuses on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offering a mind-boggling and inspiring range of courses
According to the government, the Creative Industries were worth £109bn to the UK in 2021. That’s almost 6% of the total economy and 7% of jobs. With the East Bank cultural hotspot, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is set to become a hub for those looking to enter this growing sector — particularly through Higher Education.
Just as people argue over what constitutes creativity, there’s a debate over what activities define the Creative Industries. The UN says globally that typical roles are: “advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, and TV/radio”.
On the domestic front, various national institutions are expanding, consolidating or even relocating east, the big names coming soon to the Olympic Park include the V&A, Sadler’s Wells and the BBC, no less. The vision of an Olympic legacy included all kinds of new opportunities for people around the Park. As well as sports and entertainment venues, the previous industrial iteration of the land has given way to new residential neighbourhoods and the post-industrial workplaces of the 2020s Knowledge Economy.
So what’s on offer for anyone looking for relevant courses to break into the Creative Industries? We’ve only the space to scratch the surface, but perhaps this page is a portal to a new career…
An obvious place to start our explorations is University College London (UCL) as it has a local branch named the School for the Creative and Cultural Industries (SCCI). Working across three faculties to reflect the dissolving of traditional subject boundaries and new ways of thinking, this interdisciplinary school pulls from fields as diverse as tech, art, health and heritage.
They claim a world first with the MASc (sic) in Creative Health (think social prescribing as a basic example), or budding anthropologists can help would-be workplace reformers with the Creative and Collaborative Enterprise MA. Additionally, 10 lucky UCL graduates will also qualify for free postgrad tuition and a £15k grant on scholarships.
Professor Haidy Geismar (SCCI Director) points to a suite of new facilities and the importance of outreach: “We’ve new audio-visual, digital and immersive production facilities, museum and gallery spaces, and studios for art, technology, urban studies and public histories… The schools engagement programme will support the cultural sector to be as diverse and accessible as it can, and should, be.”
UAL: London College of Fashion
According to the British Fashion Council, if you include the indirect ‘spillover’ economic contribution of this high-interest field, fashion is worth £37bn annually. The London College of Fashion (LCF) is part of the six colleges that make up the University of the Arts London (UAL).
Finally undergrad and postgrad students are together under one roof studying photography, tailoring and much more. They’ll mingle amid the suitably stylish concrete forms that sweep through the new building’s interior. Nestling between the BBC and the striking dress-inspired design of the V&A East exterior, students get a great view over the evolving Park from the second floor library.
LCF is keen on local partnerships, with an East Summer School for teens and outreach programmes. UAL Insights offers advice to pre-university students at places like Clapton’s BSix college. With its Founders Club, incubator schemes and postgrad support, the college is proud of its record on alumni employment. Nearby satellite outpost Poplar Works offers upskilling to the local community, promoting social impact through entrepreneurship.
Loughborough University London
Loughborough might still mean sport to some and you can certainly find the Institute for Sport Business at their East London campus. But as well as courses for future world leaders (International Governance) you can study Design Innovation and Digital Technologies or Storytelling and Theatre.
At last year’s Flux Design Symposium, students were visited by one of the biggest European names in design for social innovation and sustainability: founder of the international DESIS network, Professor Ezio Manzini.
Based at Here East, Loughborough makes much of its connections. Using corporate partners, the university brings together interdisciplinary teams of students to work on real world briefs. Referring to a huge creative stimulus from the student body and these external links, Learning Partnerships Manager Ashley Gray points to “an incredible collaborative learning community” here. Such experiential learning tackles the cliché of ‘classroom versus reality’.
Loughborough London is still involved with every level of sport, with collaborators like Sport England and Speedo. But others include international architects Foster + Partners and new companies like the cycle gear innovators Blaze.
Another institution with a practical bent is Staffordshire University. The London campus is split between three main areas: The Production Warehouse, The Data Junction and The Digital Loft. The ever-relevant subject of Cyber Security is available, as are combinations of Computer Science and the more creative elements of Games Design, Games Art and Programming.
Gaming is always evolving and the courses are certified by the industry body TIGA (The Independent Game Developers’ Association). At the time of writing, Staffordshire University was about to announce another certification partnership with a different industry innovator — but it was still secret!
Their Games and Visual Effects Summer Showcase was recognised with an award by TIGA and their graduates took 19 more in the categories of Artist; Computer Games Technology; Designer; Programmer and Production/Enterprise.
Many regional institutions have a London presence; now Teesside University sits by both the River Tees and the River Lea. In 2017 Middlesbrough was named as one of the fastest growing tech clusters in the country and Teesside Uni’s contribution — in the fields of animation and gaming — was said to be “critical” by Tech City UK.
Like the Lea Valley, the Tees Valley is an area that has seen much post-industrial decline. But the university is on the up, referred to in glowing terms by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide for participation, inclusion and student experience. In 2021’s International Student Barometer it came top out of 96 universities for overall student satisfaction. So if visual effects, computer science, or business is your bag, check out their degree offerings.
The Creative Industries interact with all kinds of ancillary fields; if you’re a prospective Masters student, they offer MSCs in International Management or alternatively Marketing.
If what constitutes the Creative Industries is expanding and life becoming ever less analogue, then LMA (Liverpool Media Academy) is where old meets new. You can study acting, music and dance or combo courses like Musical Theatre — but looking to an increasingly multiplatform performance environment. The stage strutters of tomorrow can learn how to interact with the latest tech to synthesise new forms of their craft.
The above is far from an exhaustive list of local opportunities; Studio Wayne McGregor is another champion of dance on the Park and Hobs 3D are helping East Londoners with programmes like Unreal Engine and processes like 3D printing.
Many pre-university and short courses are on offer in the area, too. With so much now here, the creative cross-pollination that was hoped one day for the Park might finally be coming to fruition.
The Wick’s creative careers & student special continues here: