Teaching Quality

Group work at CSM
Central Saint Martins

Our teaching quality is reflected in our distinctive style and we have a set of principles which students and practitioners use to develop their creativity. Read a summary of our TEF Year Two provider submission and find out how we give students the skills and experience to flourish in their chosen career.

Students are drawn to UAL because we help them become successful artists, designers, and professionals in related disciplines such as media and business across the creative economy, and because we:

  • Place curiosity, making, critical questioning and rigour at the heart of our curriculum.
  • Use teaching methods based on the best creative practices, and work-based and research informed learning, to equip students for their future careers.
  • Engage with our students to develop flexible modes of teaching delivery, taking into account the characteristics of a London education and advances in digital technologies.
  • Ensure diversity and inclusivity are at the core of recruitment and education for staff and students.

From the start, students learn within a high trust and progressively more independent learning environment. This is a different teaching paradigm to many mainstream subjects that place greater emphasis on direction and knowledge transfer.

We explicitly teach our students that developing creativity is about taking risks to produce innovation. This is deliberately uncomfortable for them, especially so in their final year, which we consider a further factor in our NSS scores and in the negative flags in our TEF metrics. The NSS does not in our view measure the effectiveness of our teaching and learning, but rather satisfaction at a point before our students fully appreciate the value of their experience.

Courses are different from years 1 to 3, you don’t really understand that until you get to year 3 but it is well designed to get you there in the end.

TEF student input group

UAL’s Teaching and Learning Exchange team of staff enhance student learning and employability in close partnership with local teams, staff and students across the colleges, led by the University’s Dean of Learning Teaching and Enhancement.

We offer a long- standing and highly-rated HEA accredited PgCert/MA Academic Practice in Art, Design and Communication that supports the professional development of academic and academic-related staff.

All course participants complete projects that impact on their teaching practice and their visual and educationally rich reports are shared online to enhance the teaching of their peers. Examples include:

  • An investigation into the ways Chinese students at UAL perceive and experience creativity, yielding insight in how to support these students
  • A project exploring the benefits and challenges of mobile and interactive technology in the classroom, generating examples of good practice in merging digital and physical learning
  • A 3-week group work intervention for weaving students that encouraged them to share knowledge and support each other while more effectively prioritising technical support. 

Teaching excellence

We reward excellence through the UAL Teaching Scholar Scheme. In 3 years, 10 members of staff have achieved UAL Teaching Scholar status. Staff receive an increment and £5,000 to support and disseminate teaching excellence and to apply one must be a HEA Fellow and progress to Senior Fellowship within 2 years.

UAL leads the specialist sector in pedagogic scholarship. In January 2016 we launched SPARK, our open-access multimedia journal to share excellent and innovative teaching and learning.

UAL makes a vital contribution to the ongoing health of the specialist sector through the provision of pre-degree creative arts qualifications through our Ofqual approved awarding body. UAL Awarding Body awards specialist qualifications to 37,000 students a year from 170 FE colleges, 6th form colleges, schools and universities across the UK. It is the second biggest provider of Applied General qualifications in England, and the biggest provider of both the 1-year Foundation Diploma in Art & Design and the 2-year Extended Diploma in Art & Design. All UAL Awarding Body qualifications retain the dedication to enquiry-based learning to which UAL is committed.

We developed the UAL Creative Attributes Framework following a successful 2015 bid to the HEA Embedding Employability in the Curriculum Strategic Enhancement Programme. It expresses our knowledge of what makes our students and graduates enterprising and employable. Rapidly adopted since becoming policy in June 2016, the framework has been used in 37 curriculum development and college strategic development meetings. It is being illustrated by a number of recent graduates for an exhibition, Attributes Illustrated, in February 2017, and will be widely publicised as part of UAL’s determination to make our approach to teach transparent. The framework is showcased on the HEA website and the attributes are:

  • Making things happen (Proactivity, Enterprise, Agility)
  • Showcasing abilities and accomplishments to others (Communication, Connectivity, Storytelling)
  • Life-wide learning (Curiosity, Self-efficacy, Resilience)

Many of UAL’s professional courses are accredited by national bodies. Our Fashion Business School is a member of the Chartered Association of Business Schools and rose 41 places from 91st to 50th out of 127 business schools in the Complete University Guides Business and Management Studies league table 2016. Nine other national bodies accredit UAL undergraduate courses, including RIBA and the British Psychological Society.

Assessment and learning are integrated at UAL and projects are carefully designed to encourage students to take control of their work, and require outputs in the form of artefacts, journals and essays that can be assessed against the learning outcomes of the unit. Our vast experience at designing projects feeds into this with assessment requirements that stretch students to demonstrate their learning in their work.

Improved satisfaction

The introduction of a UAL-wide common assessment criteria matrix has improved student satisfaction [NSS Q5 on criteria 2014 (70%) to 2016 (73%); NSS Q9 on helpful feedback 2014 (67%) to 2016 (71%)] and a new turnaround time policy has led to improvement: 2015 (year of introduction of policy), 75% of assessments returned within target, 2016, 86% and the NSS satisfaction with this particular aspect assessment has also improved over the past 3 years: NSS Q7 “Feedback on my work has been prompt” 2014 at 71% to 76% in 2016. We have also developed a popular Online Assessment Tool to make it easier for students to get results and feedback and in 15/16 we can see that 19,028 students accessed this tool to get 103,942 instances of feedback.

Read the UAL TEF Year Two provider submission (PDF 299KB).

Learning in the studio takes place through making - this is at the heart of the UAL experience. Find out about the learning environment UAL provides for students.