Tell us about your role.
I am the Outreach Manager for Central Saint Martins. My role is to create a progression route for students with a widening participation profile into higher education, specifically CSM or another UAL college.
I run a series of courses such as UAL Insights; a four stage process made up of one-day workshops where a student can come and have a taste of a specific area of design, particularly product design, or ceramics etc; areas that they may not have experienced before. This leads to a summer school and then a 10 week progression course. Working with CSM tutors from undergraduate and foundation courses, the students are given an idea of what the subjects are really about and allow them to find something that could really excite them to explore that topic further.
Across the University we are now working on joining up some of our WP work through a new Easter programme, which will see our Outreach offer extended to other colleges. It’s an exciting development to have alongside our current projects.
You work on a summer school, can you tells us a bit more about that?
It’s a five day immersion in a particular subject and they can be absolutely full-on making experiences. The students will quite often be taken out to see a show and are given the chance to explore designers and artists in their studios.
It finishes with a show in The Street – it’s pretty impressive, large-scale stuff that the students make. They’ve been totally immersed in the subject for five days, which is often the first time they’ve ever had the chance to do that, and there are usually around 120 students in the summer school.
That is the end of their first year of National Diploma, as they go into their second year, they start to think about if they want to go to university and which they would like to go to.
What happens after the summer school?
That is when we start our Insights Progression Workshops, which takes place once a week for six weeks. It’s a deeper exploration into the subject – students investigate current practice, present their and other people’s work, discuss ideas – so it is really drilling down into the subject and delivering it in a way that they may experience in the first year of a degree course.
It’s also about giving the students experience of Central Saint Martins - this is how we teach, this is the subject, this is how you need to engage with it to really push your ideas to become independent and confident. It’s saying that your cultural experience is valid and learning how to incorporate and use that in your practice.
Then in January for four weeks we run portfolio workshops. If they stick it out with us, they get a guaranteed interview. Part of that last process is that the students get a portfolio review from the course teams, usually from the admissions team themselves, so they get very direct advice.
What have been some of your favourite projects?
The work that the students produce in the summer school is totally brilliant. What those students can do with a large piece of cardboard, the constructions and the worlds and the furniture and the building that they make are fantastic. It’s quite something.
We also work in jewellery and textiles – the final show is fantastic, they are really bold design ideas that are created and the students almost don’t have time to think about it because it is so full on.
How do the schools react to the students’ work?
Their colleges often say that their approach has really changed, particularly in the way that they are looking at design. It’s just very exciting to see people’s progress and process. Sometimes it is very frustrating because you see a great student who isn’t offered a place but they always go somewhere else and they do go to good colleges and universities.
What are the most important aspects of the Outreach programmes?
I think the fact that the students are given a chance to explore and discover new areas of their practice and become a part of a community. It is really important that through doing this they can feel confident. From the very beginning they are usually a step ahead, they know their way around and they probably know a couple of people too.
The learning experience that the students have is planned and guided by a skilled and committed team of tutors from the undergraduate courses and FAD, and also by a wonderful team of student ambassadors who we couldn't do without. It isn’t just about getting in here, it’s about feeling that you belong and that you have a right to be here.