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Bridging the gap between HE and FE with Elizabeth Beidler

Person painting in the studio
  • Written byUAL Awarding Body
  • Published date 11 October 2022
Person painting in the studio

In advance of her talk at Teach Inspire Create: Scotland, we spoke to Elizabeth Beidler about her work in bridging the gap between HE and FE and how our qualifications prepare students for life in the creative industries.

Please could you tell us more about your role as Progression Manager and how you work alongside college staff to help deliver paths into the Glasgow School of Art?

As I see it, one of my most important jobs as Progression Manager is to help bring teaching and learning at FE and HE closer together. This work includes visiting colleges with GSA colleagues and inviting colleges to visit us – not just for events like the Degree Show, but also to join in teaching activities.

I like to initiate discussions between art school and college tutors to help them find common ground and gain a better understanding of the different contexts they’re working within. I have a lot of respect for college staff, so I think it’s important that their voices are heard within an HE context. As a liaison between the two sectors, I often serve as a kind of translator or messenger with the ultimate goal of improving the education and experience of the students who travel through college and into art school.

This informs another big part of my job – my work with prospective and incoming students from college to bridge gaps in knowledge and experience, build confidence and smooth the transition from college to art school.

In what ways do you think UAL Awarding Body qualifications prepare students for the next stage of education and life in the creative industries?

There’s an open-ness and fluidity to the design of the qualifications that is borne from UAL’s years of experience in creative education. The qualifications and the way UAL as an awarding body supports and works with teaching staff shows a respect for their knowledge, skills and experience as practitioners and educators. This empowers the tutors to deliver a curriculum that is appropriate to the learners’ needs and goals.

In the UAL qualifications I’ve worked with, the goal is clear – it’s about revealing the breadth of opportunity and potential within creative practice. They are designed to meet the learners at their own individual starting point – be it fresh from secondary school, after a false start in another discipline, or upon their return to education. Horizons are expanded and new paths are unveiled. This excitement for new, different, and unexpected is what will sustain learners through college, art school and beyond.

People holding tote bags walking along a corridor
UAL Awarding Body Annual Conference 2020

What advice would you give to UAL Awarding Body students looking to progress to the Glasgow School of Art?

Be open to subjects you haven’t tried before. Art education in secondary school can be limited to traditional approaches and few materials, but creative practice is much broader than this. Take advantage of opportunities to work in new materials, processes and contexts. We get the most applications for Painting & Printmaking, Fashion and Communication Design. They are excellent programmes, but they’re only three out of the 15+ subjects we offer at undergraduate level! So, I challenge all prospective applicants to interrogate all available subject areas and to consider where their skills and passion for creativity could take them rather than sticking with the familiar. You can find out more at one of our Open Days, through our website, online Graduate Showcase and by following us on social media.

Why should centres looking to deliver these qualifications attend Teach Inspire Create: Scotland and what will you be discussing as a speaker?

As we emerge from a couple of really difficult years and far too many video calls, this event is an opportunity to come together in person with others who share a common goal – helping learners reach their potential within creative subject areas. My talk aims to add another perspective to the experience of my colleague at Edinburgh College along with a recent GSA graduate who joined us via the UAL Foundation. I plan to share some of my insights into ‘getting into art school’, supporting students to explore new disciplines and how UAL offers opportunities for different levels of entry at the GSA.