Fashion education is ripe for change. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, it will require a much more flexible, multi-disciplinary, omni-channel approach, that is more in line with the shifts happening in the industry, especially in terms of digital tools and access. Institutions will need to rethink educational content and delivery to rebalance a liberal arts approach with more interdisciplinary vocational skills that are moored in a digital economy. And student tuition will need to be recalibrated to be more in line with post graduation expectations and salaries.
Universities will need to continue to build their faculty base, bridging the gap between industry and the academy and facilitating more crossover between both. This will require higher paying jobs that are more in consort with industry pay in order to attract top talent.
Businesses will need to incorporate more nuanced learning opportunities into their own employee offerings, rather than relying on external degree programs. This might include offering “bridge curricula” for post-graduates, partnering with universities to build curriculum and programming, rethinking internship programs and even offering paid apprenticeship programs. In turn, these efforts will help provide more opportunities for a company to teach hyper-focused skills as well as innovate. Studies also show that employees that have access to learning through their employers are most likely to stay at a company.
Universities will need to be more transparent about their profit centers and their reliance on international students and non-academic programming. Covid-19 laid bare many of the inconsistencies in tuition, student access and faculty relations. And social media amplified these issues beyond what institutions could control–forcing a conversation around education.
Finally, academic institutions need to consider an omni-channel learning approach, wherein they diversify their offerings across physical and digital channels. Today’s student wants flexible, customized options that are not necessarily built within a typical 3 or 4 year, on-campus program. And with the shift in media and technology, institutions will need to rethink their pedagogy, either in-house or with ed-tech partners–as it relates to educational content development and delivery.
Fashion has always been a delicate balance between commerce and creativity, beauty and function, subjectivity and objectivity. And it’s constantly shifting and changing. It’s this mix that creates excitement and energy and that continues to attract people to work in it. But as industry continues to corporatize and globalize, the stakes have never been higher. It’s an industry that requires real skill in combination with problem solving skills and an ability to collaborate. Educating incoming and current employees in this industry must change to meet these demands. Institutions that don’t change–both academic and corporate–will lose their competitive edge and perhaps even close their doors. It’s a reality that the retail industry is all too aware of. Change in fashion education must happen now, or it will be too late.