Over the last decade, ISCA has built a strong reputation as a leading provider of pre-university art and design teaching. Colin Kerrigan, the Executive Director of the International School of Creative Arts (ISCA) discusses how the launch of a new foundation course, designed to prepare international students for university entry, comes at a timely moment.
It has long been accepted that international students are essential to the UK’s global business links and worldwide influence. In addition, the cultural diversity of our educational institutions benefits all stakeholders. The impact on the international student market of the COVID-19 pandemic means there is a greater need than ever to support overseas students in their applications to UK universities. In these uncertain times, different government bodies recognise the importance of preserving this important element of our world-renowned academic institutions; the British Council is providing support and the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has started the #WeAreTogether campaign to bring all those involved in UK education together and offer reassurance for international students.
At ISCA, the new Foundation Diploma in Art, Design and Media is an online programme offering international students the special opportunity to experience the benefits of an outstanding education in the arts in preparation for university entry. It reflects ISCA’s wealth of experience in preparing creative young people to progress to specialist creative undergraduate courses. The course has been developed to equip students with the appropriate skills, knowledge and techniques to enable them to apply for their chosen degree course across a variety of specialisms such as Fashion, Textiles, Architecture, Graphic Design and Fine Art. Specialist and highly experienced tutors support students in the preparation of an appropriate tailored portfolio.
Part of the Foundation Diploma’s appeal is the fact that all the online sessions are taught live. This promotes a sense of real exchange and development of critical thinking, both of which are so important to learning and at the centre of ISCA’s philosophy. There is a definite push towards concept development and students are fully supported as they explore their ideas and engage in critiques. When we were devising the course last year, we could not have anticipated its relevance or pertinence in the current global health crisis.
ISCA’s swift move to online teaching at the start of the pandemic means we have fine-tuned our delivery to emulate the physical classroom and promote participation and engagement, always with a student-centred approach in mind. Our goal is always to facilitate a dynamic and lively environment for creative learning and exploration. The interactive nature of the lessons enables students to build a rapport with both their tutors and each other.
Students are responding well and the Foundation Diploma, which started in September, is already proving a success with high school graduates, but also with mature students. We have made the course as flexible as possible to meet different needs, so that it can be undertaken either as an intensive, full-time one year course, or part-time across two years. There is also the option of a residential stay on campus to realise projects in the studios and attend university open days, circumstances permitting.
With a 100 per cent success rate in placing students on their chosen university course, ISCA well understands the importance of providing a personalised level of support throughout the college application process. Alongside the art and design teaching, English language tuition is offered to help students achieve the level required by UK universities. English language lessons also enable students to develop a strong art and design vocabulary and the ability to contextualise, present and reflect as their work progresses. There is also individual support in making that all-important application with tailored personal statement guidance.
The challenge now is to continue to build on our expertise by sharing good practice in teaching meaningful online classes, checking progress and learning and understanding how to maintain an inspiring learning environment. By combining these goals, we can offer a positive experience to international Foundation Diploma students who will hopefully seek to continue their education in the UK.