From education to employment


Laura Armorgie

A London retail school has more than doubled in size in four years as students shun courses less likely to land them a job.

The university population in the UK has been flatlining in historic terms since 2010, two years before tuition fees were hiked in England.

However, the Fashion Retail Academy has grown from 495 students in 2014/15 to 1,092 today.

The boost in the numbers of 16 to 18-year-olds seeking more career-focused courses comes after reports that the number of 11 to 16-year-olds saying they will go on to higher education has fallen to its lowest level since 2009. The figure stood at 81% in 2013 but last year dropped to just 74%, according to a study by the Sutton Trust.

With higher tuition fees and the rising cost of living, over half (51%) of young people who said they are likely to go into higher education state money worries as their key concern – worrying about tuition fees, paying student loans and the cost of living as a student.

Fashion Retail Academy principal and CEO Lee Lucas believes it’s symptomatic of a stronger shift to career-focused courses that mean students are likely to move into work more quickly and pay back their debt faster.

The FRA offers Fashion Degrees, Diplomas and Short Courses to students. As well as teaching students the skills to work in a range of fashion roles – such as Buying, Visual Merchandising, and Retail Management – most courses include a head office work placement giving them practical experience and a faster route to a job.

Lee Lucas, principal and CEO of Fashion Retail Academy, says:

“Living costs are continuing to rise and therefore going to university to study a non-vocational course is becoming less and less desirable.

“As we are so used to instant gratification, it is not surprising that students are starting to skip out the middleman and go straight from school in to the world of work.

“The higher education sector continues to be hit by high prices and impacted by the Brexit vote and we are likely to see another drop in student UCAS applications this year, whereas we are expecting the number of applications for academy courses, which include work placement roles, to continue to rise.”

England high-jumper Laura Armorgie, 20, studying for a two year Degree in Buying & Merchandising at the Fashion Retail Academy, says:

“I looked at traditional university degrees but they just didn’t seem to be very practical. You generally don’t get much experience and they’re very focused on learning from books.

“The FRA seemed much more concerned with value and experience over the piece of paper you get when you leave.

“All the tutors either were or still are in the industry and they are so valuable because this is the sort of sector that, unless you’re working in it, you have no idea what’s going on. Trends are moving so fast and it’s all very hands on.

“I opted for practical experience over book learning but I’m still getting a degree. I think that’s going to put me ahead of both college graduates and traditional university graduates. I’m also going to be £9,000 better off than them because I’m doing the course in two years instead of three.

“All my friends on the course are pretty pleased about that. They like the fact they can live at home, pay less or no rent and have been able to hold down part-time jobs they had before their courses started.

“I’m fitting in around 15 hours of training a week and I‘m aiming to have an athletics career before my fashion career takes off. I just wanted to get my education sorted first and this degree will hopefully mean I can step straight back into it when the time is right.”

Laura has represented England three times, most recently on February 27 2018 at Hustopeče in the Czech Republic. She is vying for a place on Team GB and was ranked 8th in Great Britain for high jump in 2017.

About Fashion Retail Academy: An employer-led college supported by and working closely with over 140 fashion brands. It was founded in 2005 with investment from the retail industry that was matched by the government and it has recently been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.

The company offers a fashion Diploma, Degree and Short courses to students of all ages, timeframes, budgets and levels. It specialises in Buying, Visual Merchandising, Marketing, Design, Digital, Merchandising and Retail Management. Most full-time courses include a work placement with a major brand to give the students a wide-ranging knowledge of the fashion industry and a foot in the door to the world of work.

Their success lies in providing academic learning combined with practical experience which creates a faster route to a job after graduation and their results speak for themselves – 92% of the graduates go on to a job role or further studies at the end of their course.

Related Articles