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Specialist college sees demand soar 89% amid pandemic fallout

The London based specialist college, the Fashion Retail Academy (@FRALondon), has seen applications for its courses nearly double (growing by 89%), as new data published by UCAS today shows a healthy increase in undergraduate applications for university and college courses.

The FRA, a unique, industry led college that offers vocational fashion courses combining academic knowledge with practical experience, has seen a huge spike in applications for its further and higher education courses compared to last year.

UCAS has today revealed 306,200 UK 18 year olds have applied for university and college courses to start this autumn, an 11% increase compared to 2020[1].

The education system has been mauled by the pandemic, with students stranded in halls of residence, lectures and classes delivered remotely and students complaining about the return on investment provided by some institutions.

The crisis is expected to drive students away from longer term commitments towards shorter courses that, in many cases, are more vocationally focused — and that appears to already be happening.

The FRA has found itself at the receiving end of this trend because it specialises in two-year degrees, enriched with a wide range of industry initiatives including mentoring schemes, projects and (remote) work experience, all condensed into two years to make it more affordable for students.

It also offers one-year fully funded level 4 programmes, which offer a good alternative to applicants hoping to minimise student debt while also looking for a fast track into the workplace.

Last month the FRA revealed that the number of students applying for a February start on its 22-week Fast Track Buying & Merchandising course had leapt by over 100% since the last time the college was able to take an intake in spring  2019.

The FRA, based in London’s Fitzrovia at the heart of the capital’s fashion scene, believes what the UK is seeing is a once-in-a-lifetime shift towards learning that helps get students into their chosen careers not only faster but with relevant, practical experience so essential for today’s workplace.

The college constantly updates its courses and reacts to industry needs to mirror the growing significance of online retail, for example, with more tech-focused skills on the curriculum than ever before.

Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy, said:

“The student roll often expands in times of economic trouble and recession as people think better of entering the world of work but there’s definitely an underlying shift towards courses that combine academic knowledge with practical experience, and don’t present as much risk should the pandemic continue to sabotage face-to-face education.

[1] UCAS – Undergraduate applicant analysis for courses starting this autumn.

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