Between 1985 and 1995 the School of Communication Arts in London offered unrivalled preparation for entering the advertising industry. Set to reopen later this year, the School is now in the middle of looking for its first intake of students in 15 years. While the ad industry itself has changed enormously within that time, Marc Lewis, dean of the second coming of the college, hopes that he and his 50 prospective students – plus a host of industry mentors – can bring the model for the original institution into the 21st century.
Back in 2000, CR reported on the untimely death of John Gillard, the former principal of the School which had to close in 1995 due to his failing health and a lack of funding. At the time, former student and by then influential industry figure Graham Fink recalled that Gillard “was an unbelievable teacher, very unorthodox … he got the best out of everybody. This country needs thousands of John Gillards.”
Ten years on and Fink looks set to further honour his former teacher’s memory – he’s involved in the relaunch of the school, on course for its first academic year in September. Lewis, who was also under Gillard’s tutelage in the early 90s, talked to CR about his reasons for relaunching the celebrated school, a venture that he believes will combine the best aspects of Gillard’s teachings with an approach that is even more inclusive and decidedly more digital. If you’re keen to take on a career in advertising, and gain invaluable industry experience along the way, applying to the School of Communication Arts 2.0 could be a great way to take your first step.
Lewis has been hard at work bringing changes to the way the School will work, namely in ensuring that its many scholarships will attract more people from a diverse range of backgrounds. “I got a scholarship to the School through The Guardian,” recalls Lewis, “but it was clearly a vehicle for white, middle class people – and our industry is full of them. Scholarships should promote diversity and I want to fix that. Creativity, too, has always required diversity.” Lewis’ plans include an improved scholarship system whereby 15 of the 50 places for students (or ‘cohorts’ as they’re called at the new SCA) will be able to benefit from a full bursary. This is, he says, in order that the college remains an “elite ad school” but one that fundamentally “promotes fairness and equality”.
The School as working studio
Lewis also recognises the importance of forging stronger links with the ad industry. In a bid to counter the woes of both students and agencies,
who often bemoan the lack of ‘real world’ education opportunities at college, Lewis hopes to have his intake surrounded by industry figures throughout their education. These on-hand professionals will also help to generate the School’s curriculum through a Curriculum Wiki repository, where they’re required to contribute knowledge, skills and advice. The School itself will also look more like a working agency, with students getting stuck into real briefs within a proper studio environment. The evening lectures, of which there are set to be two a week, are also planned to take place in a church in Vauxhall. It’s an unusual premise, but perhaps it’s just what creative learning in the UK needs.
The structure of the courses on offer at the new-look SCA will be intense, with hours expected to be 8am–6pm, Monday to Friday, and with the focus, naturally, on copywriting and art direction strands. “John wanted to create the antithesis of a university way of learning,” says Lewis of Gillard’s original vision. “Universities teach you about the ‘how’; we think it’s more important to learn the ‘why’ so that the students have more empathy when they express any idea.”
The course will provide students with a Diploma in Communication Arts qualification, accredited by the University of the Arts London Awarding Body, and also a guaranteed six-month work placement at the end of the academic year. During the 12 months there’s also an opportunity to compete for £10,000 in ‘seed funding’, which is awarded to the ten students in the year who come up with the most impressive start-up idea. These ten then go down the ‘ideapreneur pathway’, where they will develop their business idea whilst following the curriculum.
So who does Lewis want to see applying for the first year? “We’d like applicants to be digital-savvy, to know how to use pixels efficiently,” he says. “Then it’s about their ideas in their application but also what potential they have to apply them.” If that sounds like something you can match, check out the website, schoolcommunicationarts.com, to find out how to apply.
Details on the School of Communication Arts’courses, fees and scholarships at schoolcommunicationarts.com