Call for UK government to save bright young minds of creatives

University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion, Oxford Street, London. © Author - Mtaylor848/ Creative Commons Attribution -Share Alike 4.0 International license.
University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion, Oxford Street, London. © Author - Mtaylor848/ Creative Commons Attribution -Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Barren jobs market and no EU agreement for creatives leaves the young choosing higher education over unemployment.


Against a background of body blows by the pandemic to the world of fashion, design and creative arts, the toll taken on young job seekers, unprecedented learning disruption over the past 12 months, and the most recent scandal of ‘no deal yet’ to allow creative professionals to work freely in Europe upon graduating, Harold Tillman CBE, one of the UK fashion industry’s leading voices, has made a call to Government to “invest in, and not squander, the bright, creative minds of the classes of 2021/2022.”

Tillman has recently been appointed as London College of Fashion’s Enterprise and Business Advisor and made this call as the EU and the UK fail to resolve the plight of the UK creative sector to overcome the new post-Brexit visa and work-permit arrangements for UK creatives, and follows the Education Secretary’s recent announcement simultaneously to cut funding for the capital’s higher education establishments by £64 million.

“All the indications are, that many of our young people are extending their education further, not only as shown in this year’s intake (2020/2021), but particularly for the coming year (2021/2022), rather than confronting a barren jobs market,” said Tillman. “This means that our higher education system is absorbing the shock of the difficulties faced by our young, while at the same time the Government is making savage cuts to our budgets… At this challenging time, we owe it to the next generation of our bright, creative minds to do what we can for them in a way which adds value to their ‘intellectual capital’ and goes towards compensating for the exam disruption over the past year, and the sustained interference with their education.”

London College of Fashion is one of the world’s leading bastions of fashion education, attracting thousands of students from both the UK and over 85 countries throughout the world. The college has responded to the shift in demand for courses and has put in place a plan to adapt, including increasing the digital learning resources and adopting a blended learning curriculum which combines on-site and online learning to ensure students can make full use of studios and workshops in a safe and comfortable environment.

Tillman, whose new role at London College of Fashion is to support the next generation as they make the challenging transition into the working world commented: “On this issue, serious consideration should be given to reversing the Education Secretary’s recent proposal to cut funding for the capital’s higher education establishments. Instead, the most constructive and ‘smart’ action the Government could take for the benefit of UK plc in a post-Brexit Britain is to provide proportionate funding, not cuts, to higher educational establishments which recognise the additional costs of many of the creative industries’ education skills… This would represent the best investment our country could make in our future at this uniquely challenging time in our history and enable us to meet the additional demand for courses.”

Tillman continued: “As the UK economy feels the continuing effect of Covid-19, we mustn’t forget the fashion industry’s important contribution to economic growth, and the industry’s potential to help the country on its road to recovery. Investing in higher education establishments now, particularly while there is extended demand for courses, will help the fashion industry unlock its full economic potential to the benefit of the post-Brexit UK economy, now and in the future.”

Harold Tillman CBE previously was the British Fashion Council’s longest serving Chairman. He is an alumnus of the London College of Fashion, and in 2006, he created a student scholarship fund for the college, pledging to support a number of MA students each year. In his new role, he is supporting the work of the College’s Business School, the only one in the world within the fashion industry, and its Graduate Futures’ programme, their dedicated careers and business support network whose services are currently experiencing their highest ever demand.

His comments come as the London College of Fashion is preparing to make Stratford its new home in 2023, as part of East London’s regeneration into a creative and cultural hub – representing a massive investment and an important part of the UK’s Olympic Legacy.

With this historic move, London College of Fashion will be at the heart of an ‘ast London Fashion Cluster. This will potentially secure and reinforce London’s place as the global centre of fashion. Behind the perceived glamour of the fashion industry lies a vital driver of economic prosperity which brought over £35 billion to the UK economy in 2019, pre-pandemic.

The vision for the East London Fashion Cluster (ELFC) is of a 21st century innovation quarter where fashion, technology, business and education meet. ELFC has been created as a stimulant to both East London’s historic and re-emerging status as a centre for fashion innovation, design, manufacture and retail. London College of Fashion will make the move to Stratford in 2023 where its similarly new neighbours will be University College London, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Sadler’s Wells, as well as existing education and research institutions including Birkbeck, Loughborough University London and BT Sport.

London College of Fashion

Projected Covid-19 impact on the Fashion Industry Oxford Economics Report (2020): The Projected Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the U.K. Creative Industries.


University of the Arts London, London College of Fashion, Oxford Street, London. © Author – Mtaylor848/ Creative Commons Attribution -Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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