Skip To Main Content
'A marathon, not a sprint' - How UAL qualifications guide the creative journey
  • Creative Arts
  • University

This blog features content from UAL Awarding Body.

Written by Matt Moseley, Chief Examiner in Art & Design at the UAL Awarding Body. 

The phrase ‘a marathon, not a sprint’ is never truer than when referring to the journey undertaken by an individual embarking on a creative adventure. And what an adventure it is, complete with all the perils and pitfalls of a great pilgrimage. Any journey is challenging and there will inevitably be wrong turns and missteps, but if one foot is continually placed in front of the other, progress is also inevitable. One way to minimise time lost due to unforeseen obstacles is to have a plan. A plan can act as a map that will help you navigate from one success or discovery to another, charting your creative odyssey from one landmark to the next. The aim of any vocational creative qualification is to offer a safe space for individuals to develop the required creative cartographer skills and confidence by which to plot their own personal pilgrimage.

The concept of creativity as an iterative developmental process is not something ringfenced to the classroom or learning environment, it is a perspective that permeates industry. Any vocational area requiring innovation or new development will embed creativity within its developmental methodology. Sir James Dyson famously developed 5,126 failed prototypes on his way to designing the technology that transformed household cleaning forever. 

"People think of creativity as a mystical process. This model conceives of innovation as something that happens to geniuses. But this could not be more wrong. Creativity is something we can all improve at, by realising that it has specific characteristics. Above all, it is about daring to learn from our mistakes". - Sir James Dyson 

Our qualifications promote an iterative developmental process through their design and delivery, requiring students to experience the stages of a creative process through the practical application of concepts, knowledge, and skills. The formative stages of a UAL qualification break this process down into chunks, asking students to unpack each stage and apply their individualised understanding to a burgeoning independent creative practice. Students are challenged to understand the parameters of a thematic enquiry or brief, propose a solution, document a plan, and explore versions of their solution through developmental experimentation. They are encouraged to underpin each of these activities with continuous research and ongoing reflective practice. Learners conclude their journey by selecting a successful outcome, presenting, and justifying this in a manner that appreciates, mirrors and in some cases disrupts industry convention. By developing a working understanding of each of these stages, students are creating markers or creative gateposts that allow them to manage their time and measure progress against expectations. These creative skills and attributes enable students to develop versatility and resilience that makes them immensely employable across a huge spectrum of career choices. 

At this moment in time, as we reflect on this recent period of pandemic disruption, it is apparent that during this time while so many things in life seemed to diminish, creativity thrived. From providing a welcome distraction or a mood-boosting remedy for anxiety, artistic activities such as simply watching TV and film or engaging in reading and crafting have been a lifeline for many. Businesses who responded creatively to the pandemic by adapting, diversifying and expanding their portfolios have embraced new markets and increased productivity. How has this growth occurred? The answer is in no small part to do with the role creativity can play in the act of problem-solving. Creativity can act like water, shifting, changing, and endlessly flowing through an ever-changing landscape. Not only responding, but in time influencing and altering the vista, carving new tributaries, and breathing life into arid pastures. The developmental creative process enables learners to repeatedly experiment, making conscious modifications, resiliently forging forward with an idea or concept. They learn to celebrate failure and capitalise on the unexpected. Creativity and risk are inextricably linked in this respect, and a positive creative course will promote and celebrate experimentation, asking students to step out of their comfort zone, embrace new experiences and challenge themselves to think in a different way. 

Versatility and adaptability are crucial ingredients of what organisation Director Ross Anderson refers to as the ‘secret sauce’ of UAL Awarding Body qualifications, evidenced in the wide range of different delivery models employed by the varied body of learning institutions we work with. An example of this is Plymouth College of Art who offer an International Baccalaureate learning program utilising UAL’s Level 3 Extended Diploma qualifications. The creative qualification runs alongside two International Baccalaureate Diploma subjects (choosing from English Literature, Business Management, or Environmental Systems & Societies, and core IBCP skills). In combination, this course design adapts the traditional high academia focus of the baccalaureate to incorporate a vocational creative experience that not only compliments, but enhances the scholarly elements, enabling the student to transfer their developing creative attributes into other areas of learning. 

The creativity and dynamism fostered in this approach to creative education contribute to broader thinking, a healthy economy, and a more resilient society. Students successfully completing our creative vocational qualifications will enter the world of work with a set of highly transferrable skills applicable not only to the creative industries, but also valuable to other fields such as science, engineering, and computing. The Future of Jobs Report 2020 from the World Economic Forum predicts that ‘creativity, originality and initiative’ will be among the top five skills required in the jobs market by 2025, alongside ‘complex problem solving’ and ‘analytical thinking and innovation’: all bedrocks of our creative qualifications.  

In this way, the journeys plotted by ‘cartographers’ completing our qualifications may lead them away from the traditional creative territories, but they will carry with them the tools and expertise to navigate a range of terrains with confidence and curiosity. But perhaps most importantly, if they trip or fall along the way, they will get right back up again. 

Webinar on Creative Qualifications - Project Based Learning