An academic from Edinburgh College of Art, Rachel Simmonds, shares her experience of collaborating with a Chinese higher education institution…
Over eight years ago the School of Design, one of the five schools that make up Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), began looking into the possibility of a collaboration project with Donghua University, Shanghai, which is well known within China as being a centre of excellence for fashion teaching. Initially the collaboration was of a relatively small scale, with Donghua hosting a fashion show of ECA final year fashion and textile students’ work. In 2011 discussions on this collaboration had developed to the stage where a more formalised connection was proposed.
Donghua proposed to open a new college called Shanghai International College of Fashion and Innovation (SCF). Its aim was to offer students from around the world courses in fashion and interior design which would lead to an undergraduate degree. The four year degree in each of the disciplines includes a series of short projects being delivered each semester by specialist Flying Academics from overseas institutions. SCF also offers an alternative degree route for its students, in that at the end of their second year they have the opportunity to apply via UCAS to join the third year of study in Fashion or Interior Design at ECA and complete their degree there.
In 2014 a second ECA fashion show was hosted by Donghua as part of their Fashion Week. In April of that year SCF was officially launched with the first students joining in September 2015. Each semester Flying Academics go out to deliver a bespoke 5-week course, based on the teaching style and content of the Fashion and Interior Design courses at ECA. This involves projects focusing on research, design iteration and the production of made objects, related to a specific theme or topic. Students in Shanghai get the opportunity to work with professionals they would not normally have the chance to engage with. All teaching at SCF is done in English, and student demographic, although predominately Chinese, has an international representation.
The academic year 2017/2018 is the first year both courses will have the full 4 years of students in place. It is also the first time that students from SCF will be coming to ECA to undertake their third and fourth years with us. In total, there will be nine students split between the interior design and fashion departments. To date the collaboration project has been very positive in terms of allowing ECA staff the opportunity to teach overseas and become more familiar with the cultural identity of Chinese students. This has supported their approach to teaching the growing cohort of Chinese students at ECA, especially at Post Graduate level. The students in Shanghai have benefitted from being involved in a different form of teaching, where they are required to be more iterative in their approach.
Looking forward, it will be very interesting to see how the students coming from SCF respond and benefit from being full time at ECA, and what the existing students can learn from them.