Flexible innovative teaching models in the creative arts

The University of the Arts London (UAL) is Europe’s largest provider of education in art, design, fashion, communication and performing arts. UAL is a collegiate university comprising six constituent colleges.[1] This case study focuses on the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM).

CSM delivers innovative teaching and learning methods through its partnerships with business and other relevant stakeholders, including museums, art galleries and NGOs. The importance of these relations is also reflected in the institution’s strategy, which builds on becoming fully engaged with the creative and cultural sectors, embedding both staff and students in networks and alliances that expand academic horizons and diversify sources of income. Cooperation with strategic partners is of vital importance in developing and delivering both curriculum and research activities.

CSM is located in the centre of London, the wealthiest and most densely populated region in the UK with the sixth largest economy among cities in the world. In this context, the creative sector is one of  the fastest growing industries providing nearly one in six jobs in London.[2]

Central Saint Martins College applies a strong business-oriented approach and it embraces risk-taking. In this sense, CSM is run similarly to a business, as well as directing most of its resources to education and fulfilling student demands. This approach is a direct consequence of UK government policy in which students pay substantial fees for undergraduate and postgraduate education. In 2012 the majority of UAL’s income- £117 million out of £215 million- came from tuition fees, while £71m (33% of the total income) stemmed from the government. By the financial year ending in 2021, student fees had come to cover 84% of UAL’s income.[3]  

The student-oriented approach is combined with innovative features, such as the promotion of creative and flexible projects, new teaching methods, development of well-designed spaces and buildings that foster interaction and networking. CSM also benefits from a supportive senior management that recognises teaching as the central asset of the University, and does not restrict bottom-up delivery of the programmes or the development of partnerships.

Courses respond to market needs, based on trend analysis and feedback generated from the student projects that are carried out in collaboration with industrial partners. Furthermore, all active researchers at CSM are involved in teaching activities. The curriculum is innovative due to the nature of the subject matter and the culture of the students and staff. Both students and staff are keen to experiment with new methodologies, for example, philosophy lecturers come and teach in the industrial design courses.

The Flexible Master’s Degrees are another good example of such a novel approach. CSM offers a full-time extended option to undertake graduate degrees.[4] This allows students to carry out their studies over a two-year period, so they pursue their degree for 30 hours a week and use the remaining time to work, find work, or develop their own personal portfolios. Further examples of the broad range of present and previous instruments and initiatives applied at CSM include:

  • A diversified educational offer which includes short-courses to attract wider student population and generate income.[5]
  • The creation of the Design Laboratory, an in-house design studio that delivered consultancy for a wide range of international clients with the involvement of students and graduates as paid interns and junior designers. The Laboratory has since spun out as its own agency.
  • Sponsored projects, where external organisations pay for problem-solving by CSM students. The school makes matches based on the objectives of the industry partner and the educational needs of the available students. Students receive a payment where their IP is licensed or purchased, and the course receives a general fee for the supporting role.
  • In addition, CSM runs similar project-based consulting work between industry and graduates. The school builds small teams of recent graduates supported by an academic creative director.

CSM Public is an initiative which encourages partnerships with academic, commercial, non-profit and governmental organisations. The studio ethos is turned ‘inside-out’ with the hope of creating an inspiring environment for innovation for students and public.[6]


[1] Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/colleges

[2] Source: https://www.london.gov.uk/programmes-strategies/business-and-economy/supporting-londons-sectors/supporting-culture-and-creative-industries

[3] Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0030/325839/UAL-Report-and-Financial-Statements-31-July-2021.pdf

[4] Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/colleges/central-saint-martins/courses/extended-full-time

[5] Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/study-at-ual/short-courses

[6] Source: https://www.arts.ac.uk/colleges/central-saint-martins/csm-public


University / Institution: University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (CSM)

Contact nane: Marie McMillan

Director of Innovation, Business and External Relations at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts London

Contact email address: d.salvadori@csm.arts.ac.uk

Innovative features: Entrepreneurship development in teaching and learning - Entrepreneurial behaviour is supported throughout the university experience; from creating awareness and stimulating ideas through to development and implementation.

Further reading: Technopolis, Education in the Knowledge Triangle, a study for DG EAC

Website of the university: http://www.arts.ac.uk/

and website of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design: http://www.arts.ac.uk/csm/

  • Case studies
United Kingdom
Area of discipline:
Not associated to a discipline
Submitted on:
23 Mar 2023