ADVERTISING EDUCATION: FIVE STAR AD SCHOOLS - How do you get a decent advertising qualification? Robert Gray assesses what’s on offer at five centres

Watford College

Watford College

In the early 60s, the Watford School of Business started the first

full-time advertising course in the UK. Today, the Watford campus at

West Herts College is still going strong and offers four advertising


Watford’s one-year post-graduate diploma in copywriting/art direction

has proved to be a seedbed for industry creative talent over the years,

with alumni including the M&C Saatchi creative partner, Jeremy


The course costs pounds 685 and takes about 25 students a year.

The college’s two-year HND in advertising and marketing communications

(started with the co-operation of the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising) is a core study of business and marketing communications. A

one-year BA (Hons) degree is open to those who have completed this HND

or similar.

Finally, there is the one-year post-graduate diploma in advertising

(pounds 1,950) with a focus on ’practical skills’ such as account

planning, handling and market research. ’We have a good employment

rate,’ the course director, Andrea Niedle, says.

Past students include Juliet Boyd, now an account director at Leo

Burnett and the HHCL & Partners ’St George’ creatives, Chas Bayfield and

Jim Bolton.

Blackpool and the Fylde College

There are around 30 places each year on Blackpool’s BA (Hons) Graphic

Design course, of which advertising is a strong element. The course

belongs to the D&AD Education Scheme and, as such, benefits from agency

twinning -currently with the design consultancy, Lippa Pearce - visiting

lecturers, workshops and access to the annual student show.

Students can specialise in advertising in their third year. There are

placements in both the second and third years. The third year includes a

trip to agencies in New York, which last year cost students about pounds

380 each.

Students often work in creative teams and they can also link up with

students on Blackpool’s Photography degree course. Last year, Blackpool

students took first prize in the Radio Advertising category of the D&AD

Student Awards.

John Gibson, a senior lecturer, says: ’Creative writing is available all

the way through the course.’ Most successful applicants will have

completed an Art Foundation course or a relevant National Diploma but

there are some post-A level places.

Falmouth College of Art

It’s all change at Falmouth, which is discontinuing its two-year HND in

favour of a one-year post-graduate diploma in creative advertising,

validated by the University of Plymouth. Several places on the second

year of the final HND course remain open to students who have completed

the first year of a comparable course.

There are also places still available on the post-graduate course. The

entry requirement for the diploma course is a BA in graphics or

humanities - usually to at least 2:2 standard. The fee is pounds


Alice Taylor, the programme leader and a former copywriter at J. Walter

Thompson, says: ’Our focus is on creative teams.’ Taylor’s creative

partner from her time at Bates Dorland and ex-Ogilvy & Mather and Young

& Rubicam man, John Simeoni, also lectures at Falmouth.

Under the D&AD twinning scheme, Falmouth is linked with BMP DDB, whose

creative director, Tony Cox, has helped with the course. Outstanding

students will be given agency placements.

The creative advertising course is intended to be ’vocational and

educational’, combining lectures on theory and agency visits with, for

example, trips to art galleries to develop visual reference points.

Taylor says about 70 per cent of students from the last HND course found

jobs. Recent alumni landed jobs at Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Buckinghamshire College

Buckinghamshire College offers two three-year BA courses in graphic

design and advertising, with a maximum of 20 students on each. The

advertising media course, part of the BA in Design and Advertising, is

targeted at those wishing to become creatives at large ad agencies,

while the advertising and design course takes a through-the-line

approach, covering disciplines such as sales promotion and direct

marketing as well as advertising.

Dave Morris, the course leader in advertising, says: ’The students on

the advertising and design course are a hybrid of a graphic designer and

advertising person whereas, on the advertising and media side, it’s much

more conceptual - producing strategic ideas and rough concepts.’

The courses, which are fully subscribed for the next academic year, are

twinned with J. Walter Thompson. Entry requirements for the following

year are flexible although typically, applicants should have at least

five GCSEs and two A Levels. ’Graphical skills, personality and a good

understanding of advertising are every bit as important as academic

achievement,’ Morris says.

Students work in creative pairs, and most (subject to ability) get a

month-long placement in each of their second and third years. Morris

says the courses are ’highly competitive’ with students entering their

work into competitions and striving to put together the best


In the second year, as part of their historical and contextual studies,

undergraduates are required to complete a dissertation. Guest lecturers

on the course have included John Hegarty, Paul Delaney and Neil


Over the past four years, FCB has hired three creative teams that have

studied at the college. John Bacon, the creative director of FCB, says:

’I think they’re well taught.’

Bournemouth University

Bournemouth offers a three-year degree course in advertising management,

soon to be renamed advertising and marketing communications. The course

is aimed at those who want to understand the business side of

advertising and its role in the marketing mix.

Fiona Cownie, the course leader, explains: ’The focus is to get people

to understand the strategic management of advertising. We’re not about

producing copywriters and art directors. The evidence shows our

graduates are working as agency planners, at direct marketing companies,

in marketing departments and at media independents.’ In the past, the

university has offered a creative advertising degree.

Its advertising management course, which takes between 45 and 60

students, is full for the coming year. However, there may be vacancies,

if some students fail to achieve satisfactory grades. The university is

looking for A level results of at least two Bs and a C.

Students on the BA honours course are eligible for local authority

grants and, although there is a lot of practical ’problem solving’ on

the curriculum, students must also write a traditional dissertation

drawing on academic literature about advertising and marketing.

The undergraduates are offered a variety of placements at various


Under the D&AD scheme, the course is twinned with TBWA Simons Palmer,

whose chief executive, Paul Simons, has given a lecture at the

university - as have GGT’s creative director, Trevor Beattie, and Abbott

Mead Vickers BBDO’s chief executive, Michael Baulk.

Cownie claims 89 per cent of last year’s final year students gained

permanent employment (mostly in advertising or marketing) within six

months of graduating.

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