Once, when advertising education was in its infancy, there were a handful of colleges scattered throughout the country whose fine reputations preceded them. The students emerging from these colleges were acknowledged as the best in the country by the sheer fact of having attended them. While courses such as these still exist (Watford, Central St Martin's, Bucks, Falmouth) it is now true to say that talent has just as much chance of emerging from a previously unrecognised and unregarded college as it does from those more well-known establishments.
The reasons for this are fundamentally financial. As the cost of a degree (or any other qualification for that matter) skyrockets, students are no longer able to pick and choose which college they would like to go to. In the end, it comes down to where they can afford to go. And more frequently, the choice is being made to stay in or near their home town to avoid those large additional costs of living away. Given that an average student is leaving college with a debt of £20,000, it is hardly surprising that many are choosing to take a chance with a local college and hope that the tuition they receive provides them with the wherewithal to enter the job market fully prepared. Added to which, a young creative trying to get into advertising can expect a long wait, upwards of two years in some cases, with the ever increasing burden of debt hanging over them.
To then find many doors closed to them that might be open to a Watford or Bucks student must be incredibly galling. So many agencies in London now concentrate their placement systems on taking students from particular colleges that it has almost become a closed shop with the lesser known colleges struggling to gain access.
Agencies need to recognise that while some colleges consistently turn out great students, they could also be missing out on talented individuals who have had to take a different road. The D&AD Student Awards demonstrate this situation repeatedly. While the likes of Central St Martin's and Bucks take the lions share of the advertising category awards there are always surprises. These individuals should perhaps be more loudly applauded for having achieved success without the same level of support and guidance their peers might have received at the established "advertising" colleges.
Advertising has always had a wonderful reputation as being a truly egalitarian industry with waves of young creatives arriving from Manchester, Newcastle and Ireland over the years. It would be a shame if now, when the industry really does need diversity, all its intake was from three colleges.