UWTSD celebrates 1st in UK for Fashion & Textiles in Guardian 2020 University league table


“Putting creativity and employability at the heart of our programme is really paying off for our students.”  - UWTSD Swansea College of Art Surface Pattern Design Programme Director Georgia McKie.

Surface Pattern Design Book an open day

UWTSD has seen its ranking increase by 29 positions in the Guardian 2020 University league table, a joint 3rd highest increase in ranking in the UK. The University is now positioned joint 57th overall out of the 121 featured institutions from across the UK.  And with 3 subjects ranked in the top 10 overall in the UK: ‘Fashion & Textiles’ (1st), ‘Design & Crafts’ (7th), and ‘Art’ (8th), there’s plenty of celebrating to be done.

 So what makes the Surface Pattern Design programme so successful? Programme Director Georgia McKie reflects….

 The multidisciplinary nature of the programme, as quoted in the Guardian article below…

A space to make

“University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s fashion and textiles course has quickly established itself as the best in the country, thanks to high levels of student satisfaction and pioneering multidisciplinary courses..”

“The title Surface Pattern Design gives the programme team a unique way of interpreting the ever evolving design landscape.  Not constrained by the traditional pathways assigned to textile programmes through the material discipline, such as “Printed Textiles” for example, the programme navigates multitudinous, often nuanced pathways, mirroring the complexities of what exists in the outside world, asking the students to consider what is yet to be discovered. 

The programme addresses the core of what an undergraduate would expect from any self-respecting textile programme but offers out from that starting point addressing the increased need for versatility and resilience in designers and design.  The programme ethos is omnivorous, responding to opportunity in a way that reflects the practice of a designer with a “we’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose” attitude to trying new things.  This has opened up collaborative opportunities for students in areas that would usually fall outside the realms of a textile design programme – for example a live project with Product Design duo Freshwest, the recent live brief with Orangebox, and previously a collaborative response to a live brief between a Surface Pattern Design student and a Product Design student for Rolls Royce.  This is the tip of the iceburg, the list is vast, with this approach being the norm for the Surface Pattern team and students.

Surface Pattern Design’s Professor of Practice Mark Eley, of Eley Kishimoto, has praised the programme, saying: "The quality and standard of the work by the Surface Pattern students at UWTSD is so professionally executed.  The collaborative effort of the whole programme team should be commended.  Every students' submitted design work would compete in the market they were intended.”

This legacy comes from the programme’s inception 20 years ago, when Beate Gegenwart, since retired from Swansea College of Art, wrote and pitched the programme to what she identified as a gap in the market.  The programme goes far deeper than pattern - the heritage of making runs deep through the programme’s DNA, and the multidisciplinary nature has been there from the onset, offering new and traditional technologies in parallel, exploring the overlap.  The current programme team is made up of a constructed textile designer, printed textile designers, a ceramicist, a jeweller and a print maker, committed to a multidisciplinary future. 

The fact that Beate initially trained as a Ceramicist, then moved into Print Making and now works with digitally cut metals and enamel says it all…  There is no programme title in the UK that can express that, but in reality all of these material and process disciplines have featured in our current cohort’s student experience.  They come to us because we offer that breadth – we attract curious, enquiring minds who find the notion of working with an untold array of exciting external partners hugely appealing.” 

The programme is housed in a lively, light and airy studio that accommodates all four years of the course, students have a personal desk space for the duration of their studies.  This becomes a second home, the studio is at the heart of the programme.  At a time when Universities are losing learning space all over the country Swansea College of Art holds dear the importance of a space to make, and the Surface Pattern team celebrate this transformative learning space weekly in their Instagram SPD Desk of the Week feature!  The programme is rooted in a pursuit of excellence through skill extension and practice, the space also creates dialogue between the year groups fostering a sense of belonging and well-being, enhancing output through access to facilities, and the time available to develop ideas in a creative space, sitting and thinking.

Either side of the studio are well-equipped workshops where students can explore a broad range of materials and processes, enabling participation in relevant methods of design practice.

Digital suites, provide in house printing, laser cutting, engraving, plotter and water jet cutting with access to industry standard software. A textile print room and dye lab promotes experimentation and the professionalism of good studio practice immediately transferrable to the workplace.   A variety of spaces to make are available with dedicated benches and access to cutting, joining and forming facilities.  There is a stitch room with domestic and digital sewing machines, digital embroidery machine with industry standard software and a standalone 900 bed Needle punching machine. 

A rigorous and lively approach to design process is fostered across our excellent facilities. Students are given the freedom to innovate, explore the boundaries of what is on offer and encouraged to play, supported by a structured programme of workshops and tutorial engagement.  Drawing and primary research is an important aspect to our programme and is taught from the beginning to the end of the course in so many different ways.  Every student is encouraged to find their own personal language through these experiences. 

Charlotte Field SPD Alumnus, Designer at Nobody’s Child recalls

“Everything that’s taught on the undergraduate course lays the foundation for the industry. You learn skills that you will use for the rest of your career.”

 Swansea is the secret weapon….

Brilliant Things About Swansea according to our students…

  1. The Beaches - Even if the weather may not cooperate all the time, it’s always lovely. The Gower coastline, sunsets over Rhossili (you need to visit Rhossili!!) Study by the Sea!
  2. The City - Everything is within walking distance, everything is central, great shops!
  3. Wind Street - The infamous nightlife! There is always somewhere to socialise day or night…. a cute local café, “villagey” Mumbles or Wind Street’s finest! 
  4. I scream you scream we all scream for Swansea’s legendary ICE CREAM! Verdi’s versus Joe’s?  You choose.
  5. Cheap and cheerful living costs
  6. There are loads of places to feel inspired by – world class museums and galleries on our doorstep – Mission Gallery, the Waterfront, Glynn Vivian… 
  7. The unique Swansea culture is warm and welcoming to everyone that visits!
  8. It’s up and coming, so much regeneration going on, making Swansea even better, great opportunities and events happening such as BBC Radio 1’s Biggest Weekend last year – the city is an exciting place to be.

Dr Peter Spring, Head of School for Design & Applied Arts at UWTSD Swansea College of Art: “We are thrilled and hugely proud of the latest national survey results which place us at the very top of the UK’s university rankings; 1st in Fashion and Textiles and also 1st for our ‘Programmes and Lectures.’  These, and the other amazing national survey results UWTSD received this year, build on those we won last year, and is nothing but a testament to the incredible team, the wonderful students and the dedication they all have for their subjects.

"As Head of School for Design & Applied Arts, I am incredibly proud of my colleagues and their dedication.  The ambitions they have for their students is clear for everyone to see, and for the next generation of new talent to experience for themselves.”

Professor Ian Walsh, Dean of Swansea College of Art at UWTSD said:"We are delighted with our three top 10 positions in the Guardian League Table. UWTSD Swansea College of Art is committed to maintaining a strong focus on delivering the very best experience for our students. All our staff are passionate about teaching and providing a supportive studio-based experience to all our students.”


And here's what our students, past and present had to say about out Guardian Ranking!

"This was so deserved! It's a privilege to have spent the past 3 years studying my degree with you. I'd recommend this course to anyone." Alice Fleck, 3rd year

"No surprise there! So proud to say that this is my course. The tutors, opportunities and facilities are first class!" Corie Beth Jones, 4th year

"So thrilled to be a student on this course being taught by a fabulous team. We (the students) are constantly saying we have the best team ever. They are supportive and dedicated and we couldn't ask for more!" Yvonne Hills, Year 1

"The lecturers are so talented. I was allowed to participate in the workshops, which were crucial for my research. So thankfull to the staff for all their help." Rosie Jiggins, MA Textiles graduate, who now has her own printed textiles studio, RMJ print studio.

Graduate employability is a key priority at UWTSD Swansea College of Art

Last month, the creative talents of Level 5 Surface Pattern Design students were showcased at an exhibition hosted by workspace concepts and furniture designers Orangebox at their London showroom during Clerkenwell Design Week (May 21-23).

The students worked with the Orangebox design team as part of their Enterprise and Employability module and were asked to design an innovative upholstery cloth for the Skomer stool that utilises fabric off-cuts as its main resource; while addressing one or more key issues in contemporary office spaces. This involved a material investigation of the Circular Economy, celebrating luxury cloth waste produced by Orangebox, and reimagined by the students.

Georgia said: “With live briefs such as this we work with the students in a spirit of we are ‘in this together.’ We learn ‘live’ with them - demonstrative in our problem solving, adapting to changing situations as they arise, but always focussed on the creative impetus at the heart of the project.  It is important to build resilience in our designers and makers of the future.

"Learning to liaise with professionalism, accepting client or partners’ needs are vital experiences that we introduce them to early on in their careers.  They experience working together as a team, working with staff, working with external parties – their creativity is stretched, their communication skills are enhanced, their confidence is boosted, their employability is heightened.”

Catherine Hammerton, Lecturer in Surface Pattern Design added: “The project has been a brilliant experience and learning curve for our students; working directly with a global furniture brand to address real world problems surrounding the circular economy. The work produced tackles the issue of textile waste head on, offering sound solutions for future product development and scaled production.

"Our students have worked exceptionally hard to deliver a breadth of ideas, across a range of technical processes, with absolute professionalism. They confidently pitched and presented the project to Senior Management teams at Orangebox and as a direct result of this, the work was exhibited at Clerkenwell Design Week, which all our L5 students were invited to attend by Orangebox.”

Surface Pattern Design L5 student Stephanie Nicholas said: “This has been an experience that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my design career. Learning how to solve a waste problem and having the opportunity to work with a manufacturing company has been great. I will also now take into consideration the waste of the work I produce in future projects, and how to minimize this problem and save the next generation future in doing so.”

A live project at Swansea College of Art involving Surface Pattern Design students culminated in an exhibition at St Fagans National Museum of History on February 23 and 24.

The students worked closely with curators at the museum; Mared McAleavey and Lowri Jenkins, studying, exploring and researching the archives to produce innovative and creative work. It was the first collaboration of its kind between the museum and a University.

Georgia said: “We are so lucky to have the cultural wealth of the National Museums of Wales at our finger tips.  The opportunities for our students to explore and research are endless.  These resources are highly valued as a teaching and learning mechanism for our programme team; enabling the students to learn how to research from primary sources - inviting them to respond in personal and nuanced ways.  Year on year we find new ways to conjure up drawing trips and projects across the museum portfolio.”

So far this academic year, students from the Surface Pattern Design programme have undertaken exhibition projects with 3 different museums in the portfolio.  Georgia added: “To experience these opportunities as soon as in your first year of undergraduate study is such a privilege for our students, and something we feel central to the ethos of the Surface Pattern programme.

“When we first started planning the St Fagans project, only in our wildest dreams did we imagine students would be exhibiting their design work in the many houses, buildings and galleries around the site.  Working with the curators has been such an enjoyable experience – their generosity, expertise and openness has been incredible.”

Second year Surface Pattern Design student Cerys Davies said: “I worked with love spoons. It started with a simple object, but through my research, I was able to design and explore so many different outcomes. It was so amazing to be able to work with Welsh culture and heritage in this way. I felt so privileged to have the access we had. It’s not something many people get to do and to do be able to do in Wales, where I was born and live, was even more special. A live project like this is so important and exciting. Being able to work so closely with the curators, our lecturers and each other, opened up so many new ways to be creative.”

Third year Surface Pattern Design student Georgia Amman, who is setting up her own business in fashion and surface pattern design, based in Tenby and Newport, said: “Creativity is one of the most important characteristics of being human. This live project gave me much more creative freedom. I was able to work with and research the archives and having access to all this made all the difference to me. It was inspiring and also gave me a wonderful opportunity to showcase my entire skillset. I'm glad I had the opportunity to ignite something special in this way. My work was inspired by the letters sent home by local soldiers’. I wanted to find a unique way of bringing them to life.”

Programmes at Swansea College of Art are developing quite an alumni of design entrepreneurs who have set up their own labels, confidently taking them to national and international markets in relatively short spaces of time. Georgia added: “The Surface Pattern programme instils a ‘can do’ attitude in our students – it is a wonderful experience for our team to watch these students journey from Fresher’s to Design Professionals.  We get an immense sense of pride from the work our graduates go on to achieve.  Putting creativity and employability on an equal footing, and at the heart of our programme helps our students achieve above and beyond. And we’re so proud of this ethos.”

Since graduating from UWTSD’s Swansea College of Art Surface Pattern Design degree programme in 2016, Nia Rist has steadily developed her own screen-printed interior product range which she launched to an international audience last summer at New Designers in London. And having also been selected to exhibit as part of the Design Fresh breakthrough talent group, curated by 100% Design and Barbara Chandler, there’s no stopping her now!

Nia coincidentally found herself alongside another Swansea College of Art graduate, Product Design’s James Lewis at last year’s prestigious 100% Design show in the London Design Fair, who completed his BA last summer.  Surface Pattern Design Programme Director Georgia McKie said: “This is a huge accolade for the Faculty and serves as such a motivator for returning students – to see recent graduates profiled at such a pivotal and influential event in the British design calendar is so inspirational for them. “

Nia, says her journey so far has been one of self-discovery. “I have learnt so much about myself, most importantly how crucial it is to forward plan and take advice from experts, who know most about the business world. The help and support I have received and continue to receive from my lecturers at UWTSD, even though I have now graduated, has also been invaluable. They are with me every step of the way.”

Nia, who specialises in monochrome textile prints for interiors, said the attitude of staff at UWTSD continued to inspire her work. “Right from the start, we were encouraged to have a go at everything, so we could truly find our passion. With constant feedback and encouragement, it was easy to experiment and most importantly, dare to be creative and succeed.”

She added: “Being selected to showcase my work at New Designers and then the 100% Design Show, was a big turning point for me. Suddenly my work had an international platform. Whilst scary, it was finally out there, being seen by designers, who were keen to meet and speak with me and comment on my work. It led to exciting conversations with Not on The High Street and Tiger Print and suddenly my journey into the business world had begun.”

Nia said her business venture has also been supported by UWTSD’s Associate Professor in Enterprise Education Kathryn Penaluna and Big Ideas Wales. “Kathryn has been a fantastic mentor, guiding and encouraging me all the way,” she added.

Kathryn Penaluna said: “Nia is a great example of our enterprising students, she challenges and questions the norms and always looks for new ways forward. Her imagination helps her to see the kinds of opportunities that others would miss, which is one reason that I love working with her – I learn so much too!”

For James Lewis, his journey started on a completely different path. “I was on a mechanical engineering degree course initially, but after a day spent in the Product Design studios at UWTSD, I was instantly hooked and decided to enrol here instead. I hadn’t considered Product Design before, but if you look at my designs now, you can see where I originally came from!”

New Designers and the 100% Design show also gave James renewed confidence in his abilities. “Like Nia, it was scary, but also amazing at the same time. Watching designers looking at my designs and getting constructive feedback and advice was fantastic. It has allowed me to start doing what I want to do and has given me the confidence to succeed. I can be one of these designers!”

James said he has also learnt a lot about himself during his time at UWTSD. “There’s a lot of pressure in the outside world to continually come up with new designs, new innovations.” he said.

“This university has taught me to continually challenge myself, to research my designs and to push ahead no matter what. I always have my notebook on me and I’m continually sketching new ideas. I’m not afraid of putting in the hard work and I know I can achieve. I also know that success doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and networking along the way. The teaching and opportunities given to me at Swansea College of Art help greatly in all these areas.”

Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Tel: 01792 483695
Mobile: 07384 467071
Email: Rebecca.Davies@uwtsd.ac.uk