Top UK arts university has designs on Hong Kong

University of the Arts London, home of Central Saint Martins, will offer degree courses in city to meet West Kowloon Cultural Centre needs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 2:59am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 May, 2014, 2:59am

One of Britain's most prestigious universities specialising in the arts may offer postgraduate programmes in Hong Kong to meet the expected demand for managerial skills in the creative sector when the West Kowloon Cultural District opens.

The prestigious University of the Arts London, which comprises six colleges including Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and the London College of Communication, is in talks with the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU Space) about launching master's degree programmes in the city.

Professor Jeremy Till, head of Central Saint Martins and pro-vice-chancellor of the university, said master of arts programmes in subjects such as curating and arts management could be available in Hong Kong within a year.

Till said the West Kowloon Cultural District would require a range of talent and create a demand for relevant education. The first of its museums, theatres and galleries are due to open in 2017.

Till said the number of students from Hong Kong who had graduated from Central Saint Martins outnumbered those from any other foreign city. He added that the Hong Kong government had demonstrated its ambition to make the city a cultural and creative hub. It had previously tried to woo Central Saint Martins to establish a physical presence in the city, but the plan never came to fruition, according to sources.

Till said the programmes offered in Hong Kong would be rolled out slowly, to ensure they were of the highest quality.

"We don't want to go too fast [and] then lose the quality. Reputation is more important than expanding," he said.

HKU Space confirmed that its centre for degree programmes was in discussions with the university - the biggest university of the arts in Europe - about launching MA programmes in arts, media and culture.

"The programmes will be launched in phases, in one to two years," the spokesman said.

Central Saint Martins is one of the world's most famous art and design schools and has produced some of the biggest stars of the fashion world, including the late Alexander McQueen and John Galliano, as well as artist Mark Titchner, a Turner Prize nominee. Hong Kong fashion designer Johanna Ho is also a Central Saint Martins graduate.

The college last year offered a series of three-day executive courses in arts, media and culture in Hong Kong through HKU Space.

Professor Chan Wing-wah, head of the HKU Space college of humanities and law and its performing arts centre, said the emergence of the arts hub and the city's rapid cultural development had created a demand for the relevant education.

Potential arts students will get a chance to learn more about courses tomorrow and Sunday, when Youth Square, in Chai Wan, hosts the first Art Education Week.

Visitors will be able to learn about everything from degree programmes to short courses offered by local universities, as well as individual institutes and performing arts groups.

The weekend will also feature a series of performances by artists, including singer-songwriters Deserts Chang, from Taiwan, and Jing Wong, from Hong Kong, who is also a Central Saint Martins graduate. Guest speakers include homegrown artists Hung Keung and Lam Tung-pang.

Despite the growing need for a supply of arts administrators, Chan urged potential students to think carefully before signing up for any courses.

"We need cultural management talent because of West Kowloon ... but that creates an illusion for students, as if it is going to be easy to find jobs after graduation," Chan said.

He said cultural managers need professional knowledge in the arts before taking up management roles, and cultural management programmes at bachelor level might not be suitable for youngsters who have yet to build up their knowledge in the field.

He added that an outgoing personality and passion for arts and culture were the most crucial factor for success in the field.

"If you aren't passionate about culture and you are planning to study these programmes just because they are hot, don't go there," Chan said.