Royal School of Needlework Access and Participation Statement
1.1 The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) is a specialist, niche institution founded in 1872. Its mission has always been to teach and use the skills and techniques of hand embroidery in order to maintain knowledge of technical hand embroidery for the future. Today the RSN offers a range of programmes in hand embroidery up to Higher Education level with the BA (Hons) in Hand Embroidery for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art.
1.2 The RSN is based at Hampton Court Palace, offering students a very special environment, but with a focus on the future. Students are encouraged to make their work dynamic, contemporary and individual.
1.3 There are currently around 20 students in each year and in the Strategic review of 2018 (for the period 2019-2023) the Council of Trustees agreed that the degree programme will remain at this maximum number of students in order to maintain the highest quality of delivery and make best use of available resources.
1.4 It is also the case that with a specialist area limiting the class size avoids overcapacity.
2.1 The RSN degree programme is validated by the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and RSN students are also UCA students, as such the RSN is part of UCA’s Access and Participation Plan.
2.2 As part of UCA’s recruitment plan the RSN takes part in recruitment fairs and offers Open Days throughout the year.
2.3 RSN students also have access to UCA’s student support services.
3.1 As a small institution while we have analysed data on the range of students we have attracted since the inception of the degree programme, in many cases the numbers are so small that it makes the students identifiable, as such we cannot publish this information.
3.2 It is also the case that, with the small numbers, there can be significant swings from one year to the next which is further exacerbated when converted to percentages.
3.3 However, we can say that the RSN has consistently attracted more than average numbers of mature students and students with disabilities.
Commitment to Access
4.1 The RSN is committed to broadening participation. We actively welcome people from different cultures and backgrounds who can bring different perspectives and experiences across all our programmes.
4.2 The RSN is committed to making more people aware of the possibilities of hand embroidery as a degree option and a future career.
4.3 In order to broaden the range of schools which know of the RSN course, tutors and students give workshops to teachers and to school groups and we encourage students to revisit their former schools at least once during the degree to tell other pupils and their former teachers about the course.
4.4 To broaden awareness of the RSN we have recently launched a new programme for schools called Embroider a Selfie, with support from the Worshipful Company of Girdlers. The aim of this programme is to offer an introduction to stitch and textiles, especially to pupils and schools which may be less likely to consider university. The first training and kits were distributed in June 2018 and the programme will be monitored and extended in 2018-19 with particular emphasis on under-supported schools and schools where a lower percentage of pupils go on to higher education.
4.5 We offer Open Days throughout the year to introduce potential students and their parents/guardians/partners to what the RSN has to offer. This has been shown to be an important first step for many students who may have little idea what the Degree in hand embroidery for Fashion, Interiors, Textile art actually comprises. Potential applicants are shown examples of work, have the opportunity to meet students and to see the environment in which they will be working.
4.6 All applicants are interviewed either at Hampton Court Palace or by Skype/telephone for international students. This enables us to explore the applicant’s portfolio of art and design and gives an opportunity for the applicant to see the physical environment of the RSN.
4.7 Meeting applicants enables the RSN to test their understanding of the course, to ensure it is the right course for them.
5.1 With a small student body the Course Leader and tutors are able to provide a high level of contact hours. Students also have the option of tutorials on a regular basis, increasing in importance for the students as they move through the course. The result of this is much higher engagement with students. If students are identified as needing specific additional learning support, they are guided to the UCA provision.
5.2 The technical nature of the course means that certain parts are delivered in specific ways but we can still support students with particular needs. Students have many ways to work and present their outcomes and ideas in the areas of research and experimentation.
5.3 Thanks to supporters, the RSN is able to offer Bursaries to students for both need and development opportunities. In the last year over half the RSN’s degree students benefited from a bursary with more than half of bursary recipients receiving £1000 or more. While these amounts are not enough to determine whether or not someone might come to the RSN, we know that they make a difference to students and we will continue to grow the available fund over the coming years.
5.4 Because of the small student body the teaching team focus on bringing out the best in each student so they are best equipped to be able to follow their preferred career path.
5.5 The teaching team and visiting tutors work with the students to help them develop their employability and skills.
5.6 The RSN has invested in the Degree programme in terms of space, resources and teaching provision every year for the benefit of the students.
5.7 Through Course Boards and informal opportunities students are invited to feed back about the course, enabling the academic team to make changes if appropriate through the year.
6.1The RSN has built strong links with a number of potential employers and students may have the opportunity during the course to intern at or work for one or more of these employers, giving them good experience for their CV and contacts for after they graduate.
6.2 For students who cannot participate in direct work for employers, the second year the ‘Live Project’ unit introduces all students to the demands, rigours, timeframes and requirements of a real event; this has included creating pieces for an exhibition and creating samples for a real portfolio to be viewed by potential external partners. Such projects expose students to the variety of potential routes for work as well as the demands of working to professional presentation standards and timeframes.
6.3 During the course the students will be helped with thinking about future career direction, we bring in practitioners and advisers who can give the students different ideas and personal perspectives as well as helping with the practical aspects of creating a CV, artist’s statement, press packs about themselves and their work etc..
7.1 We encourage students to keep in touch with the course by making them honorary Friends in the year of graduation, through Linked in and by Instagram, Facebook and email.
7.2 We invite graduates back to speak with current students.
7.3 Through our contacts with other higher education venues we encourage students to look at appropriate courses for MAs.
7.4 We put graduates forward for work when we have the opportunity, subject to the areas in which the graduate wishes to work and them keeping in touch with the course team, examples of this include working for Haute Couture houses.
7.5 Through one of our Livery Company sponsors we recognise the work of one graduate each year and this has led to further work and other opportunities for the graduates selected.
7.6 Graduates are welcome to get in touch at any time and ask advice and guidance on future career development.
7.7 As we reach the tenth anniversary of offering a degree course in 2018-19 we will be inviting alumni to return and giving them opportunities to pass on their experiences to the current students to give them an idea of the range of areas their degree could take them into.
8.1 We work with our students and graduates to consider ways of widening access and participation and rely on students to help us to reach new audiences through recruitment fairs, workshops and other initiatives.
Evaluation and review
9.1 This document was approved by the RSN Council of Trustees in July 2018. The RSN will evaluate, review and revise this Access and Participation Statement as required, as part of the annual policy review.
10.1 As a small, niche higher education provider, the RSN is unable to increase its student numbers but through our outreach work, some with UCA, the ‘Embroider A Selfie’ schools programme and Open Days, our higher than average contact hours and personal support and bursaries we aim to broaden awareness of the course and the access to the RSN for potential applicants from areas where there is lower than average university enrolment.