Employer stories: Film and television companies with University Centre Leeds

University Centre Leeds’ partnerships with media industry partners – including ITV, BFI and Prime Studios – ensure their BA (Hons) Fashion, Theatrical and Media Hair and Make-Up students are experienced and confident in how to be effective in the workplace by the time they graduate.

Students at University Centre Leeds engage with leading industry partners, through workshops, guest lectures, work experience opportunities, live briefs, and mentoring.

The academic team who lead the Creative Hair and Media Makeup course at University Centre Leeds have a long-standing commitment to student progression and employability. Their significant experience of working collaboratively with employers, industry representatives and relevant partners, and their passion for students to receive extensive early exposure to industry professionals and work-related learning, means that their programmes provide industry-ready graduates.

The team collaborate with partners such as the National Film and Television School, British Film Institute, ScreenSkills, Prime Studios, ITV, Screen Yorkshire, and various freelancers from the film and television industry.

Prime Studio

Students have interactions with industry professionals throughout their time at University Centre Leeds, including weekly training at the UC Leeds’ partner television studio, Prime Studio, where students develop professional skills and have networking opportunities.

Regular speakers on the programme include:

  • a hairstylist, and finalist at Best Hair 2021, who has 16 years of knowledge and experience including working for London Fashion Week shows; big brand commercials; Wella; L’Oréal; Cloud 9; and as celebrity stylist for Nicole Scherzinger
  • a make-up artist with experience working on productions such as Peaky Blinders, Marcella, Solis, Overshadowed, Gloves Off, and Jericho.

They act as guest speakers and mentors, but also provide students the opportunity to go on-set, which is a fantastic opportunity to observe real-life industry practice.

The success of the industry collaboration programme has led to it being extended to support graduates following the completion of their degree. The Graduate Scheme builds on the extensive collaborative working relationships; creating a unique and effective programme that supports graduates in their transition from student to graduate employment. This has also led to the development of the first UK Film and Television Hair and Makeup Craft Certificate , included as part of the Graduate Scheme to ensure students undertake degrees and graduate schemes that are fit for purpose, meets industry needs, and best prepare graduates for graduate employment within the industry.

Further impact of this collaboration is in Screen Yorkshire’s establishment of a Connected Campus for Colleges  Group, which extends the original Connected Campus Group (involving ten of the region’s universities, working in collaboration with broadcasters, independent production companies, and skilled freelancers). Screen Yorkshire’s initiative aims to make the creative industries more accessible to young people in the region, equipping them for the demands of the rapidly-changing industry by enhancing their skills and boosting their employment prospects, through building stronger and more proactive links between colleges and the TV and film sector.

The four founding members of the group include University Centre Leeds, Wakefield College, Bradford School of Art, and York College University Centre, with more expected to join. Each member will receive a wide variety of boot camps and special events related to all aspects of television and film production, with industry professionals from a range of disciplines delivering masterclasses and workshops to bring students up to date with the rapidly fluctuating developments in the screen industries, and industry’s most urgent needs. Head of Relationships, Channel 4’s Nations & Regions, supports the initiative, and the positive impact it can have in challenging underrepresentation and diversity:

“The Connected Campus for Colleges provides a great opportunity to engage with young people across the region, including those who might never have thought a career in broadcasting was within reach”.

Kevin Blacoe, Head of Relationships, Channel 4’s Nations & Regions, based in Leeds

The programme is the most over-subscribed course within the institution’s higher education (HE) provision, performing well in access to HE for those from underrepresented groups. Support for students from underrepresented groups continues from access to progression and graduate employability, and their approach promotes students’ employability; challenging underrepresentation within screen industries.

This programme performs well in access to HE for those from underrepresented groups; the most recently graduating student cohort comprising:

  • 50% from IMD quintile 1 or 2;
  • 34.6% with a learning difficulty or disability;
  • 23.1% from Black, Asian or minority ethnic groups;
  • 19.2% over the age of 21 when they started at L4 / Yr1.

Many students progress internally from the College’s FE Level 3 provision, and a high number are first in family to enrol on HE. Support continues from access to graduate employment; promoting employability and challenging underrepresentation within screen industries. ECU (2010, p.6) identified that work placements for HE students are particularly important in the arts and cultural sector, but that some groups (disabled students, BAME students, those with caring responsibilities and students from disadvantaged backgrounds) face significant barriers to accessing and benefiting from work placements and industry networks. The approach here takes positive action to address this through early, and continued, experiences and links to industry professionals.

Impact on retention and progression of students has been clear with motivation, engagement, and employability increasing as a result. In the last academic year, all Level 4 students passed their first year and continued on to Level 5. Level 5 retention was 100%, 6% above target, and Level 5 achievement was 96%, 4% above target.  58.7% achieved a Merit or Distinction for their Foundation Degree. Level 6 retention rate was 96% (3% above target) and the achievement was 92% (3% above target).  Of these, 79.2% achieved a 1st or 2:1 degree classification on their BA (Hons). Graduate destinations include; 66.7% as makeup related professionals within the industry, including freelance artists; 8.3% on PGCE courses; and 4.2% on Masters. Students have secured roles on a number of productions including blockbuster films, such as Maleficent and one starring Kiera Knightly.