Design Edu in US vs Europe.

Following up on my passion for Textile Design, I applied to 3 schools in the UK (Winchester School of Art (WSA)- Southampton univ, School of Textile and Design- Heriot Watt Univ and Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD)- UCE) and one in the US ie RISD for Masters in Textile Design beginning this fall. I’ve been accepted at them all. Incidently, I am a fashion designer based in India.

Much wohoos later, time’s come to decide which one to take up. The collective wisdom of my design school Profs, friends, myself included points toward RISD because of its faculty, course content, reputation, network, proximity to NY/Boston. It’s ace.

Given my limited financial resources, further studies abroad was anyday an expensive proposition, however, RISD is PROHIBITIVELY expensive. The school has offered TA but amounts to insignificant li’l peanuts. Scary doesn’t even begin to describe how taking a $ 80k loan feels like. My nightmares lately have been dollar tinted.

The UK state of funding is a bit of a breeze-
-Heriot watt, Scotand. I’ve won a scholarship that would fully fund education, living plus travel to Scotland. The school, an hour away from Edinburgh, is an 186 year old intitution.Scotland itself is steeped in textile history. Hearsay feedback- too far from London and the ‘real’ action.

WSA- partial funding- living and tuition for half of the program tenure. Advantage- An hour away from London, so one gets to see exhibitions, museums, fashion shows etc

BIAD, Birmingham- partial funding again.

A lot of people that I’ve spoken with also seem to think that for textiles Europe would be a far enriching experience than the US because of its textile traditions and contemporary fashion. Any takers?

How justified is taking up such a huge loan even if it is for one of the best schools in the world? How difficult it is for a textile grad to find employment in the US, or how well they get paid (before you know it, it’s payback time for the loan). Is it better to go to Scotland or to England or to the US? I find myself confronted with all of these question most of my waking hours. The sleep accounts have been given in the earlier paragraphs.

I’d welcome any insights regarding the issue.


Firstly, I am assuming that you are applying for masters programs.

No school on the planet is worth plunging yourself into 80k’s worth of debt, regardless of reputation, staff and location.

My advice to you and the many other students from asia and india who are contemplating studying in Europe and the US is DONT!, because it is terrible value for money.

I would recommend that you take a 40k loan, spend 5k of it on a research trip to Europe and the US exploring and recording all of the cultural hotspots with a good camera and a beautiful leather journal/ sketchbook. Then return to your homeland and with the remaining money start a textile business that draws on India’s wonderful textile heritage and great resources.

I think that you are in the right place at the right time because India is going to grow and grow and grow.

This is my slightly utopian flavored viewpoint which probably doesn’t help you much, but I hate seeing good people get ripped off by western schools.

unless your planning on a career in education the Masters is not more valuable than a 2nd bachelors.
While not as bad as the ‘fiber arts’ department RISD is generally not the place to go if you need job security right out of school, however, nearly everyone I knew in that pogram got jobs in industry designing upholstry or carpeting or curtains…no idea how well that gig pays.

As someone who has answered this very question on almost any given work day over the past three years, here are my 2 rupees worth :

both “no spec” and “guest” have valid points re: value of a masters and plunging into 80K of debt, however, here are a few things to think about -

  1. Where did you do your undergrad, i.e. name recognition, as you know, is important in India though not as much in Fashion design. So, do you want to work in India or get work experience elsewhere? If you wish to get global work experience, the investment at your age may be worthwhile as a door opener to being considered for jobs. In which case, RISD is the most portable brand has it has instant “design recognition”

  2. Why are you moving away from fashion design to textiles? If you are choosing this course based on availability and funding, hoping to move back into fashion, it may not be possible outside of india. Keep that in mind. If you wish to continue in Fashion, you may be better off applying for specific programs. If instead, you are selecting textiles because you wish to make a career change, then it makes sense to choose one of these programs.

  3. I disagree with the statement that “good people get ripped off at western schools” - disclaimer, I am Indian, I carry an Indian passport, and I was in a position (Graduate Admissions Director) to “rip people off”. The 80K of debt is an investment you make in a brand that you will carry with you with the rest of your life. For example, a Harvard MBA costs about 100K - so, I’m sure, does a top of the line Lambourghini or Ferrarri or what have you. Which investment has less depreciation value over your lifetime? That is something only you can answer, but were you to consider RISD, for all the other reasons, this maybe something to think about as the brand does have cachet as a “Design” school.

  4. Personally, I have ever only heard of Heriott Watt and then only through advertisements for their “european MBA” program all over The Economist. I have not heard of the rest of the schools you mention. While this statement may not carry weight otherwise, keep in mind that in my previous position, competitive intelligence regarding graduate design programs and their relative ranking was part of my job. When you are setting out to invest the next two to three years of your life in a degree which you will NOT be able to repeat, my recommendation is to go for the best. RISD is not easy to get admitted to, and that would be my suggestion.

  5. And no, I did not work for RISD :slight_smile:

  6. Post graduation job market : One can never predict the state of the market for any field, much less textile design, in the US, Scotland or UK. My suggestion would be to google for textile design jobs and see what comes up. I track industrial design and interaction mostly, and have not yet come across a textile design job opening, but that does not mean there are no opportunities. Do keep in mind however, that manufacturing is down in most of the developed world, and the type of openings, ironically which you would be able to use to your advantage, would likely be in major retail chains who would require someone to design and source textiles from India and other such regions where stuff gets imported from, notably China etc. In which case, the US would be a better market as it’s more open to imported workers, I have yet to hear of any ease in international student placement in England though again, I could be wrong. I have worked with many Indian students from small towns who have taken up loans in just such amounts. The school where I worked had annual tuition of $28885. Taking living expenses into account there’s a loan of 60K -80K right there.

Best of luck with your decision making

Niti Bhan

Ok, first off, don’t worry bout where you are in the UK, any city doing design should be close to a good industry and cultural diversity. London is NOT where its all at. The expense of living there is silly, and a degree at birmingham may not be quite as reputable but does offer extensive benfits, ie, cheaper living, learning and better social life.

University shouldnt just be about the course, and for that, I recommend anywhere but london (but hey, i think the place smells and is grimey and dont like the ppl in general). I’m at uni in coventry, which is very close to brum (birmingham) and life is good, uni is good and im learning well and for a relative bargain compared to friends in london.

So in all, its a dificult choice, but don’t write off any place until you have visited and seen and felt what it like.



Thanks for your insights. And a special hey to you.

Discovered that we attended the same school. (I graduated from the National Institute of Design specializing in Apparel Design in 2001).

I am looking at starting my own label in the long run. The decision to go in for masters in textiles is a conscious choice. Transcending styling the material to actually getting into designing its construction is what prompted me to take up masters in Textile design. I don’t think Masters in Textiles would necessarily imply a change in career for me, it would mean expanding my horizons. I want to specialize in constructed textiles. The application of this could be fashion as well as furnishings.

My chief concern in choosing RISD is the cost implication. Is it possible to pay back an 80k loan? It is interesting that you have drawn a parallel with an MBA from Harvard. From what I hear, those guys don’t find it terribly difficult to pay back their study loans thanks to the 100k (or higher) salaries they draw.

  1. Typically, what is the salary that someone with a RISD masters would draw?
  2. What are the chances of an Indian designer with a RISD degree landing a job in the US?