The UK fashion industry could benefit from a skills boost with London's Fashion Retail Academy (FRA) seeing applications for its courses, which include a focus on practical skills and technology, almost double.

New data published by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) shows a healthy increase in undergraduate applications for university and college courses in fashion.

The FRA, an industry-led college that offers vocational fashion courses combining academic knowledge with practical experience, has seen a huge spike in applications for its further and higher education courses compared to last year.

UCAS reveales 306,200 UK 18-year-olds have applied for university and college courses to start this autumn, an 11% increase compared to 2020.

The education system has been mauled by the pandemic, with students stranded in halls of residence, lectures and classes delivered remotely and students complaining about the return on investment provided by some institution, FRA says.

The crisis is expected to drive students away from longer-term commitments towards shorter courses that, in many cases, are more vocationally focused — and that appears to already be happening.

Despite this, last month the FRA revealed that the number of students applying for a February start on its 22-week Fast Track Buying & Merchandising course had leapt by over 100% since the last time the college was able to take an intake in spring 2019.

The FRA believes what the UK is seeing is a once-in-a-lifetime shift towards learning that helps get students into their chosen careers not only faster but with relevant, practical experience so essential for today's workplace.

"The student roll often expands in times of economic trouble and recession as people think better of entering the world of work but there's definitely an underlying shift towards courses that combine academic knowledge with practical experience, and don't present as much risk should the pandemic continue to sabotage face-to-face education," says Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy.