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MSc/Diploma Ethics in Fashion (Communication, Consumerism and Sustainability)

Course Description


Over recent decades the fashion and textile industries has been making changes; responding to enviromental and social needs; publishing corporate social reports and working with industry bodies and NGOs. Yet the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013 was tragedy for the workers, their families, the country and the industries, and an imperative for new thinking, new practice, and fresh ethics. It is a horrific milestone for fashion manufacture, communication, consumer awareness and industry responsibilities. The industries are now reaching out to governments, NGOs, charities, unions and radical thinkers for advice and support. They are accountable for their current and future ethics. Without doubt it is time for change in which education is a crucial contributor to the new solutions, and alternative futures for the industries.

The new MSc Ethics in Fashion (See http://www.postgraduate.hw.ac.uk/prog/msc-ethics-in-fashion/ ) is a research led, taught programme, focussed on analysing and understanding the industry, whilst mapping the changes in practice, monitoring the voices and diversity of stakeholders in the supply-chain. The programme offers a chance for ethically aware graduates and established professionals to refresh and extend their knowledge and skillset. An escalating need for an Ethics in Fashion programme has been identified, and Heriot-Watt University is in a unique position with subject specific research faculty, global industry links, outstanding fashion and textiles facilities and an enviable pastoral location, with strong transport connections.

"A Masters of Science on Ethics in Fashion is exactly what was missing in fashion education. Sustainability and ethics are key issues for this industry. Those who are not able respect people and the environment in their supply chain cannot stay in the sector for long. Today, all major players have a CSR officer integrated in their business, a profile that didn’t exist until a few years ago. Having this MSc is a true work of innovation." Simone Cipriani, Head, ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (United Nations)

Our students

The taught programme has been created for those wanting to work, or already working in the fashion and textiles industries, in design, sourcing management, buying, journalism and corporate affairs. The qualification provides a set of fresh perspectives and insights for an existing first degree qualification, or relevant experience in any of the above areas or similar for those wanting to be part of the dynamic changing industries. The School of Textiles and Design, and the research staff have strong global industry and NGO links in design, corporate social responsibility reporting and corporate affairs, social enterprise. In addition teaching staff are Fellows of the Fellowship of 500, in the Ethical Fashion Forum. There are both courses, and research opportunities to work with local and international industry.

The programme has been designed to utilise selected core postgraduate courses offered within the School and introducing courses specific to Ethics in Fashion, thus encouraging inter-disciplinary participation and discourse, and membership of the a growing research community.

"There is a growing demand from consumers that the clothes they choose to wear haven’t been produced in sweatshops. Tragedies such as the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh have only heightened public concern. This is why it is critical that fashion colleges and universities are incorporating ethics into their programs of work. Ethical sourcing is increasingly becoming the norm for the clothing & footwear industry and we see this only growing in the future." Simon McRae, National Manager, Ethical Clothing Australia


- Analyse the ethics in supply-chain practice
- Speculate on, and develop, effective methods of communicating ethics
- Identify and map outcomes and consequences of unethical and ethical practice
- Speculate and apply new criteria within the supply-chain
- Analyse the motivations and roles of consumers in the ethics discourse and practice
- Identify best practice models across the traditional fashion and textiles industries, social enterprise and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
- Research independently the role of ethics in fashion practice and theory


Students are assessed through a combination of individual and group written course work, and projects and the Masters dissertation. Emphasis is placed on rigorous academic standards as well as acquiring and developing a range of transferable industry skills and individual development. Assessment exercises can therefore include making effective visual and oral presentations, writing reports and as well as team and group work.

How to apply

Applications are made by submitting a completed application form to the Postgraduate Office at the Edinburgh Campus. Additionally, before our final decision can be given, applicants will be asked to supply documentation to provide proof of academic background and suitability as a candidate:
- A copy of your degree(s) certificates and relevant transcripts
- A portfolio of past work where appropriate and/or evidence of relevant work experience
- Proof of having being awarded a first degree(s)
- Proof of your ability in the English language if this is not your mother tongue
- Proof of how your tuition fee and personal maintenance costs are to be met
- Two academic referees

For full details about our application process including relevant forms and guidance notes, please contact us or visit our website http://www.hw.ac.uk/schools/textiles-design/

English language requirements

If your first language is not English, or your first degree was not taught in English, we’ll need to see evidence of your English language ability. The minimum requirement for English language is IELTS 6.5 or equivalent. Pre-sessional English courses (See http://www.hw.ac.uk/study/english.htm ) are available for applicants at the Edinburgh Campus to improve on English language usage and study skills. Please note that completion of pre-sessional courses are not a guarantee of admittance.
- 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
- 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
- 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)

Find information on Fees and Scholarships here http://www.postgraduate.hw.ac.uk/prog/msc-ethics-in-fashion/

Visit the MSc/Diploma Ethics in Fashion (Communication, Consumerism and Sustainability) page on the Heriot-Watt University website for more details!

Entry Requirements

Attracting applicants from art and design backgrounds and resulting in a design collection.You should hold a good (first or second class) Honours degree or its non-UK equivalent in a relevant subject from a recognised British or Overseas University. In addition, work or project experience in a related company role will be taken into consideration as part of the application process.

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