Art and Design Education in the UK

by David Girling, Marketing Officer, The Norwich University School of the Arts, Norfolk, UK

The UK has over 1000 courses to offer in Art and Design. Whether you want to study film, fashion, fine art, graphic design, textiles, cultural studies etc., you can be sure to find the education you require here. The UK system of art education has a world-wide reputation for excellence, and students come to study in Britain from all over the world.

Foundation Courses

Art and design education starts with the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) Foundation Course in Art and Design which is an intensive one-year program of full-time study primarily designed for those students who intend making application to higher education.

Although these courses are recognised as an access route and preparation for higher education entry they also act as a diagnostic experience enabling students to apply and transfer skills to a wider range of career pathways.

The courses provide an initial introduction to visual problem solving relating to a comprehensive range of disciplines inclusive of two-dimensional, three-dimensional and Fine Art practice. Drawing and Theoretical Studies are seen as intrinsic elements throughout the year. After the initial confirmatory stages student are able to focus on a specific area of practice.

For overseas students wishing to study at Foundation level, you should generally contact the college itself for an application form. Interviews are often held during January to March, so it is wise to get applications to the college of your choice before the Christmas period.

There are over 200 Foundation courses in institutes in the UK.

Higher Education

The Higher National Diplomas (HND) and Bachelors degrees are where you can start to specialise in the area of art and design you feel you would like to study. In the years gone by there have been considerable changes in the way art and design is taught in the UK. Previously there were many independent 'Art Schools'. These have mainly been absorbed into faculties or schools within universities; however, a handful of specialist art schools do remain.

Applications for higher education are dealt with via the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) which is a centralised system that deals with all applications for HND and first degrees (Bachelors).

Application forms can be obtained at the UCAS web site.

Postgraduate Education

Generally a first degree is required to embark on a Postgraduate degree. Courses offered include PGCert, PG Dip, MA, MPhil and PhD level. Applications should be made directly to the institution.

Interviews and Portfolios

The portfolio in art and design is essential. A good portfolio should include course work, personal work, sketchbooks, notebooks, any recent written work, and evidence of previous education. For overseas students the interview may be replaced by a submission of slides and written work, this should usually be arranged before the January of the year you wish to start. Once you have decided on a particular institute you should contact them directly to find out their specific procedures. Students are expected to be able to demonstrate a working ability in the English language.

*Norwich University School of the Arts was formerly known as Norwich School of Art & Design

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