Art and Design in the UK

The United Kingdom has a tradition of art and design education which is many hundreds of years old, and based on this tradition, continues to offer a wide range of courses of the highest quality, in an environment which gives excellent support to every aspect of study.

Subjects and Levels of Study

Post-school art and design courses are offered in a range of subject areas, and at three levels. Foundation, Access and Diploma courses accept students directly from school or college at ages between 16 and 18. Degree and Honours Degree programmes accept students who already have Foundation or Diploma qualifications, and also accept the transfer of students into the second or third year of courses if they have appropriate diploma or higher diploma qualifications.

Further study is offered at post-graduate level, ranging from taught Masters degree programmes, through Masters by research, to Doctoral qualifications by research or practice, or a combination of the two. Foundation level courses are usually one year long, degree courses are usually three years in duration, and post-graduate programmes last between one and three years, depending on the qualification and subject. Many courses allow professional placement opportunities, and a variety of part-time and flexible learning possibilities exist.

Art and design education in Britain is remarkable for its diversity. Broad subject definitions include Design, Fine Art and History, and Theory of Art and Design. Design based courses are offered in a huge range of disciplines from craft based areas such as Furniture Design, Ceramics, Textile Design, and Silversmithing and Jewellery, through Fashion, Graphic Design, Product and Automotive Design, to areas such as design for Multi Media and the electronic environment, including digital graphics and animation. Fine Art provides courses ranging from those in traditional disciplines such as Painting, Sculpture and Printing, through courses concerned with Performance and Installation, and those which relate to lens-based and electronic media.

Courses in the History and Theory of Art and Design range from those dealing with Art History, through courses in Curatorship, Conservation and Museum Studies, and those which combine the study of theory with other practical subjects such as painting, or with study of other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology or history. Most courses contain vocational elements which assist graduates in progressing to appropriate professional destinations, though these elements range in type and delivery from simple business and professional study elements to specific subject-focused live projects.

British institutions are noted for the high quality of the resources provided for education. Courses are offered in specialist studios, workshops and lecture rooms, and the best of the facilities have excellent technical support, including Information Technology and Computer resources. Library and Learning Resource provision is also excellent, with many universities providing large new facilities which combine the storage of thousands of books and periodicals with the best of technology-based learning support and teaching aids. The staff resource is also first-class, with most teachers maintaining professional practice and research within their disciplines, as well as a teaching role. It is not unusual to be taught by staff who are internationally recognised specialists in their own field. The employment of large numbers of professional artists and designers on a part-time basis ensures that contemporary professional issues are brought directly to students in the normal course of their education.

The high quality educational resource is supported by a range of other facilities. Many towns and cities have excellent libraries, galleries, design agencies and specialist shops, and suppliers who provide excellent intellectual and practical resources to students of art and design. It is hard to imagine a better environment in which to study these subjects than a major UK city like London, Edinburgh or Liverpool, and most smaller towns and cities have both excellent resources of their own and ready access to larger centres.

Course Structure and Academic Quality Arrangements

Courses are usually structured within modular frameworks. In most cases credit is allocated to different levels of courses against a standard UK model of 120 credit points per year, and credit transfer and accreditation of previous learning (APL) mechanisms apply to facilitate transfer between courses.

A centrally important aspect of British Art and Design education is the collective commitment to quality. All courses are subject to rigorous validation procedures within the university or college, and these procedures and the courses themselves are subject to inspection by national quality agencies. This process of inspection and the extensive quality processes of the institutions assures high standards in all aspects of course experience.

Career Destinations

Art and Design courses lead to a variety of career destinations, most directly related to the course experience, though since the courses enhance creative and imaginative thinking, graduates move into many other commercial and professional environments. Huge international opportunities exist for British educated artists and designers, working as independent professional designers; within design agencies and corporations; within national and international art organisations, museums and galleries, and as teachers at all levels of education. British-trained Designers in all disciplines including Fashion, Product, Interiors, Graphics, Theatre, Model-making, Multi Media, Textiles and Three-Dimensional Design are sought after all over the world, and British graduates from Fine Art and other Art and Design disciplines have unparalleled influence in the visual arts, based on the high quality and professional relevance of their educational experience.

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