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Choosing an art course

Want to study art after you leave school, but unsure about which course is right for you? Read our guide to put yourself in the picture.

‘Art and design’ is often taught as one subject at school, but things become a little bit more complicated if you want to study it after you’re 16, so it’s important to think about what types of art you enjoy and the kind of job you want to do. Although there can be quite a lot of crossover between the two, most art courses will focus on either ‘art’ (sometimes called ‘fine art’) or ‘art and design’.

What’s the difference?

  • Fine art teaches skills for students who want to produce their own works of art, whether that’s paintings, ceramics, photography, digital or many other things.
  • Art and design is more for people who want to use their artistic skills for things like graphic design, creating branding materials for companies, for example.

Whichever of these two routes you choose, most courses involve both producing practical work and studying theory. However, if you’re more interested in the academic study of art rather than making it yourself, you can also do history of art or art theory as a separate subject. This would be useful for people who want to work in an art gallery or museum.

What courses are available?

You can study for art or art and design qualifications at a number of different levels including:

Make sure you research what exactly the course covers before you make your choice. In some cases, you might study a general ‘art’ or ‘art and design’ course where you will learn a variety of different art skills and practices for the first part of the course, and then specialise later. Other courses will focus on one area.

Many further education colleges offer different types of art qualification. If you want to continue studying art into higher education, some universities offer fine art, art and design or history of art as undergraduate degree courses, which can be studied either as a separate subject or as a joint honours degree with something like English literature or psychology.

There are also a number of dedicated arts schools and colleges in the UK. These tend to have a wider range of specialist arts degrees – such as BA Pottery or BA Fine Art Painting – than other colleges and universities. Many dedicated art schools also offer foundation diplomas and other further education qualifications.

How do I get on an art course?

The entry requirements will depend on the level of qualification you’re going for. However, to study an undergraduate art degree at an art school or university, you will normally be expected to have a relevant further education qualification and at least 3 A to C grades (including English and art) at GCSE or equivalent. You will also need a portfolio of work you’ve already produced which will be assessed before you can be accepted on the course.

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