Fine Art MA - University of Sunderland

Course overview

This course is built around your personal interests and aspirations. It allows you to push the boundaries of creativity, within a framework of academic rigour and contextual research.

Given the strong practical element in the course, we invite applicants to share their portfolios and aspirations with us at interview stage. We are eager to explore how to develop each person’s individual interests and passions in Fine Art.

During the course, we encourage you to develop your personal practice through research, critiques, analysis and questioning. We also tackle issues that face Fine Art professionals, from fundraising to self-presentation, as part of boosting your employability.

At Masters level, the specialisms of tutors are an important factor. Sunderland’s research expertise includes painting, printmaking, studio-based drawing and collage, sculpture, collaborative practice, art in architecture, video and digital art.

By the end of the course, you will have prepared and participated in a public exhibition. Your work will form a Masters-level portfolio that excites and impresses potential clients, collaborators and employers.

Graduates from Sunderland have gone on to work throughout the creative industries. A Masters qualification not only opens doors in the workplace but also helps you progress more rapidly once your career is underway.

Staff and students talk about the experience and facilities designed for students from the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media:

Course content

Modules on this course include:

Fine Art 1 (60 Credits)

You will develop your own projects and approach, with support and critiques from Sunderland’s tutors. During this initial stage you will be working alongside students on MA Glass and MA Ceramics, in order to foster creativity and encourage the sharing of ideas. You will also undertake Critical Studies and directed learning in order to refine your theoretical understanding and skills.

Fine Art 2 (60 Credits)

You will continue to develop your personal practice through analysis, questioning and research. You will undertake projects which interlock with your interests and aspirations, and which are negotiated with your tutors. In addition, we address broad-based issues that face Fine Art professionals, from fundraising to self-presentation.

Fine Art 3 (60 Credits)

The focus of the final stage is a public exhibition, which involves intense work as you find a form for your ideas and work with other students on the exhibition’s logistical details. The preparation and presentation of work is a demanding and enriching experience that is potentially life-changing. You will support your practical work with a written report that records and reflects upon the progress of your work and ideas.

Teaching and assessment

Compared to an undergraduate course, you will find that this Masters requires a higher level of independent working. The course aims to stretch your creativity and maximise your sense of personal fulfilment.

We use a wide variety of teaching and learning methods which include lectures, seminars, critiques, workshops and practical demonstrations. These are supported by a range of guest speakers from diverse academic and industry backgrounds. You will also have high levels of contact with tutors who give regular feedback and support.

We organise field trips and visits to galleries and art events throughout the UK. Destinations include cities such as London, Edinburgh and Liverpool. There are also opportunities to visit international venues in places such as New York, Barcelona, Venice and Berlin.

Assessment methods include reports, essays, your portfolio of work and the final exhibition. Information about our policies relating to student experience and quality assurance processes can be found on the Academic Services website.

Facilities & location

The facilities at our Priestman Building include state-of-the-art teaching space, generous studio space and a fantastic Arts and Design Library.

Facilities include:

  • Workshops for wood, metal and printmaking
  • Project spaces
  • Student gallery
  • Digital studio with video, sound editing and screening facilities
  • Digital suites with open-access Apple Macs
  • Digital sewing and embroidery facilities

Arts and Design Library

Our Arts and Design Library has a specialist collection of over 120,000 books, CD-ROMs, videos, slides and one of the largest electronic information networks in the sector.
The experienced library team provide a high-quality service and are sensitive to the requirements and working methods of Arts and Design students.

Journals and research

We subscribe to a comprehensive range of print and electronic journals so you can access the most reliable and up-to-date articles. Some of the most important sources for your course include:

  • Art Full Text + Art Abstracts, which is a major resource for media and arts information
  • Design and Applied Arts Index, which covers journals featuring both new designers and the development of design and the applied arts since the mid-19th century
  • British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC), which provides resources for the production, study and use of film and related media
  • JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’), which provides access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences
  • Lexis, which provides access to legal information as well as full-text newspaper articles
  • Screen Online (BFI), which is an online encyclopaedia of British film and television, featuring clips from the vast collections of the BFI National Archive


Priestman Building

City Campus, Green Terrace,
Sunderland, SR1 3PZ

Entry requirements

We usually require applicants to hold an honours degree in Fine Art or related art and design disciplines. We will consider applicants from other fields, as well as those with professional experience in the creative industries, if their portfolio is suitable.

We ask applicants to present a portfolio of work. Your portfolio should demonstrate your skills and creativity through a collection of Fine Art-based work. This should be presented as original pieces, photographs or in digital form.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

If you feel you already know some of the topics covered in this course, either due to previous learning or from experience of work, then you may not need to study all of the course.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) is the name given to the process of gaining credit towards a qualification because of something you have learnt in the past. If you are eligible for APL you won't have to learn the same topic again, and so you can be exempt from a module, set of modules or year of a course. 

Read more about APL in the Quality Handbook (.pdf). If you think you may be eligible for APL, please contact the course leader.

Fees & finance

Postgraduate loans

From 2016/17, tuition fee loans will be available to UK/EU postgraduate students for the first time. Find out more about the eligibility criteria.


The annual fee for this course is:

  • £4,750 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £11,500 if you are an International student

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or International student, please see the International section of this website.

Employment & careers

Postgraduates are highly employable and, on average, earn more than individuals whose highest qualification is an undergraduate degree. On completing this course, you will be equipped for roles throughout the media and cultural industries, for example as a practitioner, curator or educator. Opportunities could include arts development, public arts projects, community art organisations, social and art therapy support units, galleries and festivals.

Recent Sunderland graduates have also set up their own creative businesses, undertaken commissions and exhibited their work regionally and nationally.

During the course we encourage you to gain industry experience which will enhance your skills, build up a valuable network of contacts and boost your employability. Past placements have included exhibition work in a range of public contexts such as galleries, schools and hospitals.

A Masters degree will also enhance career opportunities within Higher Education and prepare you for further postgraduate studies.

The Enterprise Place

If you have a good idea for a new business and have the dedication and motivation to make it happen, then we want to hear from you. The Enterprise Place, based on-campus at St Peter's Gate Business Centre, is the perfect environment for entrepreneurial students and graduates to turn their business ideas into reality. You will have access to free hot desk space, IT facilities, specialist advice and support and business mentors and networking opportunities.

To find out more about how we can help you start a business, please contact the University's Enterprise Team:

Tel: 0191 515 3751


Support for your learning

From the start of the course you will be allocated a Personal Tutor. You’ll meet your Personal Tutor at agreed times throughout your course. Personal Tutors encourage your personal development and are a useful point of contact for any queries about your course, extracurricular activities and issues where they can point you towards specialist services at the University. These include student counselling, financial advice and chaplaincy support.

Further support is provided by our technicians who help you make the most of the University’s equipment and software.

Support for your development

To help ensure the course is meeting aspirations for personal development, we invite students to fill in questionnaires at the end of modules. This provides a structured way for you to keep us up-to-date with your views.

During your course, and particularly towards the end of it, we encourage you to make full use of the resources at our Careers & Employability Service. The Service helps you explore your options, clarify your ideas, develop a career focus and make effective applications.

Extracurricular activities

The University supports student-led initiatives that enhance the extracurricular activities available to you. Some of these are related to particular subjects while others allow you to pursue interests and social activities. It’s all part of the vibrant and life-changing atmosphere at the University of Sunderland.

For more information about all the support services you will have access to as a Sunderland student, please see Student support and guidance.

"The continuous discussion and encouragement, from the staff, really helped me develop as an artist."

Jill Gibson

Jill Gibson - Graduate

Practicing artist

Fine Art graduate, Jill Gibson from Sheffield, set up her own studio-based practice after graduating from the MA course at Sunderland.

“I did some research to find out which course was best” said Jill. “I visited Sunderland to look at the facilities and after speaking to ex-students I decided it was the place for me.”

“The course enabled me to explore my own practice within a creative and diverse environment. It was good to have the opportunity to experiment - placing work in different spaces and contexts.

“The continuous discussion and encouragement, from the staff, really helped me develop as an artist.

“The course also offered a specific component – critical thinking, which gave me the confidence to both question and relate my work in a historical context. I was also fortunate to meet like-minded artists with whom I have maintained friendships and working relationships with.

“Since graduating I have set up my own studio-based practice in the North East. I have also curated my first exhibition and recently shown work in London, Cardiff and Margate.”

Student work

Jill Gibson graduated in 2013 with a distinction in MA Fine Art. Since then Jill has continued to expand her new studio space at Cullercoats, joining a vibrant studio complex initiated by past MA students, which was established on the MA course as part of the professional practice module.

In 2014 Jill curated a notable exhibition of 10 artists called Dirty Pretty Things highlighting 'a dialogue that considers the Domestic: feminism, ageing, loss, sexuality and eroticism'. It included a catalogue and dedicated website. It was covered by the international press (Huffington Post via Priscilla Frank ) and picked up by prominent female writers, including Kate Mosse.

Aerobics - 'Reaching for the Palma Violets' by Jill Gibson


'Elegance of Odema' by Jill Gibson

'Elegance of Odema' by Jill Gibson MA Fine Art

Apply for this course

To apply for this course use the relevant link below.

    Next Open Day

  • Date: Thursday 16th February 2017
  • Time: 2:00pm-7:00pm
  • Type: University Open Day
  • Location: Gateway, City Campus, University of Sunderland

Contact Sunderland

For more information, contact the Programme Leader:

James Hutchinson
Tel: 0191 515 2004

Read more about some of the staff that would teach you on the MA Fine Art course:

For more general information, contact:

Tel: 0191 515 3000

Social media: To see what events we run and to ask a question about this course, contact the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media on Facebook and Twitter.

Programme Starts  
Monday 16th October 2017 Apply now

The details

Course Name Fine Art
Classification MA
Course Mode Full-time
Course Level Postgraduate
Duration 1 year - 45 weeks
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 16 October 2017
UK/EU Fee £4750
Intl Fee £11500

Entry requirements

Honours degree in Fine Art or related art and design disciplines

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