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Art and Design Foundation Diploma - University of Sunderland

Course overview

This one-year course helps to develop your core skills and critical thinking and gives students experience of the possible routes within Art and Design. Midway through students specialise in an area they would like to pursue at degree level. Students are helped to access the best course for them, whether that is here or elsewhere.

This course has been rated 'Outstanding' by Ofsted.

The course is free for school-leavers aged 18 at the start of the course. If you will be 19 or above, please apply for Art and Design Extended. This is exactly the same course in terms of content and timetable; the difference is in the funding arrangements.

 Work placement JAN 2016‌The course is split into three stages. First, you will try exciting short projects in different pathways including: fine art, animation, visual communication, glass and ceramics, 3D design, fashion and textiles, and lens-based media. The focus will be on developing practical studio skills and a broad understanding of the creative process.

Secondly, you will choose one of these pathways and undertake longer and more developed project work. You are given opportunities to exhibit your work as well as support in constructing portfolios and blogs to showcase your own work and research.

Finally, you will pick a theme for your Final Major Project and develop it over nine weeks. This allows you to build on everything you have learned as well as establishing personal interests and processes within the specialism that you will continue to study at degree level.

Successful completion of the course leads to an automatic place on an honours degree at Sunderland.

Work experience

All students studying on-campus foundation Art and Design courses can take up a CV-enhancing work placement, a University-led industry initiative, or a professional and business development boot camp. *By the term placement, we mean we are offering you a taste of the industry which might last anything from two days to four weeks on a part-time basis. 

Course content

Modules on this course include:

Stage 1 - Exploratory Stage (Rotations)

You will explore different ways of working and a range of pathways including:

  • Fine Art
  • Animation
  • Visual Communication
  • Glass and Ceramics
  • 3D Design
  • Fashion and Textiles
  • Lens Based Media

Stage 2 - Pathway Stage

You will choose an area you would like to pursue at degree level in response to the pathways you have experienced. You will develop your knowledge of the creative process, skills in critical thinking and experience of interpreting set projects. At the same time you will develop a portfolio and blog to help present your work and research in a professional manner.

If students choose to apply outside the university, help is given with the UCAS process. Students often gain experience with live projects or work experience in exhibitions and art events. Every year there are several study visits, including one overseas trip to help inspire your own studies.

Stage 3 - Confirmatory Stage

Based on your experiences so far, you will develop your own project within your chosen pathway. The academic team will encourage you further to develop the independent study skills that are necessary for degree level study.

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods include practical studio-based work, supported by lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials. Experienced tutors will give regular feedback and support as your work progresses.

The Final Major Project is assessed to give your final grade, encouraging experimentation at all of the earlier stages of the course.

To find out more about modules, credits and how you will be assessed, please see the page how courses are taught. Information about our policies relating to student experience and quality assurance processes can be found on the Academic Services website.

Facilities & location

The University of Sunderland provides excellent facilities, and we are no.1 in the North East for spend per student in Arts and Design, according to The Guardian University Guide 2015.

Our facilities include:

  • Workshops for wood, metal and printmaking
  • Large studio spaces
  • Project spaces
  • Digital studios with video, sound editing and screening facilities
  • Several suites of Apple Macs
  • Large format digital printing
  • Arts and Design Library
  • Digital sewing and embroidery facilities
  • Cameras and darkrooms
  • Photography studios
  • Mould-making and glaze workshops
  • Glass and ceramic kilns
  • Hot glass workshop
  • Two cold working studios for glass (sandblasting, cutting, grinding and polishing)
  • Architectural glass studio

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.

Students are helped to develop their research skills working with lecturers and library staff to develop their awareness of art history as well as contemporary art and design and the wider contexts of the subjects.

Course location

The course is based in National Glass Centre, which is on the banks of the River Wear and less than a mile from the seaside. It is a key driver of Sunderland’s reputation as a world-class centre of excellence in the teaching of glass. It offers excellent, newly developed studio space for students and it is close to the University’s Design Centre and our other facilities linked to Arts and Design.

Entry requirements

Our typical offer is 32 UCAS points from a minimum of one A Levels or equivalent (e.g. 1 x AVCE double award). Read more on the new UCAS Tariff point system for 2017.

We accept a maximum of 6 points from Level 3 Key Skills qualifications.

There is usually a requirement for three passes at GCSE grade C or above, which must include Mathematics and English Language, or a minimum of Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If necessary, these qualifications can be achieved during the foundation course.

If English is your second language, we require a minimum of IELTS 6.0 (or equivalent).

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age on 31st December on year of entry.

Other acceptable qualifications

BTEC National: 32 points from a BTEC Certificate or Diploma.

Access Courses: We would require successful completion of an Access to Higher Education course that is accredited by the Quality Assurance Agency. We would also require a minimum of grade C in GCSE in Mathematics and English Language or the equivalent as part of your course.

Scottish Highers: Our typical offer is for 32 points.

Irish Leaving Certificate: Our typical offer is for 32 points.

International qualifications: Please call the Student Helpline for advice on other acceptable qualifications. The number from outside the UK is +44 191 515 3000.

Any other qualifications: If you have any other qualifications not listed here, you may still be eligible. Please contact the Student Helpline for advice: 0191 515 3000.

Returners to Learning: If you are a mature student, you may benefit from our dedicated Returners to Learning Progression Scheme. For further information email or call the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

If you wish to be considered for direct entry to a different year of a course, please contact the Student Helpline: 0191 515 3000.

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.

Portfolio requirements

We ask applicants to prepare a portfolio of work, which should be organised and accompanied by preparatory work. Sketchbooks are an important feature of your preparatory work and should be included. Where possible, 3D and large 2D work should be photographed. Digital and screen-based work should be printed if at all possible or saved on a CD or memory stick.

If you are an international applicant, please supply your portfolio on a CD.

Suitable items for a portfolio include:

  • Drawing: examples of observed drawing and exploratory drawing
  • Projects: evidence of project work including sketchbooks and development work
  • Self-initiated work: that you have done out of personal interest
  • Research: examples of various forms of investigation undertaken for projects

Fees & finance

This course is free for school-leavers aged 18 at the start of the course. If you will be 19 or above, please apply for the Art and Design Extended. This is exactly the same course in terms of content and timetable; the difference is in the funding arrangements.

Employment & careers

Most students progress from our foundation course to an honours degree. If you wish to continue to study at the University of Sunderland, you can choose from our range of courses in:

  • Fine Art
  • Fashion
  • Graphic Design
  • Illustration
  • Multimedia
  • Animation
  • Glass and Ceramics
  • Photography, Video and Digital Imaging

Although you are guaranteed a place at Sunderland if you complete the course successfully, you may also choose to apply to other universities. Results at Sunderland are way above the national average, students from foundation at Sunderland regularly gain offers from the most competitive art and design courses in the country.


Support for your learning

You can expect stimulating contact time with our experienced tutors, many of whom are well-regarded artists and designers in their own right. If you have queries or difficulties, you can book an appointment with a tutor to gain more in-depth support and guidance.

Further support for Arts and Design students is provided by our technicians. They offer support help you make the most of the University’s excellent facilities.

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 tutors and staff on the course really encourage you to find where your artistic future lies."

Matthew Burdis Art and Design case study

Matthew Burdis

Art and Design Foundation Year

Foundation studies at Sunderland opened up a whole new artistic world of video and multi-media for Matthew Burdis.

Now Matthew is studying at Chelsea College of Art and Design and working on his first short film after winning funding from the Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon Artist Moving Image (CCW AMI) Fund.

Matthew said: “The foundation course helped unlock my direction in multi-media art. I studied art at A Level but was not really sure if it was what I wanted to do.

“Originally I was going planning to study literature but in my last year of Sixth Form I started to be drawn more into my fine art studies and decided to do the foundation course to see what direction it would take me in. 

“The course was great in that it gave me a deeper insight into the different mediums of art and also how wide-ranging fine art really is. I was dabbling with video and recording before the course as a hobby but once I started studying it, my attention was grabbed.

“The tutors and staff on the course really encourage you to find where your artistic future lies without pushing you into one area.

“As a foundation student I really felt part of a tight-knit community where staff and technicians are really friendly and approachable. It’s a great set-up and really well organised too.”

"Sunderland had a good vibe to it and I was struck by the high standard of the facilities."

Imogen Aitchison Art and Design Foundation Year

Imogen Aitchison

Art and Design Foundation Year

Imogen Aitchison is studying for a career in the corporate world of communication and design after finding her way at Sunderland.

Imogen said: “Like a lot of young artists I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I was originally going to do illustration but decided on the Foundation course to get more experience and help me make more of an informed choice.

“I applied to a few places but Sunderland had a better vibe to it and I was struck by the high standard of the facilities when I visited from my hometown of Berwick.

“The course itself really opened my eyes to a range of disciplines and showed me how I could take an interest in illustration on to a course that has a career path ahead of it.

“I’m now using video and design skills that I picked up on Foundation as I work towards a degree in Communication and Design which is a mix of illustration, graphics, photography and video.

“The Foundation course also gave me a real confidence boost. The tutors and staff are really friendly and supportive. I was encouraged all the way to develop as an individual and given help to put together a portfolio that helped me win a place at Glasgow School of Art.

“We also got to visit a range of art galleries and even went on a trip to Italy to see the annual Venice Art Exhibition, which was amazing.”

"Sunderland really excels at developing you as an individual artist."

Emily Parker case study image Art and Design Foundation Year

Emily Parker

Art and Design Foundation Year

Studying at Sunderland steered Foundation student Emily Parker into the world of fashion.

Budding artist Emily started at Sunderland thinking she would go on to study Fine Art, but the creative and wide-ranging course set her off on a different path.

“I was very impressed with the Foundation course at Sunderland when I was looking around and comparing colleges, and particularly liked the idea of learning in a university environment.

“I really loved the course – I didn’t realise how intensive it was going to be, but that was a great thing as it really stretches you and makes you more creative while introducing you to a whole range of subjects you might not have even considered before.

“My experiences have taught me that Sunderland really excels at developing you as an individual artist. The tutors are all very friendly and approachable and as they are experts in a wide range of subjects, they help everyone develop and find their area of creativity and produce vibrant portfolios.

“Once I started the fashion part of the course I realised that was what I wanted to do at degree level.

“I am now studying a Fashion Degree that combines illustration and production, with marketing, promotion and journalism which could open up a wide range of career options for me.

“Studying the Foundation course at the University of Sunderland definitely opened up a whole new world of possibilities to me and steered me in a completely different direction.”

Apply for this course

Want to know more about this course or the University of Sunderland? Download your personalised prospectus or come to our next Open Day to see the facilities and talk to academic staff:

    Next Open Day

  • Date: Thursday 23rd February 2017
  • Time: 3:00pm-8:00pm
  • Type: University Open Day
  • Location: Science Complex, City Campus, Sunderland SR1 3SD

Contact Sunderland

Contact the Course Leader for specific questions about the course:

Joe Woodhouse
Tel: 0191 515 3189

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.

Contact the Student Helpline for further information about studying at the University of Sunderland:

Tel: 0191 515 3000

Programme Starts  
Monday 18th September 2017 Apply now

The details

Course Name Art and Design
Classification Foundation Diploma
Course Mode Full-time
Course Level Foundation
Duration 1 year
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 18 September 2017
UK/EU Fee £See entry requirements page
Intl Fee £See entry requirements page

Entry requirements

32 points

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