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Fine Art BA (Hons) - University of Sunderland

Course overview

Students on our Fine Art course benefit from generous studio space, well-equipped workshops for wood, metal and printmaking, and project spaces and digital studios.

We also offer a first-rate team of academic staff. Many of them exhibit in national and international galleries and take on commissions in the private and public sectors. They are closely linked into the North East arts infrastructure, which includes the Baltic, MIMA and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.‌ Work placement JAN 2016

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF), the University was recognised as carrying out some 'world-leading' research in Arts and Design. Wherever relevant, this research is fed directly into degree courses such as the Fine Art course. 

Work experience

All students studying on-campus undergraduate Fine Art 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.

Outstanding facilities

Another particular strength of Sunderland is our specialist Arts and Design library. This contains over 120,000 books and folio resources. According to the National Student Survey 2013, Fine Art at Sunderland has been ranked best in the North East for Teaching Quality and Academic Support.

Sunderland is No.1 in the North East for spend per student in Arts and Design, according to The Guardian University Guide 2014.

During the first year of the course, you will experience a range of working methods. You can then specialise or continue to work across several media. Whatever pathway you choose, you will find that this course expands your critical understanding of Fine Art and you will develop your intellectual, creative and technical abilities.

Final year students from the BA (Hons) Fine Art course show their work at the University of Sunderland Degree Show: 

This video shows our students enjoying a wide variety of Arts, Design and Media courses:

Course content

Year 1 (national level 4)

Fine Art Media Skills (40 Credits)

Take an introductory look at a range of basic fine art ideas, principles and working methods in painting, printmaking, sculpture and digital media.

History of Art (20 Credits)

Learn about some of the major art movements from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Fine Art Practice (40 Credits)

Get an introduction to a range of fundamental fine art working methods in terms of idea development, and ways of collecting, researching and processing information. 


Plus a drawing module or one optional module related to Arts and Design (for example, photography) or from another area (for example, a foreign language).

Year 2 (national level 5)

Fine Art Methodology (40 Credits)

Produce your own visual work, consider your own thinking and working methods, and achieve a better understanding of a personal methodology as a basis for future creative development.

Fine Art Contemporary Practice (40 Credits)

Define a critique appropriate to the development of studio work. Further examine and challenge a range of practical and theoretical issues relevant to contemporary fine art practice.

Fine Art Professional Practice II (40 Credits)

Learn about the context within which you work, and understand the variety of options available to the practicing artist. 

Final Year (national level 6)

Fine Art Professional Practice III (40 Credits)

Produce a body of studio work alongside a reflective and analytical portfolio in an “art book” form.

Exhibition (60 Credits)

Pursue an individual programme of work for your final exhibition, selecting from drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture or new media.

Dissertation (20 Credits)

Engage with and explain a subject derived from visual culture in a self-directed project. 

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods include feedback on practical studio-based work, supported by lectures, seminars, workshops and independent learning. You will have your own studio space which facilitates reflection on work and peer evaluation. Tutors will give regular feedback as your work progresses. In addition, critique sessions encourage you to analyse work created by yourself and others.

Assessment methods vary between modules. They include studio presentations, course work, essays and exhibitions. The Degree Show in the final year is open to the public.

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.

Support for your learning

You can expect stimulating contact time with our experienced tutors, many of whom are well-regarded artists and all are involved in their own practice. There is also a significant amount of time where you will be researching on your own and developing independent ideas. If you have queries or difficulties, you can book an appointment with your tutor to gain more in-depth support and guidance.

From the start of the course you will be allocated a Personal Tutor. You’ll meet your Tutor at agreed times throughout each year of the course. Personal Tutors encourage your personal development and are a useful point of contact for any queries about your course.

Further support for Arts & Design students is provided by our technicians. They offer support and back-up as you develop your Fine Art professional practice.

Part-time study

Part-time students study the same course as full-time students, just over a longer period of time. If you study this course on a part-time basis you will typically complete 40-80 credits in a year, rather than the 120 credits of full-time students. All modules are taught during the daytime, and you will be studying alongside full-time students.

Key Information Sets

All UK Universities and colleges display Key Information Sets (KIS) on their undergraduate courses. The KIS gives you a quick overview of some standard information about a course and has a link to more detailed information on Unistats.

Facilities & location

This course is based at the Priestman Building on City Campus, just a few minutes from the main Murray Library and close to Sunderland city centre. Thanks to a major renovation programme, the Priestman Building provides state-of-the-art teaching space and resources as part of a vibrant and outward-looking learning environment.

The University has invested in modern facilities that include 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

Our typical offer is 112 UCAS points from a minimum of two 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.

We also require 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 English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

If you are studying a HND or Foundation Degree you may be able to enter onto the final year of our degree courses. For more information, please contact

Other acceptable qualifications

BTEC National: 112 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 112 points.

Irish Leaving Certificate: Our typical offer is for 112 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 simply mounted 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 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 in the area of fine art, together with your 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
  • Writing: examples of reports, essays or journals

Fees & finance

Full-time fees

The annual fee for this course is:

  • £9,250 if you are from the UK / EU
  • £10,750 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.

Scholarships and bursaries may be available to you – please see the Fees and Finance section of this website for more information.

Part-time fees

Tuition fees for part-time students are £4,880 per 120 Credits. 

Please note that part-time courses are not available to international students who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Scholarships and bursaries may be available to you – please see the Fees and Finance section of this website for more information.

Employment & careers

The BA (Hons) Fine Art is not only an opportunity for self-development and personal expression; it also equips you with a range of transferable skills. It is all about creativity, communication and analysis. There is huge scope for demonstrating personal initiative as well as developing effective approaches to group-working.

To enhance employability, we encourage you to develop a Professional Portfolio throughout your time at the University. This includes an on-line art blog and art book documentation publication of your work, with an artist statement and a CV.

Possible destinations for Fine Art graduates include public arts, curating and other areas within the creative industries. Some of our former students are now seeing their work appear in commercial galleries. Others have gone on to work in museums, galleries and many different types of employment and self-employment. A number have chosen to progress to postgraduate courses such as our well-regarded Masters Fine Art course. 


The University of Sunderland is committed to ensuring that every student has an impressive range of opportunities to enhance their CV and gain valuable experience: 

  • Work placements
  • Graduate internships
  • Studying abroad
  • Student Ambassador Scheme
  • Mentoring
  • Starting your own business
  • Student jobs and volunteering
  • Careers advice

For more information, visit:

Placements and visits

You will have opportunities to apply for internships, placements and live projects where you will work alongside professional artists. You can also participate in visits to arts venues across the UK and internationally, including in cities such as Barcelona, Berlin, New York, Dublin and Amsterdam.

Guest speakers

Through our strong links within the arts world we are able to attract a range of visiting artists. These have included: Kate Liston, Axel Lapp, Anthony Faroux, Eleanor Morton, Catherine Bertola, Jo Coupe, Doug Fishbone, Laura Lancaster, Marta Marce, George Shaw, Joe Delappe, Paul Moss and Dan Silver. Their input broadens your learning and provides fresh perspectives.

Study Abroad

It is possible to switch your studies to another country for one or two semesters during the second year. You can choose from over 150 universities in 20 countries, either English-speaking (such as Australia, Canada and the USA) or non English-speaking (such as Argentina, Brazil and Japan). This gives you an opportunity to get exposure to an even wider spread of influences and inspirations.

University Language Scheme

It is usually possible to take a module from the free University Language Scheme. This can be studied on top of your 120 credits or in some cases, can earn credits towards your degree.

Language skills increase your international mobility and you can choose between French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and Arabic at a range of levels. If your first language is not English, please check with your tutor about entry requirements.

Staff and students talk about the benefits of the University Language Scheme: 

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

Student jobs, volunteering and paid projects (earn while you learn)

Our Careers & Employability Service advertises a variety of opportunities to earn money while you study.

Volunteering positions in local organisations, charities and community groups can help you to help other people while learning about your strengths and what you can offer. Past opportunities have included working with children and the elderly, conservation work and sporting activities.

CES also advertises details of paid part-time and vacation work in areas from call centre and retail work through to telesales and marketing and promotion and more.

Opportunities to work with companies on flexible, paid, part-time projects in areas such as IT, design, law, media, HR and event management, to name a few, are available too. These projects are a great chance to gain valuable work experience.

The University of Sunderland is committed to ensuring that every student has an impressive range of opportunities to enhance their CV and gain valuable experience. For more information visit:

"We were taught to build up professional practice whilst studying and not just expect to find a relevant job."

Emma Stark Fine Art

Emma Stark - graduate

BA (Hons) Fine Art

Studying at Sunderland provided artist Emma Stark with the springboard to travel and work around the world.

Originally from London, Emma completed a foundation year at Central Saint Martins before taking a two-year study break and then applying to Sunderland to study a BA Degree in Fine Art.

Emma said: “The staff at Sunderland were really welcoming and knowledgeable and I was impressed with the facilities and studio space they had for art students. I also felt that after my foundation year, I wanted an institution that would offer me more freedom of expression and Sunderland definitely did that.

“The tutors I worked with were very open-minded and willing to talk through ideas. You were taught to build up professional practice whilst studying and not just expect to find a relevant job because you had an art degree.

“During my degree I volunteered at two galleries, worked at the Venice Biennale and later at one of the largest art fairs in the world thanks to contacts I had made through the University of Sunderland.

“I also gained a lot of experience exhibiting my own work, both in university shows and independently and all the guidance I received from tutors forced me to constantly evaluate my own practice and make considered decisions about how to push my artwork further. 

“After graduating I decided to move to Hong Kong to gain more experience of international art and to live in a completely different culture.

“Creating art in Hong Kong is very different as I simply don't have the same space here that I have back home, apartments are notoriously small and expensive. But my time in Sunderland has taught me not to let this restrict me. 

“Instead I enjoy trying to find things in Hong Kong to inspire me, whether that’s traditional silk patterns or really kitsch Hello Kitty prints.

“I still try to visit the university when I'm back home to catch up with the staff and I often get advice on what I should be doing to further build a career in the arts.”

"At Sunderland you are given all the help and encouragement you need to find the right artistic mediums to develop as an individual artist."

Anna Puhakka Fine Art case study

Anna Puhakka - graduate

BA (Hons) Fine Art

Successful international artist Anna Puhakka is now part of a vibrant art scene in her home country of Finland and believes skills gained at Sunderland help her every day.

After graduating from High School in Australia, Anna came to London to work while researching the best place to study Fine Art.

Anna said: “Sunderland had the best studio spaces in which to work in by far and the course itself stood out in that it gave more scope to develop individually and use different artistic disciplines.

“I learned a lot of skills during my time at Sunderland, and crucially I also learned how to take criticism and not be frightened to listen to other people. This helped me to make informed decisions and move forward as an artist.

“The Fine Art course attracted students with a wide age range, from 19-year-olds to a 67-year-old. This helped to create a diverse and vibrant mix and we all got to learn from each other, quite often collaborating or working together in small groups. Out in the real world, this is how most artists develop and find success.”

During her studies at Sunderland, Anna began focussing on performance art and after graduating, went on to work with North East-based Red Nile and BaseNorth Arts Collective with fellow Sunderland graduates thanks to funding from the Douglas Clasper Scholarship Award for Excellence and Arts Council support.

She later returned to her original home country of Finland, where her work now incorporates mediums such as installation, photography, sound, performance, video and text. She continues to exhibit her work internationally, in between working at a gallery in Helsinki.

Anna added: “With Fine Art you really get out as much as you are prepared to put in to it and at Sunderland you are given all the help and encouragement you need to find the right artistic mediums to develop as an individual artist.” 

"Studying art at the University of Sunderland gave me the opportunity to test myself in real life situations."

Sophie Lisa Beresford Fine Art case study alt

Sophie Lisa Beresford - graduate

BA (Hons) Fine Art

Developing as an artist at Sunderland gave Sophie Lisa Beresford the confidence to exhibit her work to a global audience.

Sophie is a member of the Workplace Gallery which exhibits work in the North East and London as well as globally through art fairs. 
So far her performance and video work combined with painting, photography and sculpture projects have been taken to fairs as far and wide as USA and China.

She said: “Studying at degree level helped me to focus on some key things about art in terms of how to display it and how every element of it counts.

“Effectively if you create art you are an artist, whether you go on to study or not. No one can teach you about your own art but by going to university you will be challenged and it will help you refine your practice. Studying art at the University of Sunderland also gave me the opportunity to test myself in real life situations. 

“At Sunderland it was like being part of a wide family. Every student has their own art space to be creative in but you get the chance to be influenced by other people around you and bounce off each other to come up with your own exciting ideas.

“I love tribal art and whenever possible I like to work with natural objects, which is something I developed after my studies.

“I have also self-educated myself on the history and customs of the native Americans and how they believed in ‘animism’ which is the belief that natural species and objects have souls, which is also reflected in a lot of the work I do.”

"Making it as an artist is never easy, but my time at Sunderland taught me that if you are passionate and really want it, you can make it happen."

Michael Branthwaite Fine Art case study

Michael Branthwaite - graduate

BA (Hons) Fine Art

Studying Fine Art at the University of Sunderland has led to a varied and colourful career for artist Michael Branthwaite.

Armed with both a BA and MA in Fine Art from the University of Sunderland, Michael co-founded the successful artists’ collective Red Nile, which attracts high quality commissions to create exciting and eye-catching work.

His work also landed him an artist in residence post at a Berlin exhibition curated by international art group Zona Dynamic which led to a wide range of international collaborative projects.

And in between all that, Michael still finds time to lecture at Staffordshire University.

He said: “Life just seems to get busier which is great. With Red Nile our latest project was for a large-scale sculpture for the National Trust property Cragside, which was undergoing extensive renovation.

“While in Berlin I worked on collaborative projects with artists from Japan, USA, Israel, Germany and Croatia and there are more projects in the pipeline with Red Nile.

“Looking back I can see now that I chose Sunderland mainly because I felt its approach to making art lent itself to my interest of sculpture and installation.

“I really connected with the course at Sunderland and a lot of the principles about attitudes to art and attitudes to making art are still very strong in my practice today, especially in terms of materials and process. It is something which I continue to investigate.

“While the basis of the course is a balance of thinking and doing, at Sunderland you are also encouraged to explore what goes on in your head. In a meaningful way so that it connects with the work you are making.

“I remember really enjoying my second year as by then I became really switched on to the possibilities of what I could achieve and explore with art. It was great to be given the freedom to develop which is something I have carried with me.

“Making it as an artist is never easy, but my time at Sunderland taught me that if you are passionate and really want it, you can make it happen.”

Staff profiles

Professor Eric Bainbridge

Professor Eric Bainbridge, Fine Art lecturer at the University of Sunderland, is considered by many to be one of the most influential British sculptors living today. ‌

For over 30 years he has used a wide range of materials to produce a remarkably diverse and varied body of work, some of which has been exhibited alongside works by the greatest artists of the 20th Century, including Damien Hirst and Henry Moore.

Born in Consett, County Durham, Eric graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1981 with an MA in Sculpture. Eric Bainbridge staff profile

He went on to exhibit extensively on both sides of the Atlantic and rose to prominence following solo exhibitions at many prestigious art galleries including Salvatore Ala Gallery in New York, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Cornerhouse in Manchester.

A Paul Hamlyn Foundation prize winner and Henry Moore Fellow at the Slade, Eric is known for his large scale fur fabric sculptures from the 1980’s, and since for works using, video, bronze, clay, bric-a-brac, food, house paint, used furniture, melamine and steel, continuing his interest in the status and language of sculpture.

Eric said: “Sculpture is very important for Britain. We have a rich history of sculpture in this country, which has influenced artists throughout the world. 

“Fine Art practice at Sunderland is broad based and offers opportunities to develop subject specialisms including sculpture, drawing, painting, printmaking, digital media, and performance.”

Read about Professor Eric Bainbridge's research

Eric Bainbridge work

Lothar Goetz

Thousands of people have engaged with the work of University of Sunderland senior lecturer Lothar Goetz every day by passing through the Tyne and Wear Metro and the London Underground. 

German-born Lothar creates murals based on geometric forms and two of his largest works have brought life to the Haymarket Metro Station in nearby Newcastle and during a temporary installation at Piccadilly Circus underground station.

Lothar’s work ranges in scale from site-specific wall paintings and room-sized spatial installations to framed drawings and paintings. Lothar Goetz staff profile

The starting points for his works are buildings, empty spaces and architectural sites which he combines with vibrant colours borne out of his love of gardening and nature.

Goetz completed an MA in Painting at the Royal College of Art after studying in Germany at Aachen, Düsseldorf and Wuppertal. Lothar continues to exhibit internationally and major projects include commissions for the Ministry of Justice and National Arts Council Offices in London, as well as Platform for Art on the underground.

He has been on residencies in New York, Shanghai and Guangzhou and his high profile work also led him to being awarded the Abbey Fellowship for painting from the renowned British School in Rome.

Lothar Goetz fine Art staff profile

Lothar is a prominent, practising artist who brings expertise, experience and imagination to Fine Art student studies at Sunderland.

Read about Lothar Goetz's research

Lothar Goetz work

Student work

Click See on Pinterest to see more examples of Fine Art student work:

Follow University of Sunderland Illustration and Design on Pinterest

Apply for this course

Interested in this course? Apply straight away through UCAS, or read our 7-step guide to applying to university.

Part-time study: if you want to study this course on a part-time basis, you need to apply directly to the University of Sunderland by downloading the part-time application form (.pdf).

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: Saturday 12th November 2016
  • Time: 9:30am-4:00pm
  • Type: University Open Day
  • Location: Sir Tom Cowie Campus at St Peter's

Contact Sunderland

Contact the Programme Leader for specific questions about the course:

Peter Wolland
Tel: 0191 515 3776

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

The details

Course Name Fine Art
Classification BA (Hons)
Course Mode Full-time/Part-time
Course Level Undergraduate
Duration 3 years
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 18 September 2017
UK/EU Fee £9,250
Intl Fee £10,750

Entry requirements

112 points

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