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Glass and Ceramics BA (Hons) - University of Sunderland

Course overview

The University is a centre of excellence in glass and ceramics, with outstanding facilities at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland.

Our course is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who wants to explore creativity in glass and ceramics, even if you have no previous experience in these areas.

You will have the opportunity to specialise in either glass or ceramics, or work across both mediums. In your third year, you'll create a major body of work and have the opportunity to exhibit at the 'New Designers' exhibition in London. Work placement JAN 2016

All students studying on-campus undergraduate 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.

Our academic team includes award-winning professionals who are at the forefront of research and innovative techniques. We host the Institute for International Research in Glass as well as the Ceramic Arts Research Centre University of Sunderland and this research enriches and enlivens the teaching providing real-world experiences for our students. We also have a large and international cohort of PhD students who bring even more current research into the department.

National Glass Centre logoThe course is delivered at the National Glass Centre, and we use professional-standard equipment in our workshops and studios. Open-plan working areas make it easier for you to learn from others and share knowledge on how to use the equipment.

We offer plenty of real-world opportunities including showing your work in public exhibitions, undertaking internships and working on real commissions – all of which help you build a professional track record and help you build up a network of contacts within the UK and internationally. 

Meet Sarah Heseltine, a University of Sunderland tomorrow-maker studying Glass and Ceramics:

A showcase of final year student work is held annually at the National Glass Centre in June:

Course content

Introductory modules give first-hand experience of foundational subjects: blown and sandcast hot glass; kiln-formed glass processes; architectural and stained glass; throwing and hand-building ceramics. In addition you will learn cold working processes involved in glass, including polishing and surface decoration and digital approaches to glass and ceramics through the use of three-dimensional modelling software, 3D printing and water-jet cutting.

During the course you will have the opportunity to specialise in either glass or ceramics, or work across both mediums.

Modules on this course include:

Year 1 (national level 4)

  • Introduction to Studio Practice (40 Credits)
  • Introduction to Professional Practice (20 Credits)
  • History of Art and Design (20 Credits)
  • Realising Ideas in Glass and Ceramics (20 Credits)
  • Digital Crafts (20 Credits)

Year 2 (national level 5)

  • Exploring Practice: Model, Colour, Space, Image (40 Credits)
  • Personal Studio Project (40 Credits)
  • Key Themes in Glass and Ceramics (20 Credits)
  • Developing a Professional Practice (20 Credits)

Final Year (national level 6)

  • Final Studio Project (60 Credits)
  • Dissertation and Professional Context (40 Credits)
  • Portfolio (20 Credits)

Part-time study

You can study this course on a part-time basis. If you choose the part-time option you will need to commit between one and three days a week on the course.

All modules are taught during the day, and you will be studying alongside full-time students. Studying this course part-time usually takes between five and nine years. 

Teaching and assessment

Teaching methods include workshops, demonstrations, one to one tutorials, lectures and seminars with highly skilled and experienced academic and technical staff. Our department also boasts generous opening hours to support your independent learning. Tutors give regular individual feedback as your work progresses throughout the programme. 

Assessment methods vary between modules. The emphasis is on presentation of your practical work but also includes presentations, essays, blogs and public exhibitions. The final year Degree Show is held at the prestigious National Glass Centre and 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.

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

Facilities for this course include:

  • 26 glass kilns, including a large glass casting kiln
  • 13 ceramic kilns, including a large gas kiln
  • Raku and kiln building area
  • Ceramics mould making and glaze workshops
  • Hot glass workshop with international-quality equipment
  • Glass mould making workshop
  • Two cold working studios (sandblasting, cutting, grinding and polishing)
  • Architectural glass studio
  • Printing facility for glass, ceramics and other surfaces
  • Water-jet machine/Computer Aided Design
  • 3D MakerBot Printer
  • Lampworking
  • Computer suite with Rhino 3D modelling software
  • Project and exhibition space
  • Multi-function creative and social space
  • Arts and Design Library

Find out more about the facilities at the National Glass Centre.

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 are:

  • Key Glass and Ceramics magazines and journals
  • Art Full Text + Art Abstracts, which is a major resource for 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
  • JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’), which provides access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

National Glass Centre

The Department of Glass and Ceramics is based in the National Glass Centre, a nationally recognised glass production and exhibition centre with world-class production facilities and a programme of international exhibitions and creative projects.

Studying here puts you at the heart of an international network of professionals in the glass and ceramics sector. You will be exposed to the most modern techniques in glass and ceramics art, with access to world-class production facilities. Through the Centre’s visiting artists and designers programme, you will have the opportunity to learn from internationally renowned, high-profile artists currently working in the glass and ceramics field. You will also be given access to and the opportunity to work on cutting-edge contemporary exhibitions to help launch your career. 


National Glass Centre 

Liberty Way

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

Previous experience in glass and ceramics is not essential as we are mainly interested in your creative potential. For your interview at the University, please prepare a portfolio of work, which should be simply mounted and accompanied by sketchbooks and preparatory work. 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

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

Many of our graduates set up their own businesses and take on commissions, public art projects or sell their work through galleries, shops, craft and design fairs.

In addition, skills acquired on the course are relevant to roles in teaching, museums, galleries, education, retail management, environmental planning, community work, industrial design, arts administration, arts therapy, events organisation and publishing.

Another option is to continue studying at MA or PhD level, which can lead to teaching within an academic context.


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 full details, please see our Employability page.

Work placements

During the course, we encourage you to take up ‘real world’ professional opportunities, which include the chance to show work in public exhibitions, undertake internships, take on commissions and participate in competitions. All of these can help build a compelling CV.


Study trips allow you to experience international work in your field. Recent destinations have included Venice, Prague, Berlin and New York. We encourage you to build a network of contacts, both nationally and internationally, during your time with us.

Visiting speakers

As a research hub, National Glass Centre and the Glass and Ceramics department attract top speakers who are able to share their insights and views with you. We host both the Institute for International Research in Glass and the Ceramic Arts Research Centre University of Sunderland which both have visiting speaker programmes, conferences and seminars.

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: 

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.

"Thanks to the University of Sunderland I was given a fantastic opportunity."

Kathryn Wightman

Kathryn Wightman - Graduate

Self-employed Hot Glass artist

“I had started studying for a degree in Psychology and knew it wasn’t for me, so I asked if I could change to something suited to my practical nature. After a great deal of help I went on to study BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics - a world away from my original course - and when my degree finished I went on to do an MA in Glass.

"I am now based in the National Glass Centre in Sunderland which is the perfect place to be. I produce specialist screen printed glass works which I show at exhibitions and competitions all over the country.

"It’s amazing to think that when I started studying I was heading in a completely different direction. Thanks to the University of Sunderland I was given a fantastic opportunity which has really shaped the rest of my life."

“The teaching at the University of Sunderland can be described as avant-garde; we push the boundaries in glass and ceramics."

Colin Rennie Glass and Ceramics lecturer case study

Colin Rennie - Senior Lecturer

BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics

Award-winning artist and Senior Lecturer Colin Rennie helps to deliver the groundbreaking teaching at the University of Sunderland which pushes the boundaries in glass and ceramics while keeping focused on real world opportunities.

Colin, who is Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics at Sunderland, has been working with glass since 1992 as a medium for creating sculptural works.

His expertise lies in hot glass, cold glass working, computer aided modelling and waterjet cutting and he regularly exhibits his works across the globe, from London and Paris to Taiwan and Shanghai.

Colin said: “The teaching at the University of Sunderland can be described as avant-garde; we push the boundaries in the glass and ceramics field whilst keeping it pertinent.

“We focus in on the individual to encourage them to discover their unique talents and then help and nurture them to grow. Being based in the National Glass Centre and working alongside a variety of artists helps to feed students’ creativity.

“It’s also vital to prepare our students for the real world and the business side of the arts is embedded into the degree programme – it’s the spine that runs through the degree.”

"We build professional development into the course so students can build confidence in themselves."

Cate Watkinson Glass and Ceramics lecturer case study

Cate Watkinson - Senior Lecturer

BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics

Glass artist Cate Watkinson is a great example of a lecturer who brings on-going work experience into her teaching.

Cate originally studied glass and ceramics at Sunderland when it was polytechnic. She went on to work in Cambridge and the Channel Islands before returning to the North East to set up her architectural glass studio Watkinson Glass Associates.

She now continues to run her practice, while bringing her wealth of experience to her role as Senior Lecturer (part-time) at the University.

Cate designs and makes architectural glass to commission and for more than two decades has completed high profile projects, ranging from a seven-metre high sculpture for a shopping mall to a stained glass window for Newcastle Cathedral.

She has also exhibited her work in cities across the world including Washington DC, Dubai, Bruges and London.

Cate said: “I think it is important that students interact with working artists to see what they can achieve and how they can plan a pathway to their own success after graduating.

“From day one, we build professional development into the courses so they can build confidence in themselves. Many graduates go on to work as self-employed artists and so it is vital that they have the necessary skills to be able to sell and promote themselves.”

"It was great to be based at the National Glass Centre with a team of lecturers and technicians who really help students develop as artists and individuals."

Paul Wearden UG Glass and Ceramics

Paul Wearden - Graduate

BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics

Just weeks after graduating, glass artist Paul Wearden found himself working on packaging for one of the world’s most exclusive bottles of Whiskey with renowned artistic and commercial glass studio Glasstorm.

One of his first projects was helping the team at Glasstorm develop and make a unique bottle for a 64-year-old single malt whiskey. The Bowmore distillery only made 12 bottles of the highly prized whiskey, which is the oldest Islay Single Malt ever put up for sale.

Glasstorm, which is headed by glass artists Brodie Nairn and Nichola Burns are fast becoming both experts and pioneers in the niche field of luxury bottle creation and Paul was delighted to join them so soon after finishing his course.

“I heard about the job through the hot glass technicians at the University who post up any jobs the team hear about in the industry. I headed to the Highlands for a three-day interview so they could really see what I could do and got the job. I was thrilled to get a job so soon after graduating and now I am refining my craft and style under the guidance of a great team and to find myself working on the Whiskey project so soon after arriving was just amazing.”

The bottles were hand-blown and sculpted to represent the waves that crash against the sea-facing walls of the vault in the distillery where the whiskey has been kept for the last 64 years.

“I’ve always been a very practical and hands-on sort of person and naturally gravitated to the glass course. It was great to be based at the National Glass Centre with a team of lecturers and technicians who really help students develop as artists and individuals.

“The open plan studio environment on the course also helped me to bounce and feed off everybody else. Students from different year groups work and mix together so help and support are on hand constantly – studying glass and ceramics at Sunderland is really like being part of a tight-knit creative community.”

"It was great to have the opportunity to use the water jet cutter."

Philippa Whiteside

Philippa Whiteside - Graduate

Practicing artist and business owner

The facilities at the National Glass Centre attracted 22-year-old, Philippa Whiteside, to the University of Sunderland.

After graduating in 2010 with a BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics, Philippa went on to a scholarship at Creative Cohesion. She now runs her own business and studio space in Sunderland.

"The facilities and 9am to 9pm access to the workshops were great,” said Philippa.

"I really enjoyed making friends and having the freedom to experiment with ideas and materials - it was great to have the opportunity to use the water jet cutter."

Philippa said getting the scholarship has really helped with her career. She also received business mentoring and guidance to kick-start her business.

"I am a hard worker, and taking advantage of the facilities and access hours on offer at the University has really helped me gain the ceramic skills I have today."

"It was very clear that the support and facilities offered at Sunderland were by far the best."

Annie Jones

Annie Jones - Graduate

BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics

Glass and ceramics student Annie Jones spent a valuable internship with Traidcraft which involved a spell in Vietnam working in a ceramics factory.

Annie said: "It was an amazing experience that has changed how I view the world and it certainly changed me! I was working with an industrial ceramic company helping them to improve their processes and taking a product from the design stage right through to production.

"It was an amazing experience which fed my creative thoughts through engaging with and embracing a new culture and seeing different technical skills and knowledge. This widened my vision of both industrial and studio ceramics, stimulating my current work.

"To be based within the National Glass Centre and to engage with practicing artists and technicians is just amazing. It is like one great creative community, with actively exhibiting lecturers who are really at the cutting edge of the contemporary glass and ceramics scene.

"The support here in Sunderland has been fantastic and as students we are encouraged every step of the way in pushing boundaries and building confidence in our practice."

"My ambition is to travel, take on artist residencies and then teach ceramics and glass at university level."

Eduard Ruane - Lives Online new 2014

Eduard Ruane - Graduate

Lives Online Student Blogger 2013/14 - Glass and Ceramics

Eduard was Glass and Ceramics student in 2013/4 and was one of eight students who blogged about their lives at university throughout the year. His other interests include travel, weight lifting and wind surfing.

Read Eduard’s Lives Online blog to see what it's really like to be a Glass and Ceramics student at Sunderland.


Lives Online logo

"Here's my view of the BA (Hons) Glass and Ceramics course at the University of Sunderland, filmed in my own unique way."

"Travelling with University of Sunderland to Venice as part of the course. It was great getting to know prospective university students, locals, artists and curators."

"My ambition is to become an internationally-recognised artist."

Lydia Singleton Lives Online new 2014

Lydia Singleton - Student

Lives Online Student Blogger 2012/13

Lydia was a first-year Glass and Ceramics student in 2012/13. She was one of six students who blogged about their lives at university throughout the year. 

Read Lydia's Lives Online blog to see what it's really like to be a Glass and Ceramics student at Sunderland.


Lives Online logo

"I spend a lot of my time at National Glass Centre. It’s a cool place. If you go to see it, you’ve gotta walk on the roof and you should also stay for a glass-blowing demo."

Lydia Singleton on page image Glass and Ceramics

Student work

All the pieces in these galleries were made by our Glass and Ceramics students.

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: 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 Programme Leader for specific questions about the course:

Colin Rennie
Tel: 0191 515 3609

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 Glass and Ceramics
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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