Foundation Diploma in Art and Design

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Develop your core skills and critical thinking. Experience all of the different art and design disciplines. Use the skills and confidence you acquire to progress onto an honours degree of your choice.

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The Foundation Diploma is an exciting, one-year course that prepares you for degree level study in the creative arts. You'll experience the full range of art and design disciplines alongside supportive staff, many of whom work within the creative industries.

You will be encouraged to learn through experimentation and risk taking, developing new ways of working and confidence to establish your own ideas. Sunderland has a well-established reputation for innovative art and design projects, with many of these involving social learning and encouraging peer support. 


Foundation in Art and Design is ‘outstanding’
An Ofsted inspection in March 2019 rated this course as ‘outstanding’ and of a ‘consistently excellent standard’. Teaching, learning and assessment outcomes, personal development, behaviour and welfare were all complimented.

Why us?

  • Learn in university level facilities, working on projects with and alongside creative practitioners
  • Visiting artists and designers add to the range of experiences you can learn from
  • Recognised for teaching excellence (awarded Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence by the Advance HE 2018)
  • Successful completion of the course leads to an automatic place on an honours Art and Design degree at Sunderland
  • According to Ofsted "students benefit from excellent facilities and equipment and produce work that exceeds the expected level for their programme and engage in realistic and commercially applicable projects"
  • Also from Ofsted: "Students engage in realistic and commercially-applicable projects, providing them with collaborative work and high-profile opportunities to broaden their understanding of the breadth of opportunities in the creative industries"
  • There are many opportunities to show your work, including the end of year exhibition
  • The Foundation course is free for those aged 18 at the start of the course, with bursary support also available to all FE students

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.


Course structure

The Foundation Diploma is delivered in three stages: The Exploratory Stage, Pathways Stage and Confirmatory Stage.

Throughout the year you will be taught in studio-based sessions, supported by a programme of lectures, seminars, workshops and tutorials.

Visiting artists and designers often complement this exciting programme. Recent workshops have been delivered in collaboration with the artist Katie Schwab as well as David Cooper, former Head of Menswear at Alexander McQueen. Guest lectures have included Lewis Jones from the Turner Prize winning Assemble and the Granby Workshop.

Innovative projects also include those run by our own staff and students as part of Foundation Press.

Stage 1 – Exploratory Stage

Through a wide range of creative activities, you will develop your practical and conceptual skills. Alongside this, individual guidance is given from an experienced range of staff on the options best suited to your work and future ambitions. There are a number of opportunities to work with students from across art and design including a cross-faculty Drawing Week. The Exploratory Stage ‘rotation’ projects include:

  • Fine Art
  • Visual Communication (Graphics, Illustration and Animation)
  • Fashion Design and Promotion
  • Photography, Video and Digital Imaging
  • Artist Designer Maker: Glass and Ceramics


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

Stage 2 – Pathway Stage

You will choose an area you would like to pursue at degree level. Through a number of exciting and challenging projects, you will develop confidence in the creative process.

Alongside this, you will receive support in the skills needed to extend and present your work professionally, including digital skills and portfolio presentation.

There are many opportunities to broaden your practice further in live projects, events and exhibitions. Study visits also help inspire your own studies.

Stage 3 – Confirmatory Stage

Working with your tutors, you will develop a self-directed project within your chosen pathway. They will encourage you to develop a distinctive, individual practice in readiness for degree level study and careers in the creative industries.

This final project of the year is assessed to give your grade, encouraging experimentation at all of the earlier stages of the course.

More about Foundation Diploma in Art and Design at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • 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
    • Risograph printing
    • Glass and ceramic kilns
    • Hot glass workshop
    • Two cold working studios for glass (sandblasting, cutting, grinding and polishing)
    • Architectural glass studio
    • Students also have access to facilities within FabLab on campus, which includes laser cutters, routers, milling machines, vinyl cutters and 3D printers
    Art and Design facilities
  • FabLab Sunderland offers a diverse range of specialist digital design and fabrication equipment. Based at the Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland city centre, it is a creative space where anyone can make (almost) anything. Our students gain free access to FabLab's machines which include:

    • Epilog laser cutter
    • ShopBot CNC router
    • The Roland Modela MDX-20 milling machine
    • Roland Vinyl cutter GS-24
    • Dimension 1200es Series 3D Printer – ABS plastic (large capacity 3D printer)
    • Ultimaker 2 (small scale 3D printer)
    • Ulitmaker 2 Extended (medium scale 3D printer)
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • 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 is also home to the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, which has a long history of showing cutting edge contemporary art.

    National Glass Centre
  • Map and directions


This course is based at 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.

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).

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 you have studied for a GCSE which has a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age on 31st December on year of entry.

Portfolio requirements

We are interested in your creative potential - please prepare a portfolio of work you have created so far. We are not looking for perfection as we appreciate you may still be developing the range of your work. We would like to see: 

  • A variety of work – we want to see a range of approaches
  • Work completed in or outside of your studies
  • Ideas that you feel didn’t work
  • Research: examples of various forms of investigation
  • Photographs of 3D, and large 2D, work
  • A USB stick or online link with any digital and screen-based work
  • Accompanied by any supporting work, sketch books and developmental pieces

Fees and finance

This course is free for school-leavers aged 18 at the start of the course and is the ideal preparation for the full range of creative degrees. 

If you will be 19 or above you may want to consider our Integrated Foundation Degrees. These courses help prepare students for higher-level study on our creative degrees here at Sunderland.

Please note that this course is not available to international students.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

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This information was correct at the time of publication.

Student in the Sunderland Futures department


This Foundation Diploma gives you a full year to explore different creative areas and you are guaranteed a place at Sunderland if you complete the course successfully. Students from the Foundation Diploma at Sunderland have gained offers from the most competitive art and design courses in the country.

Further your study

The large majority of our students progress from our foundation year to an honours degree. Having successfully passed the course, you can progress directly onto any of the following courses at Sunderland: 

Real-world experience

We recently won a national award for teaching excellence (the Advance HE Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence 2018). This acknowledged the Foundation Press project where students work on innovative, live projects alongside practising artists and designers.

Through these enjoyable, social experiences, you will gain confidence in applying your skills in real-world contexts.

Meet the students

  • The course allows you complete freedom to explore the discipline fully, cultivating originality.
    Adam McDade

    Adam McDade

  • This past year allowed me to broaden my perspective and really find out what I want to do.
    Amy Jobe Square

    Amy Jobe

  • I’ve loved doing the course, it’s really given me that freedom to work the way I wanted.
    Ryan Whitfield Square

    Ryan Whitfield

Meet the team

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