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Why Study Art and Design?


The main reason to study art and design at university is because you have a genuine interest and commitment to your art and the subject more broadly.  

Passion is a big indication of whether you should consider studying subjects like art, performing arts or design at university. Do you find yourself sketching and drawing in the corners of your schoolbooks? Maybe you’re a crafter who loves creating things from scratch?  

You might be someone who loves digital design and expresses themselves with a technical flare, or maybe you’ve always loved performing. If you’re someone who has a passion for arts, then chances are you’ve felt the buzz already and want to keep that feeling. If that sounds familiar then arts, performing arts and design course options are worth considering at university. 


What is Art and Design? 

Art and Design is a difficult subject to define as a whole, it’s broad and means lots of different things to different people. Broadly speaking when we speak about Art and Design, we’re referring to the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination through creation. But when we split it into different specialisms, we can see the avenues for study more clearly.  

Fine Art Courses 

Fine Art courses may be most similar to when we study art at school. The study of Fine Art refers to learning about varied art types and mediums, learning about the theories behind art practice as well as the different artistic movements and mediums. Typically, we might think of this as learning about artists we see in galleries, Picasso, Monet, Frida Kahlo as well as learning about familiar mediums like paint, pencil and movement. But when you study fine art, you’ll learn about many different types of art and styles as a way to develop your own art practice.  



Performing Arts Courses 

Performing arts courses refer to subjects like music, dance, acting, production and composing. When you study performing arts, you’ll likely choose a specialism based on your experiences and existing skills, you may have the opportunity to develop other practices and you’ll broadly learn about different performance types, styles, and histories but the bulk of your study will be informed by your own practice.  

Want to know what performing arts is like at Northumbria University?  



Studying Design 

Design courses are perhaps less traditionally ‘artistic’ in that your practice might be more focussed on a product or idea over an emotion or story. When you study design, you develop an awareness of design activity and design history, and its impact on individuals, society, and environment. 



What qualifications and subjects do you need to study Art and Design? 

The scope for an Art and Design degree is so broad that you’ll find lots of options. For most art and design degrees you’ll find some learning experience of art, design, technology or performing arts subjects like music, drama or dance will be useful. But there’s plenty of ways to show your creative flair.  

Many art and design subjects require a portfolio, interview, or audition as part of their application process. This can be an excellent way to show your creative skills if you haven’t had the opportunity to formally study the subject before.  

In your application you’ll want to evidence qualities like curiosity, determination, and passion for your subject. In your personal statement you could speak to what influences you and what sparks your creativity.  

Undergraduate study 

Most undergraduate degrees in Art and Design require you to have studied some sort of Art and Design topic at school, which might be an Art A level, but you might also benefit from studying Graphic Design, Photography or Textiles.  

Foundation degrees are popular routes into art and design degrees; many universities and colleges offer foundation programmes to help you boost your technical skills ahead of a full art and design degree programme.  

If you study Art and Design degree at Northumbria University, you’ll need 120 UCAS Tariff points from a combination of acceptable Level 3 qualifications which may include: A-level, T Level, BTEC Diplomas/Extended Diplomas, Scottish and Irish Highers, Access to HE Diplomas, or the International Baccalaureate. Applicants will need Maths and English Language at a minimum grade of 4/C, or an equivalent. 

If you have a qualification from outside of the UK or have equivalent qualifications please check the guidelines and requirements for your chosen course. 

Postgraduate study 

Usually, to study for a Masters in Art and Design, you’ll need a strong undergraduate degree in a relevant Art and Design field. That might be a History of Art BA, but if you studied other humanities subjects there may be room to cross over into an Art and Design MRes or MA.  

If you study Art and Design course at Northumbria University minimum of a 2:2 honours degree in Art and Design, or a related discipline. If you’ve obtained an undergraduate degree in another field like History or Science you may also be a good candidate for an Art and Design Masters, course dependent. It’s worth checking the specifics of the Masters in Art and Design degree you’re interested in for specific requirements.  

If you have a qualification from outside of the UK or have equivalent qualifications please check the guidelines and requirements for your chosen course. 


What are the benefits of studying Art and Design? 


There are many benefits to studying art and design at university. You’ll get to experiment with different techniques and mediums, helping you to find your own unique style. And as well as giving you the chance to develop your skills, studying art and design at university will also help you to build up a strong portfolio of work, which will be essential when it comes to finding jobs in the industry after graduation.  


But it's not just the practical benefits of studying art and design at university that make it worth considering; there are also many personal benefits too. Here are some you might not have considered:  


A confident critical thinker 


Critical thinking is the ability to use your judgement to analyse and evaluate an issue. When you study art and design you learn how to observe the world around you and how to examine, analyse and gather details to make decisions and develop opinions. When you study art and design at university you develop the skills to become self-assured, confident, and proud of the decisions you’re making. That’s a skill that is highly valuable in the workforce and one that will benefit your personal life immensely too.  


Learning to practice 


Because art is so much more than learning how to ‘do art’ you’ll find that studying art and design at university leads to a skillset that goes as deep as you want it to. You aren’t just learning to paint or take photographs, for example. You learn about history, context, and how to examine the world to find details that others might overlook. Art study is often referred to as a practice, you might become an expert in one particular medium if you choose but you’ll always be practicing, discovering, changing, and growing as an artist.  


Going digital  


Advancements in digital mean that the creative landscape for those studying art, design or performing arts is unique and growing. Digital as a medium for illustration, design, music, acting and entertaining can speak to some new and unique career opportunities. Consider digital designers for things like websites, apps and online products, creative platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Twitch and how the metaverse and how the virtual world might open up unique opportunities for artistic development. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and an exciting time for students and graduates to be exploring arts in a digital context.  


People skills  


Arts courses often touch on skills like communication, empathy, and tolerance. When you study arts, design or performing arts you’ll encounter many different perspectives of the world. This exposure to varied contexts, backgrounds and societies helps equip students with an open mind. Tolerance and empathy are essential in a more diverse world than ever and being able to find common ground with people from all walks of life is something arts are typically skilled in. This improves communications and connections which is a valuable life skill.  


Explore more benefits of studying Art and Design by checking out some student profiles and exhibitions at Northumbria University.  



What course options are there to study Art and Design? 

Most art and design subjects last three years and result in a BA degree. Masters in arts tend to result in a MA degree. Some more technical or vocational programmes may offer BSc or MSc qualifications, these tend to be more related to design subjects with crossovers in engineering, structural design, architecture, or product design. Another available qualification for Masters in arts degrees is MRes. An Arts MRes course offers you the opportunity to undertake a specialist research project, based upon your own focused proposal, which may be subject-specific or span arts disciplines. 

Art and Design courses really are some of the most variable degree programmes out there. Broadly you can expect them all to give you all the creative, technical and management skills needed to be successful in the creative industry.  

Arts course options 

Arts course options like Fine art, Art, Art History all aim to contextualise your practice as an artist whilst providing a broad knowledge of techniques, theories, and movements to inform and develop your own style.  

If you choose to study arts at university, you’ll also notice specialist Arts course options like Illustration for commercial application, Photography, Textile design, Ceramics, Environmental art, and sculpture. These arts course options tend to be more practical and focus on mastering a particular skill or medium. If you already know that you want to concentrate your art practice in a specific area or from then these courses can be interesting options to study arts at university.  

Performing Arts course options 

Performing arts course options also range from being broad with titles like Performing arts. When you study a performing arts degree at university, you’ll explore a range of contemporary arts disciplines. Most performing arts course options give you the opportunity to pursue several disciplines or specialise in one. Giving you the flexibility to develop your art as you get to grips with the realities and practicalities of production. 

If you know that there’s a specific element of performing arts that you want to pursue, then you’ll find opportunities for more targeted degree subjects. Degree titles like Performing Arts (Film, Tv and Stage), Musical Theatre, Commercial Dance for Stage and Screen, Acting (Screen & Digital Media), Music Performance and Industry are common.  

Design course options 

Design course options are split in a similar way, there are general design degrees, usually Design BA or Design BSc; these broad degrees might focus on the general principles of design, core elements of design practice like prototyping and model making. The aim of these degrees is to gradually develop your own individual specialist design focus.  

If you want to study design at university and know the area you’d like to pursue, then you may want to consider more niche design degrees to develop your skills on a deeper level. Specialist degree subjects might include Graphic Design, Product Design, Fashion Design, Video Game design, Web Design or User Experience Design.  

Discover Arts and Design course options at Northumbria University. 




If you choose to study for a specialist performing arts degree like music, dance or drama you may want to consider looking at conservatories as well as universities for your degree programme. A conservatoire education focuses very much on practical learning and performance, whereas a university education tends to be more academic. 


Placements and study abroad  


Like any degree there’s a lot of value in gaining practical experience to support what you’re learning as part of your degree. This is especially so when you study arts at university. Whether you’re beginning your study with an undergraduate degree or developing your knowledge with a Master’s degree in arts you’ll benefit from taking interest in some form of placement or work experience.  


Because the job market for graduates in the arts is so competitive it’s your experience that will set you apart. Many degrees offer placement options as part of their arts course options. If you study performing arts this might involve work experience at a theatre, arts organisation, or cultural industry. When you study design, you may want to pursue placement opportunities in industry. Those who study fine art could look for work experience and placements in art galleries or arts organisations. Be sure to look at the networks and links that your chosen university has with your areas of interest as these will inform the types of experience that will be available to you.  


Studying abroad is an excellent opportunity if you choose to study an arts degree at university. Whether you study fine art, study performing arts or design your practice is culturally influenced. Exposure to different cultures, languages, and climates as well as audiences and users with different expectations, will make you a more well-rounded and experienced practitioner. 


What career prospects does Art and Design offer? 


There’s a cliche; ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.’ A career in the arts can really speak to that. It’s a challenging field, and competitive but those who work hard with passion and dedication to their craft can find rewarding careers.  


Graduates with an art and design degree can go on to work in a wide range of industries including advertising, architecture, fashion, film, gaming, graphic design, interior design, graphic design, product development, web design, entertainment, journalism, marketing, photography, publishing, web design, and much more.  


Many art and design graduates also make their living on a freelance or self-employed basis, giving you the freedom to choose your hours and projects. 


What jobs can I do with an Art and Design degree? 

Because the subject offers such broad skills development the graduate destinations of art and design graduates is vast. Within creative industries popular career paths include: 

  • Actor 
  • Musician  
  • Set design 
  • Voice actor 
  • Animator 
  • Costume or fashion designer 
  • Fine artist 
  • Print maker 
  • Graphic designer 
  • Ceramic artist  
  • Illustrator 
  • Photographer 
  • Textile designer 
  • Spatial designer 

Many arts graduates find themselves pursuing careers outside of the creative arts sector. Popular career paths outside of creative industries include:  

  • Advertising executive 
  • Art gallery curator 
  • Arts administrator 
  • Cad technician 
  • Design and development manager 
  • Marketing executive 
  • Events management 
  • Sales executive 



Why choose Northumbria University for Art and Design? 


The Department of Arts at Northumbria University is one of the largest in the UK for studying arts, performance, culture, and cultural history. The Northumbria School of Design specialises in Industrial, Fashion, Communication, and Innovation Design. Together, they make Northumbria University an impressive place to study Art and Design.  


When you study arts at Northumbria, whether that’s performing arts, design fine art or other disciplines you’ll benefit from a creative community of performers, artists, scholars, and educators you’ll also learn from internationally recognised visiting artists, performers, academics, researchers, directors, designers, actors, choreographers, and musicians. 




Northumbria University makes sure you have all the resources you need to realise your creative potential, as well as access to study spaces, libraries, and online learning resources you’ll also access industry specific facilities.  


When you choose to study Fine Art at Northumbria your learning environment is centred on the studio and workshops. Northumbria supports a range of approaches to making, be that painting, sculpture, print, digital print, dark room photography, moving image, paper making, sound or performance. The studios are complemented by a generous access to project spaces in which you can test your ideas and host your own exhibitions, events, and workshops.  


When you study Design at Northumbria University you’ll be based in the Northumbria School of Design. You’ll have access to industry-standard studios and workshops including large well-equipped timber and metal workshops, specialist CAD laboratory, CNC machinery and 3d printing as well as several mobile laboratories that deliver IT facilities for creative working.  


When you study Performing Arts at Northumbria, you’ll access dedicated studio spaces and industry standard exhibition spaces. You’ll also access an onsite theatre fitted with high quality technology, including portable sound and video equipment. 

Events, exhibitions, talks, performances, placements, and work opportunities are available when you study any arts degree at Northumbria University. The University has strong connections to the busy Newcastle art scene. This includes Newbridge ProjectsNorthern Stage and Live Theatre, the Northern CharterWorkplaceVane, and our own Gallery North. Newcastle is the cultural centre of the Northeast and our innovative partnerships with outstanding arts organisations such as BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art ensure you receive an exciting insight into the art world. 

Career focussed 

Because arts course options at Northumbria University focus on how to develop your practice as an artist, designer, or performer there’s a natural integration of employability skills focussing specifically on how to get a job within the arts or creative sector. Active practitioners lead Degrees like Fine Arts at Northumbria, and they use this experience to inform their teaching. Showing students how to exhibit work, promote themselves as artists and access income streams like arts council funding.  

A number of graduates from Northumbria receive critical acclaim for their work with examples in design, fine art and performing arts


  • League tables are a good place to start when you’re considering where to study an Arts degree. Northumbria boasts a strong reputation locally, nationally and globally.  
  • Art & Design at Northumbria is ranked 24th in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2022)  
  • Ranked 11th in the UK for Design & Crafts in The Guardian University Guide 2022 
  • Northumbria’s design programmes are delivered internationally, with partnerships including the BINUS-Northumbria School of Design in Indonesia and the Academy of Design in Sri Lanka. 

Northumbria boasts an illustrious design alumni list including Sir Jonathan Ive (former Senior Vice-President, Apple), Rob Law MBE (Founder, Trunki), Nicola Morgan (Designer, Lanvin, Paris) and Tim Brown (Chief Executive, IDEO). 

Research Excellence 

  • Active research and world changing insights feed the teaching practices of the staff at Northumbria University, this means that your degree will remain relevant, innovative, and future proof once you graduate.  
  • Art and Design at Northumbria is ranked 4th in the UK for research power 
  • Art and Design at Northumbria’s research environment is rated 100% world-leading (4*) and internationally excellent (3*)  
  • 94% of research impact within Art and Design at Northumbria has been recognised as internationally excellent (3*) very considerable or (4*) outstanding 
  • Design researchers at Northumbria University engage in developing new and innovative practices within Design, and in innovation and research through Design.  

Take a look at the themes, developments and interdisciplinary attitude to research within Art and Design at Northumbria


Please note 

All content is accurate as of the time of writing, the information in this guide is subject to change and will be updated as required to reflect this. 

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