Creative arts and design
Why study creative arts and design in the UK?
The UK has one of the largest and most diverse creative industry sectors in the world, accounting for 6% of GDP and employing 2.3m people. The UK is home to world-renowned businesses in Advertising, Fashion, TV, Film, Design and Architecture. ~ UKTI
With world-class teaching and facilities, UK schools, colleges and universities have everything you need to help you launch your career in the arts.
Did you know…
- The UK has ‘the largest creative sector in Europe, one of the world's largest music industries and one of its most advanced digital TV and radio markets’ (CBI)
- The UK has consistently attracted more foreign investments than any other location in Europe, with businesses basing their European operations here (UKTI)
- The UK has the highest number of computer game publishers in Europe. From Tomb Raider to the Harry Potter games to Grand Theft Auto, UK-made games account for £1.34 billion in sales (UKTI)
- The UK is a global player in advertising and innovations in digital marketing – the UK accounts for over a quarter of all online advertising spend in Europe (IAB)
- The UK’s fashion industry is globally influential. Big names include Ozwald Boateng, Julien Macdonald, Stella McCartney, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood. London Fashion Week is one of the ‘big four’ international fashion shows – and Graduate Fashion Week is a showcase for new designers.
- The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) runs not only the famous awards show, but several scholarship programmes to help aspiring students gain skills in film, TV, animation and production.
- Students in the UK are given unique opportunities to learn from professionals – the UK ranks second in the world for collaboration between universities and businesses (BIS).
There is a lot of respect for young designers in the UK, and a lot of interest in new talent. You will be surrounded by people who share your passion for art, fashion, theatre, architecture and much more. There is also a large proportion of international students (over 16.8% of all students and over 25% of academics and professors are from outside the UK!), so you’ll be joining a diverse creative community.
Outside the classroom, you will love discovering the UK’s museums and art galleries, cutting-edge theatre productions, vibrant music gigs and diverse arts festivals. Find out more about Entertainment, Museums and galleries, Music and Events.
Weaam from Bahrain, MA in Illustration at the Interactive Design Institute:
'In my opinion, the most important part of creativity is being original, and I think this comes from the influences in the artist's context – their social, cultural, political and personal perspective. This is something I try to use in my work, as I am lucky to have experience of living in various countries.'
Courses and qualifications
There is a huge range of creative arts and design courses on offer. Perhaps you’re interested in sculpture or graphic design, or you want to pursue a career in fashion or computer game design? Whatever your area of interest, you will find hundreds of exciting courses to suit you.
At school and further education level, you can study for GCSE, A-level, International Baccalaureate and Scottish Higher qualifications in a range of art and design subjects – for example fine art, photography or multimedia design.
There are hundreds of NVQs and BTECs, which offer you the chance to specialise in an even wider range of art and design subjects. These courses are usually career-focused and prepare you to move directly into a job in the industry. Some teach art and design alongside English, for students who want to improve their language skills too.
In higher education, at undergraduate level you will find Bachelor’s degrees, Foundation degrees, HNDs and many other qualifications covering a wide range of subjects. Courses are usually assessed on the basis of your portfolio (a collection of your work). You may be given an area of studio space and take part in exhibitions.
At postgraduate level, you can study for a Master’s (MA) or doctorate (PhD). Fine art students at this level often focus on the theory and practice of art, describing and analysing the artistic process. You can choose more practical or applied courses, however – some courses teach you how to market and promote your work, or you can study supporting skills and crafts, such as set design, media technology or arts management.
Click here to read more about qualifications for students aged 16 and under
Click here to read more about further education qualifications
Click here to read more about higher education qualifications
Experts and teachers
If you study art and design in the UK, there is a good chance you'll be receiving expert tuition from academics who have practical experience in the field you choose.
In these videos, we meet three UK academics in digital art, drawing and illustration.
When applying for a creative course, the tutors may ask to see your portfolio (this might include 'works in progress' as well as completed work), and want to see evidence of your ability and passion for your chosen subject. Some institutions hold interviews as part of the application process, to discuss your interests and ideas face-to-face.
At undergraduate level, most courses expect you to have studied art, design or a similar subject at further education level – for example A-level, International Baccalaureate or BTEC. Many undergraduate courses also ask that students do a one-year Art and Design Foundation course (or equivalent) before progressing to the degree programme. This will help you to build your portfolio.
If English isn’t your first language, most courses will also ask for evidence of your English language skills, such as an IELTS or equivalent qualification.
All schools, colleges and universities have different entry requirements, so make sure you read the course details thoroughly and ask your chosen institution directly if you have any questions.
Atli from Iceland, BA (Hons) in Photography at Leeds College of Art:
'I found it great how much emphasis the institution puts on preparing you for the future industry... I have realised that photography requires infinitely more skills than I first thought! Creating good work requires a lot more intensive planning and consideration of paperwork, like copyright and other legal matters.'
With a creative arts or design qualification, there are many careers you could enter. For example, you might go on to work in marketing, gallery curation, animation, theatre, TV or film production, or even teaching. Most UK design graduates are in jobs related to art, design, culture and sport – the most common roles are graphic designer, fashion designer and artist – but the possibilities are very broad. Many go on to start their own business or work on a freelance basis.
Equally, your studies might lead you into a completely different field! With a UK creative arts qualification, you’ll be able to show you’re creative, hard-working and able to think independently – qualities that are valued by employers all over the world.
As part of your course, many undergraduate programmes in the UK give you the opportunity to do a work placement or internship. This is where you spend a certain amount of time working in a professional environment, which is a great way to boost your CV (check your visa status allows this).
For more advice about finding and applying for jobs, go to Entering a career.
More student stories
Urvashi from India won a prestigious New
Designers Award while she was studying for
a BA in Computer Animation Arts at the
University for the Creative Arts.
Click here to find out what it's like to study for a UK
Shakir from Pakistan studied at further education
level, gaining an HND in Contemporary Art
Practice at Forth Valley College in Stirling,
Click here to read his story and see a selection of
paintings from his recent exhibitions.
Tanvi from India studied for a Master's in Design
and Branding Strategy at Brunel University in
Click here to find out what she's doing now – and
her advice for a successful career in design!
Lauren from the USA is studying Womenswear Design Technology at the London College of Fashion. Here, she talks about her experiences on the course: