Art and Design with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)

UCAS Code:
Full Time (4 years)
September 2018

Our Art and Design course is a highly flexible interdisciplinary programme of study that encourages you to identify your own individual practices and apply them to a range of real world contexts.

After an initial diagnostic period, critical approaches and design methodologies will help your personal development through engagement with external facing ‘live’ projects, collaborative working with both university and other professional organisations, diverse workshop facilities, and a team of academic and technical staff who are all active in a range of professional fields.

About foundation courses

After successful completion of your foundation year, you will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication.

Why study a degree with a foundation year?

Foundation years are a great option if you have the talent, ambition and potential to thrive at Birmingham City University, but do not meet the entry requirements for your preferred course. It’s ideal if:

  • You want the flexibility of a year’s study on a more general course to find out the best degree choice for you.
  • You have changed your mind about your career since you chose your A-levels or BTECs and need to improve your skills in a different subject area.
  • You would like extra time and support to help you build your knowledge, skills and confidence before starting a full degree.

What's covered in the course?

Our BA (Hons) Art and Design course covers interdisciplinary approaches to practices in contemporary, art, design and craft.

You will work on studio and live projects to develop your own practice, whether your interest lies in photography, installation, print, digital media, sculpture, illustration, curatorial practice, textiles, drawing, sound, graphic design, public art or three-dimensional design.Working closely with academic and technical staff, you will develop new skills and approaches to projects which help you gain confidence, helping you to  uncover your own strengths and interests.

In your second year you will develop live/collaborative projects and participate in professional placements. You will also have the chance to study abroad at one of our European partner institutions. The course includes regular talks from visiting professional artists, designers, curators, craftspeople and entrepreneurs to maximise your employability prospects. You’ll also receive the support of expert academics, like Stuart Whipps, who has recently exhibited his work in the British Art Show 2015.

Students have previously enjoyed experiences, like responding to the architecture of Dudley Zoological Gardens’ World Heritage Site to represent the Zoo’s 1930s-listed structures. 

Our graduates have recently showcased their work at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery , and also presented a collection of design ideas to Associated Architects, earning a £5,000 prize to further present their work in the West Midlands.

"What really stuck with me was the intention to cultivate the skill set needed to define my goals, break down the steps/stages to achieving my goals and fulfil them."   Devon McFarlane

Why Choose Us?

  • Our Faculty of Arts, Design and Media is one of the UK's largest and most prestigious institutes of art, architecture and design education
  • Work experience placements and live industry briefs give professional exposure that has led to employment with companies including BBC, Cadbury, Channel 4, Fused, Games Faction, Saatchi & Saatchi, TBWA Worldwide and The Mill
  • Our graduates regularly receive awards and prizes recognising their excellence
  • We have links to a range of national and international institutions, including Ikon Gallery, Tate Liverpool, , and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
  • Each year the onsite project space IPS will be the hub for a series of residencies, exhibitions and events and will work with a number of local, national and international partners to deliver a range of projects with our students.

Examples of recent graduate activity include:

  • A coveted place on the graduate training scheme to become a TK Maxx buyer 
  • External affairs Coordinator for the BBC, after exploring relevant issues in their individual and professional practice modules
  • A video commission for the international property developer CBRE’s Birmingham office with the potential for more commissions for the company’s offices worldwide.

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Our next Open Day for this course will take place on Sunday 25th November 2018. Book your place to see our facilities and speak to our staff and students.

Book your place

This course is not open to International students
School of Art facilities man

Discover Birmingham School of Art

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Where our students go

Our students have gone on to work in jobs such as:

  • Graphic designers
  • Artists
  • Secondary education teaching professionals

Entry Requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.

UK students

80 UCAS tariff points.

Typical Offers
UK Qualification Requirements
A level  CDD. Must be offered along with either one A-level or one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ OCR Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma qualification.

Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma

Access to HE Diploma 60 credits overall - 15 credits at level 2 and 45 credits at level 3.

Scottish Higher

Achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points achieved from either five Highers or a combination of two Highers offered with two Advanced Highers.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

Obtain a minimum of 24 points overall. Students who do not complete the IB Diploma and who achieve the minimum of 11 points from two Higher Level subjects, will be considered on the basis of their IB Certificate.

OCR Cambridge Technical Certificate

Must be offered along with either two A-levels or two BTEC Level 3 Subsidiary Diplomas of 80 tariff points. Cannot be offered as a standalone qualification.

Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Diploma

MM. Can be offered along with either one A-level or one BTEC Subsidiary Diploma/ OCR Cambridge Technical Introductory Diploma qualification to achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points.

Scottish Advanced Higher

Achieve a minimum of 80 tariff points achieved in either three Advanced Highers or from a combination of two Advanced Highers plus two Highers.
Other qualifications
If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.

Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
BA (Hons) Sep 2018 FT 4 years £9,250 per year Apply via UCAS

International Students

Sorry, this course is not available to international students.

The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Guidance for UK/EU students


UK and EU students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.

Applying through UCAS
 Register with UCAS
 Login to UCAS
 Complete your details
 Select your course
 Write a personal statement
 Get a reference
 Pay your application fee
 Send UCAS your application

Portfolio Guidance

You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

View additional costs for this course

Foundation year

Working in a lively and energetic environment you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge in conceptual development, practical skills and creative exploration underpinned by broad critical understanding and emerging theoretical principles.

You will work individually and collaboratively to develop a stimulating visual portfolio of work that evidences your enthusiasm for further study within a specific subject area.

BA teaching staff from across both Birmingham School of Art and the School of Visual Communication will work with you throughout the course and you will have full access to all of the University facilities.

The two first semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable understanding of the relationship between developing work and potential contexts.

These modules will form the building blocks for future work and will focus on developing confidences with techniques, learning skills and productivity. The two final semester modules will run in conjunction with each other to enable a positive integration between Perspectives on Practice and Creative Realisation.

Understanding Context
20 credits

To reinforce your understanding of the creative industry in context you will be introduced to a number of opportunities across the city and will engage with event partners, such as Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery [BMAG], Ikon, Hippodrome, Eastside Galleries, Type-Talks and further afield. 

Throughout this module you will be introduced to range of study techniques that build competencies with research and discussion, while analyzing appropriate contexts for your work.

You will be continually encouraged to question the relationship between Visual Arts and Communication and will begin to establish the direction of your work in context.

Creative Development & Production
40 credits

This module will give you the freedom to develop a strong visual language, and an understanding of relevant processes that will underpin your future creative studies.

You will work on projects that are written to explore multiple opportunities that focus on media experimentation, skills development and engagement with the University workshops.

While developing your ideas you will learn to establish key principles of documentation and research that integrate directly with your practical work.

New discoveries and invention will be the ethos for this module.

Indication of your development will be evidenced through sketchbooks, online platforms, one to one tutorials, group tutorials and presentations.

Perspectives on Practice
20 credits

Building on your understanding from of the first two modules you will engage with a series of discussions that begin to challenge your perception of creative approaches within Visual Arts and Communication.

You will have the opportunity to meet BA Staff from across the School of Visual Communication and the School of Art who will present lectures and workshops to broaden your approach to practical development.

You will be encouraged to challenge opinions by applying a critical voice to the meaning, perspective and position of your own work.

You will be given guidance on critical and analytical writing as a starting point for developing your research skills.

Creative Realisation
40 credits

Priority for this module will focus on expanding your visual vocabulary further through a project that develops your confidence and independence, providing you with recognisable skills that aid the smooth transition to Level 4 Undergraduate Study.

You will produce work that addresses context, creative production and innovation while identifying potential perspectives and connections to research.

Undergraduate Staff from both Schools will offer guidance on developing a constructive portfolio that affirms your potential for a rewarding creative future.

Successful completion of your Foundation year will guarantee progression to any of the accredited degree courses listed above.

Year one

Introduction to Art and Design Practice 1: The Workshop
20 credits

This module introduces students to art and design methodologies, a range of specialist workshops and the technical skills, media and processes associated with these. It also enables you to begin to investigate personal source material to apply to various practical process areas.

Introduction to Art and Design Practice 2: The Studio
40 credits

The module provides opportunities for students to form an understanding of interdisciplinary practice, introducing you to some of the approaches, methodologies and strategies for making work in a studio context. It emphasises the importance of ‘making’ through appropriate mediums in order to resolve creative problems. 

Introduction to Art and Design Practice 3: The World
20 credits

The module focuses on further developing individual methodologies, and intertwining of research and practice.  An understanding of context beyond the studio is a key factor in understanding diverse cultural contexts for practice and developing a global outlook in relation to art and design practice.  It also, along with ‘Introduction to Art & Design Practice 2: The Studio’, forms part of a developing understanding as to how creative practitioners operate and engage with the professional world.    

Introduction to Contemporary and Historical Contexts
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to facilitate you to acquire and extend knowledge of art and design practice, in both contemporary and historical contexts. The module content will introduce you to current debate affecting the interdisciplinary creative practitioner, examined through various lenses, examples and case studies. 

Collaborative Practice
20 credits

The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling the student to work with students from complementary disciplines in order to create an interdisciplinary project.

Year two

Establishing Art and Design Practice 1
40 credits

This module is designed to extend the students individual practice in response to local and/or global issues, environments, text and/or other contexts.  It will encourage responses to themes from broad disciplinary boundaries, human experiences and values with students developing work for exhibition, performance, demonstration or dissemination of innovative artistic and design work appropriate to the professional context of the project outcomes.

Establishing Contemporary and Historical Contexts
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to facilitate your enquiries into both contemporary and historical art and design practices.  The area of study, while set by the module tutor, should also allow you to reflect on your own personal practice, and evaluate and communicate this in a written and/or verbal form.  The outcome will be a written or verbal response, and be relevant in both form and content to the focus of the module investigation.

You will have a choice of one of the following modules:
Collaborative Practice 2
20 credits

The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines, or with academic staff. Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the Creative Industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff.

Establishing Art and Design Practice 2
20 credits

The content of this module is designed to extend the students individual response to global issues, environments, text and/or other contexts to further develop an understanding of their individual responses to interdisciplinary modes of enquiry

You will also have the choice of one of the following work-based modules to aid your employability:
Live Project
20 credits

This module provides an opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and skills to an external, professional environment. It is an opportunity for students to engage in a professional manner with an aspect of their chosen field, which contributes to the development of employability skills within the supportive infrastructure of the University.

Work Placement
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the work place, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and BCU Careers. Typically, the placement duration is 70 hours.

Year three

Major Project
60 credits

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in depth and theoretically informed project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you.  At this level, you will be expected to work independently but you will receive a range of support from tutors and visiting lectures. 

Contemporary and Historical Contexts (Research in Practice)
40 credits

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area of personal interest. The research outcome is individually negotiated with the supervisor and can take the form of a written dissertation or alternate written format. 

Professional Practice
20 credits

This module allows you to work with staff in self-evaluation and research to source appropriate career possibilities beyond their degree.  This personal research will be supplemented by regular talks and workshops from visiting experts from a range of backgrounds – such as artists, designers, curators, craftspeople, entrepreneurs, educators and project managers. 

First year 

Teaching focuses on the acquisition of research and practical skills. This includes workshop induction, a broad range of projects and an understanding of the course focus on responsive practices both in the studio and beyond.  It is important that students gain an understanding of a range of working methodologies in the studio and beyond. This is supported by an introduction to research and writing skills, with all students learning to develop their ideas through practice and research.

Second year

Second year involves the application of collaborative, live and experiential modules, which promote breadth and potential career research.  In this year, students have recently worked collaboratively with Associated Architects, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Eastside Projects, Birmingham Central Library and Dudley Zoo. Students have also used the Professional Practice modules in this year to explore potential future careers, set up their own business or study abroad.

Final year

You will explore the synthesis of skills in a broad variety of media, applied to real and public contexts.  Recent projects have included students working  in a prison with issues of creativity and confinement, explorations into the demolition of Birmingham’s old central library and a fashion shoot/pop-up shop for the RSPCA in Birmingham City Centre. 

Hours in the classroom

Contact varies between levels but as a rough guide students will be engaged in lectures, seminars, studio and other guided activities for approximately three days a week.  

Teaching breakdown

28 Time in lectures, seminars and similar MidnightBlue
70 Time in independent study RoyalBlue
2 Time on placement LightSkyBlue

Assessment breakdown

Student work

The work of Billy Plante, which discusses the relationship of institutions to current social, political and global issues, is an outstanding example of site specific video installation.

Andre de Jong turned his front room into a nationally acclaimed art gallery, VINYL Birmingham, UK Sept 2010 – Sept 2013, and was subsequently awarded Arts Council England grants in two successive years.

A range of recent live projects can be found on Modern Gazetteer

Student stories - Lucy Martin

Student Lucy Martin discusses how the course allows her to choose what she wants to do and the different facilities on offer. She shares her tips for being a successful student too: "You need to be the boss of your own work."

View more examples of student work...

Further Study

You could progress onto  a range of postgraduate studies, including an MA or PGCE. You could also potentially go straight to doctoral research study. 

The MA Fine Art programme at Margaret Street is a popular choice among graduating students.

For further information on courses call +44 (0)121 331 5595 or go direct to the courses section of the website.

Trips and visits

Some of the students recently visited the Venice Biennale at the beginning of their Level Five studies, and this had a profound effect on their personal practices. Other visits/trips include Berlin, New York, London and Barcelona.

Enhancing employability skills

You will learn of range of skills which will be key to enhancing your future employability.

Specifically you will learn to:

    • Develop your own practice and how to analyse this in relation to future employment options.
    • Identify the relationship of theory to practice and how this can be used to develop your own individual identity.
    • Negotiate, plan exhibit and present to a professional standard.
    • Work independently and collaboratively.
    • Be a self-motivated, organised, effective learner.

You will also learn skills in a range of workshop practices in relation to individual development, including photography, casting, woodwork, metalwork, silk screen, etching, 3D printing, laser cutting, and printed and constructed textiles.

Professional practice guidance will teach you a range of skills such as CV writing;  the use of social media and other platforms for self-promotion,  presenting yourself and your work in a professional framework using a range of appropriate communication skills, such as video and various types of presentation software.


All students take up a placement of at least 30 hours during their second year.  Recent placements include:

  • London Fashion Week
  • Ikon Gallery
  • Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Clusta Design Consultancy
  • Flatpack Festival
  • ‘Doctors’ (BBC TV show)
  • Regional Starbucks stores
  • The New Art Gallery Walsall
  • Story Museum
  • Eastside Projects
  • REP Workshop
  • Municipal Bank
  • Lordswood Girls' School 


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Links to industry

Birmingham School of Art has a wide array of links with partner organisations regionally, nationally and internationally. These partnerships will provide work experience opportunities for you and contribute to your learning and teaching activities. Our overseas partnerships often result in opportunities for you to mix with students from different countries and gain different perspectives, as well as opportunities to undertake a period of study overseas.

Regional - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery, Eastside Projects, Midlands Art Centre, New Walsall Gallery, The Mead Gallery, VIVID, Capsule, Grand Union, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Library of Birmingham, and primary and secondary schools across the region.   

National - Arts Council England, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool.

International - Established links with other significant institutions both in Europe and the USA, as well as in Canada, Russia and Japan.

These include: The Sorbonne, the Metz/Pompidou (France); Studio for Electronic Instrumental Music, The Hague (Netherland); Ars Electronica (Austria); University of Cologne, Free University of Berlin, Leipzig Academy of Art (Germany); University of Ljubljana (Slovenia); MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts College of Art, California Institute of the Arts, University of California (USA); Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture (Canada); Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences (Japan); The Laboratorium (Russia). 

Megan Morrall
Graduate stories: Megan Morrall

Recent graduates include Megan Morrall, who is currently working as an external affairs coordinator for the BBC after exploring relevant issues in her individual and professional practice modules.

Graduate jobs

Recent graduates have progressed to various careers and roles including design, management consultancy, community arts officers, teaching, education assistants, curators in museums, galleries and art centres, exhibition design and interpretation, fashion and styling, display design, video production, web design and contemporary retail.

Our Graduates

Billy Plante has just completed a large video commission for the international property developer CBRE’s Birmingham office, with the potential for more commissions for the companies offices worldwide.

A small group of students started the Clusta Design Consultancy, which has grown to incorporate offices in London, New York, Paris and Los Angeles.

Our Facilities

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

Birmingham School of Art (an impressive purpose built Grade 1 listed example of Venetian Gothic architecture) was the first major renovation project undertaken by the university (£5.5m refurbishment). The School provides an incredible resource for the production of art and its associated fields of study. The building has a range of facilities available including studios, workshops, specialist art and design library, bookable spaces and lecture/seminar rooms.

Albion Press - Art
Etching Press - Art
Screen Printing 1 - Art
Stone Litho - Art
Woodwork 1 - Art
Metalwork 1 - Art
Ceramics 2 - Art
Comp Lab - Art
Photography Lab 1 - Art
Photography Lab 2 - Art
Editing suite 1 - Art
Editing suite 2 - Art
Studio Space 1 - Art
Studio Space 2 - Art
Studio Space 5 - Art
Studio Space 4 - Art
Library 2 - Art
Common Area - Art

Our staff

The staff are from a wide variety of specialisms including digital media, photography, textiles, critical design and fine art. Stuart Whipps has recently exhibited at the British Art Show and Demitrios Kargotis is currently engaged in Gaming A Better Tomorrow in partnership with Somerset House London.

Stuart Whipps

Stuart Whipps

Lecturer BA Art and Design

Stuart was born in 1979 and lives and works in Birmingham. His practice uses and interrogates photography in its broadest definition. He is interested in the relationship between the photographic image and object, the slippery nature of archives, and the relationship between photography and narrative.

Stuart creates installations and books that tease complex narratives out of historic artefacts and moments. Recent bodies of work have utilised diverse material such as the collected speeches, interviews and statements of Margaret Thatcher, collected pieces of Scottish shale and found negatives from redundant South African photographic labs.

Selected solo exhibitions include:

  • PCS, Ithuba Arts Gallery, Johannesburg, 2015.
  • Invites, Zabludowicz Collection, London, 2014.
  • Birth Sprins, Death Falls, Flat Time House, London. 2013.
  • Why Contribute to The Spread of Ugliness? , Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2011.
  • New Wooabbeleri, Focal Point Gallery, Southend-On-Sea, 2010.

Selected group exhibitions include:

  • British Art Show, 2015 - 2017.
  • Relatively Absolute, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire, 2013.
  • Community Without Propinquity, MK Gallery, Milton Keynes, 2011.
  • East International, Norwich, 2009.

In 2005 he won the Observer Hodge Photography Prize and in 2009 he was the joint recipient of the East International prize.

Read Stuart's full profile

Steve Bulcock profile

Steve Bulcock

Head of Undergraduate Studies

Steve Bulcock works across a range of digital media including animation, motion graphics and digital drawing systems. He is Head of Undergraduate Studies at Birmingham School of Art. His research interests are concerned with challenging the notions and expectations people have in relation to their interactions with digital technology. Recent work has involved collaborations with artist Sean O’Keeffe as part of an interdisciplinary research programme at Vivid in Birmingham, which also toured the UK with the Jerwood Drawing Prize exhibition.

He is currently studying for his PhD, which seeks to investigate notions of the algorithmic surface, computer interface design and authorship in the creative drawing process.

Read Steve's full profile