Fine art in the UK

Find out what you can expect when you study Fine Art in the UK, in terms of teaching, learning methods and techniques.

Fine Art encompasses a wide range of specialist areas including painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, performance, installation, film and video. Traditionally, Fine Art consists of two broad components; studio based practice and the theory component, or contextual studies, providing a historical and theoretical overview.

The progressive move from staff-directed to autonomous learning is an integral part of the structure of a Fine Art course. This learning is supported by seminars, tutorials, workshops, studio practice, study visits and industry-related experience, as well as critiques in conjunction with a range of assessment methods, including reviews of coursework, presentations and written submissions. Peer and self-assessment are also used at appropriate points to enable more self-critical perspectives in thinking about the work and practice.

The tutorial is normally one-to-one contact lasting fifteen to 30 minutes. Typically this is carried out in the studio space in front of the work but may include off site locations, workshops, seminar space, exhibition space or even the staff office. Written and/or online feedback is available to students following each tutorial.

Pottery and crafts in the UK

“Independent study is an important method of enhancing student learning in studio activity”

Academic lectures are used to convey critical information, history, background and theories. Students are expected to take notes and follow-up references cited in the lecture. Notes and transcripts from the lecture are usually available online.

Peer-learning and structured forms of peer-support are also key. Student feedback has a greater potential for informal dialogue. Peer-learning is integral to the development of critical awareness as a student-centred, reflective activity where students become able to analyse their own learning.

Workshop demonstration helps the practical learning of skills, used in support of studio practice that requires an introduction and application of skills. These may include: printmaking, working with wood and metals, bronze foundry, casting and mould making, digital printing and digital and moving image editing.

Independent study is an important method of enhancing student learning in studio activity and may include visits to galleries, museums and professional studios, as well as the accessing and application of a range of information services.

Industry experience is closely linked to what students see as the ‘real world scenario’ or professional practice. Students spend a designated period of time working in an area of interest within the creative industries.

A crit (critique) typically consists of a group of students with one or more members of staff, with the occasional involvement of outside clients, appraising a display of work exhibited in a seminar room or exhibition space. It is seen as an integral part of art and design learning and teaching. As well as enhancing presentation skills to a variety of types of audience, it is also an opportunity for students to share practice across their peers and see a variety of solutions and ways of thinking about the same project or problem, hence broadening the students’ powers of critical evaluation.

Finally, a word on assessment and feedback. This is integral to the learning process and is part of the repertoire of teaching skills. The primary assessment method is the presentation of work, either in visual or written form by an agreed deadline. Within Fine Art there is usually no formal, timed, sit-down examination. Work may be assessed by peers as well as staff, or teams of staff depending on the level and circumstances. Formative assessment and feedback is provided at key points during the course. Summative assessment is the final assessment after a completed period of study or piece of work. At the end of the course this may be the final degree exhibition. Most assessments for the theory component are in the form of written essays or dissertations of varying length, depending on the module and its level.

Written by Carolyn Bew (2011)
Academic Developer
Art Design Media Subject Centre
The Higher Education Academy