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What is an Art Foundation course and do you need one?

11 Jan, 2022
What is an Art Foundation course and do you need one?

In this article, we’re going to learn more about what an Art Foundation Course is, who it’s for, and whether you need to take one.

We’ll explore the course structure and content of the Kings Art and Design Foundation programme, including available subject specialisms and the degrees and careers they could lead onto.

Finally, we’ll cover the practicalities such as how much it costs and how you can apply.

Table of Contents

What is an Art Foundation Course?

Who is the Art Foundation Course for?

What Art & Design Topics Can You Study?

Where Can You Take an Art Foundation Course?

Which Universities Accept Art Foundation?

What Are the Top Universities for Art Degrees in the UK?

How Much Does an Art Foundation Course Cost?

How Can You Apply for an Art Foundation Course?

Take an Art Foundation Course With Kings

What is an Art Foundation Course?

An Art Foundation course is a one-year programme that bridges the gap between studying art and design related disciplines at secondary school level and undergraduate level. All students who want to study an art-related degree in the UK will need to take a foundation year.

Students can choose to complete a generic Art Foundation programme at a higher education college or sixth form, such as Kings, or, if you already know which degree or university you would like to attend, some universities offer 4-year undergraduate courses with an integrated foundation year in year 1.

Some key benefits of taking a generic Art Foundation course at an independent college like Kings are:

  1. Keep all your progression options open — you do not have to decide which course or university you want to attend before you leave home. You will have opportunities to visit universities and attend talks throughout the year, and will be advised throughout the application process by your teachers and UCAS tutor. This way, all options remain open to you.
  2. Small class sizes and personalised support — class sizes will generally be smaller than on a university foundation, meaning you’ll have plenty of one-on-one contact with your tutors to help you develop your skills and portfolio, and work on important pieces of work such as your personal statement and final major project.
  3. Specifically designed to support international students — the Kings Art Foundation includes English language and study skills support for international students who need it. If it’s your first experience of studying in the UK, an Art Foundation course at an international college will give you time to adapt to a new style of teaching and learning, and ensure you’re confident in English before you progress onto university.

Course structure

At Kings, our Art and Design Foundation programme has 3 terms, and 7 units in total. In the first term, you’ll focus on Learning Skills and Context, covering Units 1 – 4. The first part in the creative journey, this is where students will begin to raise questions about Art & Design that they will spend the year answering: inspiration will come from personal experiences, reading around topics, use of different materials and primary research through off-site and gallery visits.

  • Unit 1: Art & Design Research Methods
  • Unit 2: Ideas and Development
  • Unit 3: Materials and Methods
  • Unit 4: Evaluation and Reflection

During your second term, you will focus on Development and Progression. At this stage, students have built a wide understanding of the areas of Art & Design, and the elements they are more interested in developing: from here, students begin to decide the area they will focus on in their degree level studies. Students will work with a dedicated tutor, depending on the area of art they chose to specialise in. Students’ portfolios and research will take many different forms depending on their chosen specialty: this can be in sketch books, written word, 3D and 2D designs.

  • Unit 5: Integrated Art & Design
  • Unit 6: Preparation for Progression in Art & Design

Throughout the third term, you’ll work on your Proposal and Realisation. This final term is the culmination of students’ research, initial ideas, design and development. This is showcased through the cross-college public fashion show that students design and run.

  • Unit 7: Project Proposal and Realisation of Final Major Project culminating in a public exhibition

To support your in-class learning and experience art and design in a real-life context, you will also have the opportunity to take part in enrichment opportunities such as:

  • 2-day art residential at UWE Bristol
  • Fashion Club
  • Textiles Club
  • Visits to local galleries (such as the Ashmolean in Oxford)
  • Portfolio guidance and other input sessions from visiting Kingston and UWE faculty
  • Life drawing sessions
  • Visits to London galleries such as the Tate Modern, the National Portrait Gallery and the Design Museum
  • Attend university open days

Alongside everything mentioned above, international students will also have access to additional English language and study skills support if required.

The course is taught full-time — approximately 21 hours per week, plus homework and independent study — over one academic year, running either from September – June, or January – August. Students at Kings benefit from exceptionally small class sizes of only 8 – 12 students, meaning you’ll have plenty of one-on-one contact time with your teacher.

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Who is the Art Foundation Course for?

All students who want to study an art degree in the UK — local and international — need to complete an Art Foundation course before they start their undergraduate studies.

The Art and Design Foundation is suitable for students who can demonstrate artistic ability and the commitment to develop their chosen discipline. In terms of academic entry requirements, students should also have completed 11 – 12 years of schooling, and have an English language level of IELTS 5.0 or above.

A foundation diploma in art and design helps you make the transition from secondary school — where you may have studied A-levels, a BTEC, and International Baccalaureate, or other international high school qualifications — to specialised art-related programmes at undergraduate degree level.

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What Art & Design Topics Can You Study?

Art is about exploring your inner passion. Yours is unique to you. At Kings, our Art and Design Foundation course will give you the space and encouragement to develop your own skills, interests and specialism.

The course offers a wide range of subject specialisms to broaden your skills and experience. Choose from:


Design of all types of buildings from domestic to public, internal and external spaces. Develops your understanding of how people need and want to use space.

Example degrees include:

  • Architecture
  • Structural Engineering with Architecture
  • Interior Architecture and Design
  • Architectural Design Technology
  • Urban Landscape Architecture

Learn more about Architecture pathways


Includes 2D and 3D, stop-frame and computer animation. Leads to careers in the film industry, 3D design and advertising or the games industry.

Example degrees include:

  • Animation
  • Animation and Illustration
  • Games Art and Animation
  • 2D and Stop Motion Animation
  • Creative Computing (Animation)

Learn more about Animation pathways


The design, production and marketing of clothing from industrial to leisure goods across a range of sectors. Develop your design and fashion ideas and learn how to plan, illustrate, and construct your designs.

Example degrees include:

  • Fashion Promotion and Marketing
  • Fashion Design
  • Fashion and Textile Design
  • Costume Design
  • Fashion Communications with Business Studies

Learn more about Fashion pathways


Includes the history of film, genres, experimental film, pre-production, post production, filming techniques and equipment.

Example degrees include:

  • Film Studies
  • Film and Media Production
  • Film TV and Stage Design
  • Visual Effects for Film and Television
  • Digital Film Production

Learn more about Film pathways

Fine Art

The making and study of visual art. Fine art includes painting, sculpture, drawing and printmaking. It represents all aspects of the human experience.

Example degrees include:

  • Fine Art
  • Fine Art and Photography
  • Fine Art and Graphic Design
  • Fine Art Painting
  • Art History

Learn more about Fine Art pathways


Involves transforming words and concepts to pictures - a specialism that can be applied to both traditional and digital media.

Example degrees include:

  • Illustration
  • Illustration and Animation
  • Illustration and Visual Communication
  • Graphic Design and Illustration
  • Fine Art and Illustration

Learn more about illustration pathways

Interior Design

Design of the spaces people use in all aspects of their lives - private houses, social areas, places of work. For this specialism, an understanding of how people interact with physical spaces is vital.

Example degrees include:

  • Interior Design
  • Textile Design for Fashion and Interiors
  • Interior and Environmental Design
  • Interior Architecture and Design
  • Interior and Spatial Design

Learn more about Interior Design pathways

Product Design

Influence and improve the world around you, making products from scratch to the final prototype. Requires creativity, practical skills and commercial awareness.

Example degrees include:

  • Product Design
  • Product Design Technology
  • Furniture and Product Design
  • Engineering Product Design
  • Product Design and Innovation

Learn more about Product Design pathways

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Where Can You Take an Art Foundation Course?

Art Foundation courses are offered at sixth form colleges, independent schools, further education colleges, and universities in the UK and beyond.

At Kings, our Art and Design Foundation programme is taught at our colleges in Brighton, London and Oxford.

At each of our schools, we provide the specialist facilities and resources you need to maximise your creativity — bright, well-equipped studios; your own dedicated workspace which you can access in class and outside class hours.

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Which Universities accept the Art Foundation?

Art Foundation courses are highly valued by all the top UK art universities and institutions. Universities do not mind where you have taken your Art Foundation programme, nor who it is assessed and accredited by — what counts is how you have developed your artistic skills and portfolio throughout the course, what you have presented in your final major project and how you come across in your application.

Some recent universities and degree programmes which Kings’ Art and Design Foundation students have progressed onto are listed below:

  • Architecture at University of Sheffield (#3)
  • Architecture and Art & Design at Newcastle University (#6 Architecture) (#1 Art & Design)
  • Art & Design and Illustration at University of Leeds (#11)
  • Graphic Design at Nottingham Trent University (#13)
  • Interior Design at Kingston University (#14)
  • Fashion Marketing at University of Southampton (#17)
  • Fine Art at Goldsmiths University (#17)
  • Games Design at Brunel University (#19)
  • Product Design at Central Saint Martins (UAL) (#53)

We also have an agreement with UWE Bristol — where we are able to offer students a conditional offer to a degree course before they leave home. The offer is based on successful completion of the Art Foundation course.

UWE Bristol Pathway

The University of the West of England (UWE), located in the vibrant and creative city of Bristol, is known for its emphasis on making its students ‘industry-ready’, encouraging work placements, internships and experience both in the UK and abroad. It’s also benefited from a recent £7 million investment into the design studios.

Students on the UWE Bristol Pathway will benefit from the UWE Advantage.

  1. Conditional offer: you’ll have an offer from UWE before you leave home.
  2. Portfolio guidance: University staff provide portfolio guidance and workshops.
  3. 2-day campus residentials: You can explore the campus, visit the art department and join activities including print screening. You can also visit a local gallery.
  4. Guest lectures: University staff will give lectures at Kings. Topics include 'Creative Futures', focussing on your degree and career options.

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What Are the Top Universities for Art Degrees in the UK?

The UK is home to many world-class higher education institutions offering degrees in a wide range of Art and Design disciplines. Some of the most globally-renowned artistic universities in the UK include Royal College of Art, University of the Arts London, The Glasgow School of Art, Goldsmiths University London, and Kingston University.

When looking for the best universities for your chosen discipline, it’s important to look at subject-specific rankings for the most accurate picture.

For example, you can see the top 15 ranked universities in the UK for Architecture courses below:

  • University of Cambridge
  • University College London (UCL)
  • Cardiff University
  • University of Bath
  • University of Sheffield
  • Queen's University, Belfast
  • University for the Creative Arts
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Nottingham
  • UWE Bristol
  • University of Plymouth
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Oxford Brookes University
  • Coventry University

And the top 15 for Fashion and Textiles:

  • Loughborough University
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • Kingston University
  • London Met
  • University of Staffordshire
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Bucks New University
  • University of the Arts London
  • Trinity St David (University of Wales)
  • University of Chester
  • University of Salford
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • University of Westminster
  • University of South Wales

(Rankings above taken from Guardian University Guide 2022)

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How Much Does an Art Foundation Course Cost?

The cost of an Art Foundation programme varies depending on the institution that you are applying for.

At Kings, the tuition fees for our Art and Design Foundation course are £21,780 for the academic year 2020 – 21. This fee is the same across all three colleges — Brighton, London and Oxford.

If you are an international student and would need accommodation provided by Kings whilst you are studying, there would be additional costs for this also. Learn more information about our course and accommodation fees here.

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How Can You Apply for an Art Foundation Course?

To apply for the Kings Art and Design Foundation course, you will need to submit:

  • Academic transcripts and certificates that show that you have completed 11 – 12 years of schooling
  • Proof that you meet the English language requirements for the course of IELTS 5.0 or above (for International students only)
  • A completed Application Form
  • Proof of identity (passport copy or other)
  • A portfolio of work (see requirements below)

Portfolio requirements:

When you apply for a place on the course, we also need you to send us some examples of your work so that we can check your suitability for the programme.

What sort of work should you send?

  • Something that will show the range of work you have done in the last two years, either in classes or in your own time. Try to include work done in a variety of media and materials.
  • You must include some drawing and some work in colour. Please include work done from direct observation, alongside any other approaches you have taken.
  • Try to make the selection varied - not all one type. You could include work based on the human figure, still life, landscape and environment, buildings, animals, machinery – whatever interests you.
  • If you have done some work relevant to the specialist area(s) you are considering (e.g fashion, fine art, etc.) please send examples of this.
  • Include any museum studies or work inspired by other artists, designers or craftspeople.
  • You may include 3D work: for example garments, models, sculptures or maquettes, items of jewellery or body ornament. You may have to send photos of these. If you have done design work for any of these pieces, please include it.
  • Include some developmental work – not just finished pieces – showing how you explore a subject or theme and experiment with ideas visually. It would be good to see examples of sketchbook work.

How much work should you send?

  • We suggest a minimum of 10 sheets of work with a maximum of 20 sheets. Please also send us a short written statement (max 200 words), telling us about your experience in art, craft and/or design, why you would like to do this course and what degree course subjects you are considering.

How should you send it?

  • The easiest way to send your portfolio is either via email attachments, or as a link to an online gallery or folder.
  • Alternatively, you can send these to us on CD/DVD, as photos, slides or by post if you prefer.

You can download our Application Form and learn more about how to apply here.

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Take an Art Foundation Course With Kings

We hope that this article has helped you understand more about what an art foundation course is, who it is suitable for, and the universities and courses that you can progress to after completing your foundation programme.

If you’re ready to apply, or would like to receive more detailed information about the Art and Design Foundation course or about our colleges in the UK, get in touch today.

  1. Send an email to
  2. Complete the contact form on our website
  3. Send us a message using LiveChat

Want to study A-levels before your art degree?

If you have finished high school and want to prepare for university entry in 1 – 2 years, our A-level programme may be the perfect option for you.

You can choose to take Art and Design alongside 2 or 3 other A-level subjects.

A-levels are a 'gold standard' qualification that are recognised by top universities around the world.

Learn more about A-level courses

Interested in completing Art and Design A-levels AND an Art Foundation in just two years?

If you are intent on studying an Art and Design related degree and are looking to complete A-levels and an Art Foundation course in as short a time as possible, our fast-track Art and Design pathway in Oxford allows you to do exactly this.

Not only will it save you time, you will also be able to focus earlier and more intensely on your specialist area of study.

Learn more about the Fast-track Art and Design pathway

Need extra English language support before starting your Art Foundation?

If you are below IELTS 5.0 and need extra English development it’s no problem. You can first join our Art & Design Preparation Programme.

This develops your language skills and core study skills so that you are ready to progress smoothly to the main Foundation.

Learn more about Art and Design preparation

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