Undergraduate course

Fine Art BA (Hons)

Immerse yourself in the world of art - in the studio, in Europe and in the lecture theatre.

Art materials on a desk

We believe in pushing the boundaries of creativity, enabling you to explore new ways of making and thinking. Our innovative fine art creative team will support your learning and encourage the pursuit of practice across a dynamic breadth of art forms and media.

94% of Fine Art students said that the course provided them with opportunities to explore ideas or concepts in depth (NSS 2019)

  • UCAS Code – WWC2
  • Location – York campus
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2020
  • School – Art, Design & Computer Science

Minimum Entry Requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs 3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2019-20 £9,250 per year

    International 2019-20 £12,750 per year

The York St John Experience

Course overview

Develop your skills and artistic creativity by immersing yourself in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, digital and time based media, as well as engaging with histories and philosophies of art. You will work in our exciting creative spaces, including a sculpture studio, a printmaking studio, a chemical darkroom and digital suites equipped with Adobe Creative Suite. The focus on the studio will be supported by our lecturers and enhanced by visiting artists, curators and arts professionals who will share their experiences with you and offer the opportunity for one-to-one tutorials.

Cultivate a strong aesthetic sensibility, material intelligence and a heightened capacity for critical thinking, as well as an introduction to curating. Take on live projects and work with gallery spaces, exhibiting your own work and showcasing the work of others. Trips to European cities and festivals such as the Venice Biennale and Glasgow International Art Festival, offer you the opportunity to broaden your experience and knowledge even further. Much closer to home, immerse yourself in York’s thriving arts and cultural scene, with events including The Aesthetica Art Prize and cutting-edge international media arts festival, Mediale which welcomes leading emerging talent our city.

Placing an emphasis on the importance of evolving your own specialist practice throughout the programme, the professionally-directed third year will focus on your unique ambitions as an accomplished fine art practitioner. This work culminates in exhibiting at our annual degree show, a fantastic opportunity to showcase your work to regional industry partners and businesses, as well as celebrating your achievement with friends and family.

Course structure

Level 1

Your first year of studying Fine Art BA (hons) aims to provide an induction to the processes, materials and practices of Fine Art. This will centre on experimental approaches to form and composition in 2D, 3D and 4D using analogue and digital techniques. Teaching will progress through drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography and 4D approaches such as performances and video giving you the opportunity to apply and understand your practice within these contexts. All through this process you will contextualise and critique your own work, the work of your peers and the work of professionals. You will understand the different situations, histories and contexts through which art is articulated.

Through this progressive development you will have an emerging sense of your personal “voice” as an artist. Alongside the studio modules, the Critical Contexts module provides foundational knowledge in the key theories and histories of Fine Art alongside other art forms. You will investigate topics and create essays and research projects which illuminate your understanding of these practices and contexts. Also within Critical Contexts, you will begin to construct a personal reflective portfolio in which you will consider all your work, both practical and theoretical, and consider the connections, meanings and implications of this work for your future practice. This portfolio will be regularly reviewed with your academic tutor and tutor group and you will start to make judgements about the future direction of your studies.

Modules include:

  • Critical Contexts 1: This module introduces you to the historical, social, political and material contexts that have informed the production and reception of creative practice. In so doing it draws attention to the different materials, technologies and cultural circumstances that have shaped the radical transformation of art, illustration and related practices. This material and historical foundation will enable you to grasp the complex array of forms that artistic practice can take, and the range of contexts in which it can be situated and applied. (20 credits)
  • Fine Art Fundamentals: This module provides the key induction into the conceptual, technical and material practices of Fine Art. You will experiment, learn and apply technical skills that constitute fundamental principles and practices.  This will centre on drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking and time based approaches to art making, using both traditional and digital tools. (40 credits)
  • Critical Contexts 2: This module introduces you to the conceptual ideas and cultural politics that have informed the production and reception of creative practice. In so doing it draws attention to the different materials, technologies and cultural circumstances that have shaped the radical transformation of art, illustration and related practices. (20 credits)
  • Fine Art Explorations: Fine Art Exploration enables you to achieve a deeper understanding of the diverse techniques and approaches to fine art practice by stimulating intellectual curiosity and building on the skills and knowledge gained in the previous module. Through a series of practice – led projects and workshops, you will develop further understanding of concepts and processes within 2D, 3D and 4D (time based) approaches to art making. As you make work through the module, you will be challenged to question the various conventions of art production and to generate your own personal interpretations through experimentation and creative risk-taking. (40 credits)

Level 2

Level 2 is intended to help you develop more detailed knowledge and understanding of Fine Art through theory and practice, building upon the work you have undertaken in Level 1. You will refine your practice in 2D, 3D or 4D works and apply your skills in constructing more complex works which critically engage audiences in a variety of professional contexts. These will be developed through tutor led projects, live projects with external partners and the opportunity to initiate and develop your own projects. Alongside the studio modules you will continue to build your skills and research and enquiry through the Critical Enquiry module which will enable you to learn diverse approaches to research and develop your own voice as a researcher.

You will also continue to develop and review your reflective portfolio making connections between theory, practice and also external professional practice, considering the impact of work related leaning options undertaken through the year. Students who wish to study away for a semester during Level 2 will undertake (at York St John University, in the semester preceding or following their time away) 20 credits of Critical Enquiry (1 or 2) which still provides a holistic overview of the learning through the level, including the experience of studying away, but appropriately adjusts the submission requirements accordingly. Students studying away will also normally only undertake either Fine Art Practice & Development or Fine Art Exposition.


Modules include:

  • Critical Enquiry 1 & 2: Critical Enquiry1 & 2 are transitional modules that develop knowledge, modes of thinking and research skills that will be vital to your research and practice in your final year modules. It builds on the first year Critical Contexts module to unite your contextual study and practice in Fine Art and Illustration. In doing so the module will give you the critical tools with which to situate your work in the complex and diverse discourses that have informed creative practice up until the 21st century. (20 credits each)
  • Fine Art Practice & Development: Fine Art Practice and Development begins the process of orientating and situating practice in a wider professional context. The module enables you to establish, deepen and broaden their emerging studio practice, working to express your own ‘aesthetic voice’ with conviction and confidence. (40 credits)
  • Fine Art Exposition: Fine Art Exposition aims to position the student’s practice as an artist through an extended engagement with the emergent specialised focus they have identified through previous modules. In this studio centred module, they will develop a focus for their creative practice towards more refined iterations that consider wider issues, including the role of the audience in relation to their work. The module will also offer the opportunity for site responsive practice, professional contexts and external engagement, identifying suitable opportunities to undertake work related learning. (40 credits)

Level 3

In your final year you will be operating as an independent and autonomous thinking Fine Art practitioner, demonstrating increasing sophistication and critical judgements through practice, critique and reflection. You will also encounter ideas and debates at the leading edge of research which situate Fine Art as an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practice. You will further develop your skills and knowledge through undertaking an independent piece of research to explore innovative ideas through a variety of both practical and theoretical based methods of your choice. You will refine your Fine Art practice in an interdisciplinary context through advanced studio practice. The Situated Professional Practice module will enable you to situate and direct your ambitions into a professional future after graduation.

Modules include:

  • Independent Research Project: The independent research project enables you to devise, direct, develop and conclude a piece of sustained and rigorous research.  The beginnings of this investigation are to be found in the encounters with both practice and/or theory that have shaped your studies. Your research ‘question’ will emerge through a prolonged and nuanced engagement with the practices and discursive debates that surround their chosen area of enquiry. (30 credits)
  • Advanced Studio Practice: This module enables and requires you to operate as an autonomous practitioner to direct a body of work that builds on the skills, knowledge and expertise.  Through experimentation, critique and reflection, you will find your own personal voice as a practitioner in your chosen specialism. Crucially this work will be developed into a portfolio of work and at least one public exhibition. (60 credits)
  • Situated Professional Practice: This Professional Orientation Module enables you to apply your skills, knowledge and experience to a professional direction. Crucially this module requires you to form professional relationships with external practitioners to research within the specific professional situations. (30 credits)

Teaching & Assessment


Your practice based learning will take place within the University, in studios and workshops (both practical and critical); externally through live projects, work based learning placements, internships; and virtually through digital engagement on the web, in online archives, social media and through University digital platforms such as Moodle (Virtual Learning Environment) and forms which you will author such as your online portfolio. All these sites of learning integrate to stimulate and support your development as a reflective Fine Art practitioner.

Teaching methods

Teaching activities are focused on an interactive engagement with you and your work. You will have regular informal tutorials in studio as well as regular formal portfolio review tutorials. Seminars and reading groups will engage you in critical debates, and workshops will engage you in skills development. Skilled technicians and technical tutors will also support your work through workshops and informal tutoring. A programme of visiting speakers, including international speakers through remote link up will connect you to current thinking, research and practice in Fine Art and related disciplines.


A key interactive mode of learning is the critique or “crit” where a group of peers, tutors or professionals will engage in a collective discussion about your work. You will participate in many crits of others works and also experience others critiquing your work. This is an important focus for development as it allows multiple voices to give a rounded view of your practice.

Portfolio & assessment

One of the crucial ways that you develop as an independent practitioner is through assessment and evaluation. During the programme you will experience a range of approaches to assessment. You will experience assessment of your work by tutors, peers and also your own self assessments which ultimately are the most important as they demonstrate your own understanding of your practice. Assessment should be an ongoing dialogue which is centred on your work whether practical or theoretical; this dialogue is captured in your reflective portfolio.

Formative assessment is always focused on identifying your strengths and areas for development in order to focus your personal, academic and professional development. You will initiate and maintain a reflective portfolio which captures all your learning and enables you to make connections on your work within the curriculum and also externally to give a holistic perspective on your practice and direction. You will have regular one-to-one or small group tutorials centred on your portfolio with your academic tutor; this will collate formative assessment responses from all projects and activities happening in the review period as well as your self-evaluations of these activities in order to discuss and agree feedforward actions for you to develop your practice. Assessments will use the University assessment matrix which accounts for a range of assessment criteria in order to make it clear where your strengths and areas for development are.

Summative assessments usually take place at the end of the module and reflect the cumulative body of work that you have undertaken during the module and which is reflected in a numerical mark. This cumulative approach is intended to enable you to respond to feedback and develop your work. It is also intended to encourage you to take risks with your work in the knowledge that you can reflect, refine and redirect your practice following formative feedback. For this reason, modules will formally end with some form of collection, exhibition or portfolio review which enables the work to be summarised and assessed. This will usually provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify your work to an audience of tutors and/or peers.

Entry Requirements



104 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

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Personal statement

Essential criteria

As well as a strong standard of written English, we also look for the ability to demonstrate an interest and knowledge in the subject.  This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, evidence of exploring fine arts across a range of disciplines and media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles and digital media.  An interest in the critical, historical and theoretical dimensions of the field is also important, with examples of this demonstrated through reading/writing reviews on exhibitions or visiting museums/galleries to view artwork from different time periods/movements.  In addition, candidates must show a commitment to the subject, though such things as extra-curricular museum visits, project work outside of any studies or related work experience.

Valued criteria

Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams.  Examples of this might include:

  • The ability to express what inspires them to study art, such as particular exhibitions they may have seen or a certain artist’s work that they admire.
  • Demonstrating the ability to work collaboratively with peers for activities such as group projects at school or the Duke of Edinburgh Award.
  • The ability to talk about any future ambitions or career plans.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

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