Level 6

Fine Art BA (Hons)

Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus
Duration Age Group Study Start Cost Available Locations
£8000 per year * Southend Campus
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Course code: W100

This course is validated by the Univeristy of Arts London

Our students have gone on to become internationally-acclaimed artists, curators, art critics, lecturers, teachers and workers in diverse roles within the creative industries.

Why study this degree at University Centre South Essex?

  • You will have the opportunity to work with a range of mediums from painting, drawing, sculpture, film, photography and performance
  • Visiting artists and guest speakers
  • You will work with local galleries to put on exhibitions such as free range
  • You will get your own studio space for the full three years

The BA (Hons) in Fine Art has been designed to introduce you to a variety of creative disciplines such as painting, drawing, video, sculpture and photography but also to address the blurring of traditional boundaries between these disciplines. This introduction serves as the basis for your development as artists, makers and as creative thinkers engaged in the cultural life of contemporary society. The programme aims to offer a learning experience in which the interdependence of practical and theoretical development underpins the acquisition of knowledge and learning.

Year one

The first year is designed to allow you to engage with the culture of higher education and to equip you with the practical and conceptual skills and the awareness to develop your own creative identity. You will be encouraged to develop experimental, reflective and enquiring approaches to your work. You will also be introduced to the relevant cultural and historical contexts between theory and practice.

Year two

You will gain a greater flexibility in choosing the direction of your own work in studio practice and will be looking to develop a successful personal working methodology in preparation for your final year major project and your dissertation. You will also look at and consider areas and materials of increasing complexity. Site-specific artwork will challenge your perceptions of artistic production and you will be encouraged to examine the many ways in which an artist can engage with the wider public. In addition, you will research and actively work towards pursuing a career in your chosen field through the development of an effective portfolio of work. Finally, you will also produce a strategic professional development plan which could involve participation in work experience.

Year three

Your final year is dedicated to two major tasks: the production of your dissertation and the development of studio work for your final major project. The final year degree show is designed to provide you with a platform to demonstrate your own qualities as a professional artist or curator.

Entry Requirements

You will need a minimum of 64 UCAS points from one or more of the following:

  • At least two A-levels
  • BTEC/UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma/Diploma/Subsidiary Diploma/Certificate
  • BTEC National Award/Certificate/Diploma
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma (minimum 15 credits at merit or above)
  • International Baccalaureate
  • AQA Baccalaureate
  • Progression Diploma
  • Advanced Diploma

You will also need GCSE English at grade C (old specification) or Grade 4 (new specification) or above OR a Level 2 equivalent such as functional skills qualification.

Exceptional Entry

Applications from mature students who do not possess the entry requirements as listed above, but who possess related professional experience or professional qualifications are welcome to apply. In the first instance we suggest you contact HEAdmissions@southessex.ac.uk to discuss your application.

Course Structure

Year one units

Introduction to Fine Art

This unit will focus on a process-driven approach to the development of Fine Art outcomes. Initially, the unit will be structured to accommodate a series of formal introductions to the specialist areas within Fine Art from a practical perspective. This will build on prior learning and knowledge and ensure that you are equally equipped with the skills that you will require for the duration of the programme and your future as a Fine Artist. The emphasis will then focus on experiential learning, whereby a series of experimental activities will be devised to challenge you to extend your investigations to produce outcomes combining a range of traditional and non-traditional materials, techniques and processes. An important part of the module will be research into the work of other practitioners, giving you the opportunity to evaluate how other Fine Artists achieve their results from a technical perspective.

Historical and Contextual Studies (1)

This unit offers a broad introduction to contemporary cultural studies, and its link into more traditional art and design history. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the subject but to introduce you to sufficient themes and discourses within this area of study for you to explore areas of personal interest which fall outside of the indicative unit content.

Historical and Contextual Studies (2)

This unit offers a broad introduction to contemporary cultural studies, and its link into more traditional art and design history. It is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of the subject. It will, however, introduce you to sufficient themes and discourse within this area of study and enable you to explore areas of personal interest which fall outside of the indicative module content.

Thematic, Technical and Conceptual Development

This unit is designed to introduce key fine art processes and methodologies. Through a programme of lectures, seminars, technical and ideational workshops themes will be explored which are of particular relevance in both recent and historical artistic practices. By studying the wide issues within these themes, this unit will equip you with the skills to create a personal response to the subject matter. Practical investigation will be backed by theoretical research. The unit will be assessed through an exhibition of outcomes and supporting material (sketchbooks and research material).

Introduction to Studio Practice

Building on ideas that have emerged during term one, this unit requires the development of an individual art practice. The initial requirement is to write a project proposal that identifies the area of concern or interest that it is intended to explore. This will indicate artists, materials and reference sources likely to be relevant. The wider contexts of the emerging practice will be interrogated through the investigation of critical and theoretical discourses that relate to the projects. Group critiques led by tutors and often involving groups from other levels of the programme will be at the core of learning in this unit. It is expected that work developed independently in dedicated studio areas will be presented for review at regular intervals. Individual tutorials will be held fortnightly to discuss developing work.

Year two units

Professional Practice

This unit is designed to focus on the development of your personal, transferable, specialist and employability skills to meet the demands of professional practices in the contemporary art world. The unit aims to encourage you to identify potential progression routes and support them in preparing for entry into your chosen profession through the preparation and delivery of a formal presentation, involvement in a guest speaker programme, the production of a CV, artists statement and digital portfolio that will be presented via a blog or website.

Studio Practice

The aim of the unit is to enable you to focus on defining a personal identity within your work. You will reflect on the work produced in level 1 units and select areas of interest for further exploration. You will be asked to analyse the suitability of the practices, such as painting and photography, explored in the year one units to your own studio practice and to identify critical discourse and contemporary practices that reflect your interests. You will be encouraged to engage in meaningful dialogue with these discourse and practices through your studio practice in order to develop a challenging body of work. In this unit you are encouraged to work independently and to make and present work for critique with tutors and peers. A tutorial timetable detailing the dates and times of group and individual tutorials will structure the timing of feedback. These will often be attended by years one and three on the programme.

Site Specific Artwork

This unit will introduce you to the issues and debates that inform site – specificity. Lectures, seminars and gallery visits will explore notions of Site in relation to a range of contemporary and historical practices. You will be encouraged to investigate the relationship between your own developing artistic ideas and practices and the context in which these are produced and/or exhibited. In the first part of the unit you will visit a variety of potential locations for site specific artworks. Working either in groups or as individuals you will then design and prepare proposals that show full awareness of technical and aesthetic concerns and that are produced to a professional standard for presentation to the organisation that will host the artwork. The proposal will form the basis of consultations with the subject tutor to discuss how the site specific artworks will be realised in the second part of the module. Work will be carried out in the studio and on location when necessary.

Research Methodologies

The purpose of this unit is to assist you in developing appropriate research and critical methodologies to support your creative development and dissertation project. To this end, you will be required to assess the traditions, theories and ideologies which shape both contemporary culture and which determine and inform your own studio practices. You will be required to engage with a range of critical and analytical methods, to consider your underlying assumptions and to assess your limitations.

Cultural Contexts and Dissertation Proposal

The purpose of this unit is to assist you in developing appropriate research, statistical and critical methodologies to support your dissertation, and construct an appropriate proposal for your dissertation. You will be required to engage with a range of critical and analytical methods; to consider your underlying assumptions and to assess your limitations.

Year three units


This unit gives you the opportunity to develop a critical awareness, in-depth research, and to form a sustainable argument for an area of investigation. You will negotiate with a supervisor a line of enquiry that is relevant to your chosen field of study and undertake an avenue of research that could, but is not limited to, Fine Art.

Research and Formative Development

The aim of this unit is to identify a subject of personal significance and a working process that has the potential for sustained investigation. You will review and examine work produced in year two of the programme and address your choice of media and working process through discussion and exploration of alternative practices and media. By establishing a critical statement of intent, you will form an intellectual and creative foundation for your final major project. The context of the unit will be defined by you; through consultation and on-going communication with tutors.

Subject Realisation

The aim of this unit is to allow you the creative space to physically engage in producing your definitive statement as undergraduate Fine Artists, and marks a point of arrival in the continuing journey towards a recognizable fine art identity. You will be given the opportunity to locate your practice in relation to that of other contemporary artists. As part of the assessment (15%) a concise written document will outline developing themes and concerns, relating these to the use of particular processes and materials and to wider art historical, contemporary and cultural contexts.

You will focus on identifying, defining and developing your individualism and personal identity within your work. The structure of the unit will provide a way of showing competence, skill and ability within the chosen area, be it a single, dual or multi-disciplinary pathway. You will be expected to attain standards within this unit on a level comparable to those at commencement of a professional Fine Art career. This unit will focus on the studio practice identified by you and agreed with a supervisor in the Research and Formative Development unit.

Professional Practice

This is the culminating unit of the Fine Art degree. It allows you to develop and assimilate an awareness of your studio practice with the inevitable displaying and viewing of your work. Practical issues such as scale, quantity, lighting, funding, promotion, framing, hanging and displaying techniques will be considered. The relationship between the work, the space and the viewer will be assessed and evaluated. You will establish the exhibition space, prepare and install your work for exhibition, explain and evaluate the exhibited work and make an effective contribution to the management of the exhibition process. In the final show, you are expected to attain standards comparable to those at commencement of a fine art career.

Work placements

The course does not include a dedicated work placement unit however, for the Site Specific Artwork unit you will be required to develop and propose an artwork for a site or venue outside of the college. This will require you to submit and present a professionally produced and costed proposal and negotiate a timetable for installation of an artwork with a representative of a 'host site'. This will prepare you for the process of applying for residencies, exhibitions and commissions post degree.


Timetables are normally available one month before registration, though we endeavour to let you know an outline as soon as possible. Please note that while we make every effort to ensure that timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week. Typically, year groups are expected to attend lessons for 13 hours a week spread over two and a half days. We expect students to build on this learning through Independent Study for at least a similar period. For this time we usually have space available within the campus or at the Forum in Southend.

Guest speakers

The programme regularly includes guest speakers, including artists, Shaan Syed, Lindsey Mendick and Holly Hendry.

Final year show

You will undertake a professional exhibition of your work at the end of year three. You and your fellow students will decide the venue.

Contact hours

13 hours per week, comprising:

  • Four x three hour sessions of practical activities and theory
  • One hour tutorial

Teaching & Learning


The learning outcomes in year one facilitate the discovery of key theories and principles, in acquiring basic practical skills, and in developing a knowledge framework with a limited amount of independence. In year two the learning outcomes are geared towards industry requirements, in developing professional skills, and in synthesizing knowledge with independence. In year three, there is an emphasis on self-direction, working in teams, and in problem solving. These are inherent within the unit learning outcomes. Units are delivered through a variety of methods of teaching and learning. These include practical workshops and demonstrations, group and individual projects, peer group presentations, lectures, seminars and tutorials. All courses emphasise active participation and experiential learning, in combination with the development of research, analytical and critical skills.

Independent learning

When not attending lectures, seminars and workshops or other timetabled sessions you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve reading journal articles and books, working on individual and group projects, undertaking research in the library, preparing coursework assignments and presentations. A range of excellent facilities, including the library, the Learning Resource Centre and the Forum, supports your independent learning.

Assessment & Feedback

Coursework is assessed in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including:

  • Portfolio and sketchbook submissions
  • Exhibitions
  • Group presentations
  • Written essays
  • Research folders


You will receive formative feedback as part of your one-to-one sessions with your unit teachers. You will also receive summative feedback on all formal assessments undertaken by coursework. Feedback is intended to help you learn and you are encouraged to discuss it with your unit leader tutor. Feedback can be given in a range of different ways in order to accommodate a variety of learning styles and aptitudes including group critiques, recorded verbal feedback and written feedback.

We aim to provide you with feedback within 20 working days of hand-in (for all formal studio based coursework assessment). For the third year Dissertation Unit you will receive feedback and grades at the same time as your Final Creative Output Unit.

Course Cost

Adult, full_time: £8000 per year

Fees are per academic year for home/UK students.

The following course-related costs are included in the fees:

  • Guest speakers, visiting lecturers and industry focussed workshops will be included in your course over the three years.
  • Third Year students will have the opportunity to showcase their final year work at the end of their studies. This may be a local, national or online platform. Event/exhibition costs will be covered by the Faculty of HE. In the past this has included Free Range. Students will be responsible for any additional costs associated with the production of their personal project (ie: printing, materials).
  • Annual £20 of printing credit per year

Additional costs

Trips: students may go on up to four trips per year. The maximum cost per trip will be £35.

Materials: the cost of materials will vary according to individual projects.

Additional course costs can be found here

What Next...

Graduates have gone on to work as freelance artists, art teachers, curators, art critics, gallery directors and video editors. One of our recent graduates is currently working at Paul Siggins - The Mosaic Studio.

Students have also progressed to postgraduate study, including overseas, with one student studying a MA in Australia.

Graduates also progress to postgraduate study in the UK, including MA Fine Art, MA Painting and MA Drawing at University of the Arts London.

Success Stories...

Success Story: Gus Nweke

Success Story: Gus Nweke

Course studied

Fine Art BA (Hons)

My time at the centre improved my self-confidence and made me believe in myself and my ability. It helped me to become focused and enabled me to set goals.

My name is Augustus Nweke, I am 51 years old, I studied Fine Art at University Centre South Essex from 2016 until 2020 and this is my story.

I first studied Access to Higher Education and went on to do my Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Before studying I worked as a security officer.

I chose to study at University Centre South Essex because it was the closest to me and I could identify with their adult education program easily.

My foundation course prepared me for the next level. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make when I decided to further my studies because I received world-class preparation. I would like to thank Dr Cherry, Andy, Matt and a host of other very supportive staff who helped me. I gained valuable collaborative, organisational and leadership skills whilst studying. At the University Centre you get all the support you need to succeed.

The university centre provided me with the basic equipment and studio assistance in printing, wood work and the sculpture studios. My method of painting now involves both printing and painting which I developed interest in during my Access course year. Now my painting style is deeply rooted in printing.

After leaving the University Centre I did my Master’s degree in Art specialising in painting and my works have been exhibited in some high profile group exhibitions.
I  now work at Stansted airport while pursuing my career in the arts.

As an artist I organise and curate exhibitions, I am interested in critical practice and I paint. 

At Stansted I work to protect civil aviation against unwanted treats and acts of terrorism including protecting the airport facility against illegal and unlawful entry or destruction of property. 

In the future I want to do my practice-based Doctorate research starting in 2023.

I would recommend studying at University Centre South Essex because it understands the needs of adult students. They are flexible, supportive and welcoming. All the staff are interested to see you succeed.

My time at the centre improved my self-confidence and made me believe in myself and my ability. It helped me to become focused and enabled me to set goals.

For more information on the Fine Art programme, visit: www.southessex.ac.uk/course/fine-art-ba-hons