This exciting three-day-a-week course is ideal for those who are returning to education. There are two stand-alone, 14 hours per week, year-long courses: the first a Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts and the second a Level 3 Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design).

Students usually progress from level two to level three; however, those with art and design experience and a clear idea of their preferred specialism can apply directly for Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design). Many Access to Higher Education students win places on the UK’s most competitive degree courses including those at Leeds Arts University. This course is for you whether you’re just starting out or looking for a new direction in life, and if you’re serious about a professional career in art and design.

These courses offer a supportive atmosphere in which to develop your skills and interests, and to build your confidence. Successfully completing the Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) will enable you to apply for art and design degree courses here or at any other higher education institution.

We’ll help you with your UCAS application, although you won’t be pushed down the university route if that’s not what you want. We offer lots of individual guidance as to which course and institution are right for you, plus support in putting together a strong portfolio of work as part of your application.

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What You'll Study

Most students do the Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts as Year 1 (a level 2 qualification equivalent to GCSEs) and Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) as Year 2 (a level 3 qualification equivalent to A levels). Some students come straight onto the Access to HE Diploma (Art
& Design) - we will help you decide the most appropriate route at your interview.

Level 2 covers drawing, colour, 3D work, computer graphics, photography, printmaking, art and design history (Modernism:1880s-1960s), and information and research skills. You’ll explore your own strengths and begin deciding on your future specialism. There will be a major project where you will respond to a given theme in your own choice of media.

Level 3 includes skill development and visual awareness, portfolio-building, visual studies, a broad based project, self-directed briefs, and contextual studies (Post-Modernism: 1960s onwards).

You’ll have the opportunity to work on live briefs (competitions or community projects).

Each year we arrange educational visits to galleries, museums and sculpture parks; an optional residential visit is also offered.

Our Ideal Students

We’re interested in people from a range of backgrounds, who as a result bring a rich variety of experience and abilities. We welcome students who are returning to education, who are wishing to make a start with their career in the Arts as well as those looking for a career change. Our students work extremely well together, forming friendships which last long after leaving.

Entry Requirements

Applicants for these courses are mostly over the age of 19, those 18 or under must have already achieved GCSE Maths and English at grade 4/grade C.

Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design)

A portfolio of work is required at interview which demonstrates a broad range of skills in a number of media and materials, you will also find some knowledge of art history to be an advantage. Students applying for the course should be aware that alongside work in University, the course also involves additional independent study.

Click here to view our full entry requirements

Where You'll Study

Your main base will be a large studio in our Vernon Street building. You’ll also have the use of our computer suites, printmaking facilities, photographic studios and darkrooms, and our 3D workshops (casting, wood, metal and plastics).

Where Next?

The majority of our students who seek to progress from the Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) course to degree level study win places on higher education courses of their choice, including highly competitive local and national courses.

Portfolio Guide

Everyone’s work and approach will be unique, so there’s really no such thing as the perfect portfolio. But you do want it to speak eloquently on your behalf! So here are our top 10 tips:

1. Make it come alive! Make sure your portfolio could only be yours; unique, full of passion, packed with information about you—your skills, your interests, your style, your personality.

2. Presentation is everything. Even the most brilliant work, stuffed haphazardly into a plastic bag, is hardly going to shine! You don’t necessarily need to buy an expensive holder, but it might make you feel more organised and confident. Any method will do, as long as it looks good.

3. Be selective. Don’t put everything in - we won’t have time to look at it all. Pick pieces that really worked, and which showcase your particular skills and direction. You may be proud of the A* you got for a piece of work when you were 14, but make sure it still stands up today.

4. Tell us why. Either attach a piece of paper to each piece, write it on the back, or be prepared to talk it through—but we’ll want you to tell us about your work. What was the brief? What were the objectives? How did you research it? What was your design rationale? What were the challenges? What were your conclusions?

5. Show us you’re organised! Order your work logically—chronologically, or by theme, or by medium, for example.

6. Don’t forget unfinished work or work-in-progress. If relevant, these can be just as useful. It’s also good to attach sketches or plans to finished work, to show how you got there.

7. Don’t leave out the big stuff! Got something huge or cumbersome you’d like to show us? Just take some photos and bring them, instead.

8. Balance your running order. Start and end well: if you begin brilliantly and then fizzle away by the end, you’ll finish on a flat note. Think carefully about how you balance things all the way through.

9. Practice presenting your portfolio. You’ll feel a lot more comfortable if you feel familiar with the running order and what you want to say.

10. Label it. Make sure your name is on the front of your closed portfolio (we’d rather not open it upside down and make everything fall out!), and neatly label all the work inside with titles and approximate dates.

Open Days

We understand that leaving school and going to University is a big step. We aim to give you all the information you need to make the right decision.

Click here to find out more about our open days. 

1 Year
Study Mode
Full Time
Term Starts
Institution Name
Leeds Arts University
Validated By
University of the Arts, London & Certa


Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) & Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts

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We hold a number of open days throughout the year where you can visit us, meet our staff and have a look at our industry-standard facilities

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Each year the University becomes a gallery and showcases the final year students' work to artists and industry from across the UK.

Zuzana Marekova


Zuzana took the Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) course at Leeds Arts University and is now studying for a degree in Printed Textiles & Surface Pattern Design.

"This course is for you if you're just starting out or looking for a new direction, and if you're serious about a career in art and design."
Adam Stone
Access to Higher Education in Art & Design and Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts