Over the last 170 years, Leeds Arts University has made a significant contribution to arts education in the UK.

The University has roots dating back to 1846 and the original Leeds School of Art. In 1842 the Leeds Mechanics Institute merged with the Literary Society, which led to the formation of The Leeds Government School of Art and Design four years later. In 1903 the School moved to Vernon Street which we still have today. 

Video: The magnificent Merrion Centre mosaics created by Eric Taylor (1909–1999), artist and former Principal of Leeds College of Art (1956-1970), have been installed at Leeds Arts University’s Blenheim Walk building.

Following the world wars, returning ex-service personnel filled the College, often on ex-servicemen's training grants. Henry Moore, Raymond Coxon and Barbara Hepworth, enrolling in 1919 and 1920, were students of this era.

In the late 1920s the art school became known as Leeds College of Art. By 1946, no less than fifteen past students had been appointed as principals of schools of art. As our reputation grew, new design departments were formed, including furniture, graphic design and printmaking. A new pottery and workshops were built, and in 1959 a new library was created.

In 1955, under pioneering Head of Art, Harry Thubron, the College became a centre of innovation in art teaching in the UK. Thubron was appointed by Principal Edward E Pullee to instigate change. His Basic Design Course, largely founded in Leeds, became a new model for art education and one that is still used within the Foundation Diplomas to this day.

The 1960s were a particularly creative period for the College. Eric Atkinson who succeeded Harry Thubron as Head of Art, continued to bring in exciting and inspiring teachers including Robin Page, Stass Paraskos and Patrick Hughes. Artist Patrick Heron, writing in the Guardian, described Leeds College of Art as "...the most influential art school in Europe since the Bauhaus."

Although art education was being brought into the Polytechnic colleges across the country, a move that impacted directly on Leeds College of Art, pre-BA study continued in the Vernon Street building at the newly established Jacob Kramer College (1968). Alumni Eric Bainbridge, Marcus Harvey, Clio Barnard, Georgina Starr and Damien Hirst all studied the Foundation Diploma here.

In the mid-1980s our Blenheim Walk building was erected enabling the College to further expand. In 2017 the College gained University title becoming Leeds Arts University, the only specialist arts university in the North of England.

Our £22m state-of-the-art building expansion was completed in 2019 in order to widen our course offering and benefit our students. The new building includes a 230-seat performance auditorium and industry standard film and photography studios, enhanced fashion design studios, a new postgraduate study suite, a larger specialist arts research and reference library, and Dot the Lions, an independent coffee bar delivered by the team behind Laynes Espresso.

Find out more about our alumni.