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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course details

What You'll Study

Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design)

Our Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) is a level 3 qualification equivalent to A levels and allows you to progress to art and design study at undergraduate degree level. The course includes skill development and visual awareness, portfolio-building, visual studies, a broad based project, self-directed briefs, and historical and contextual studies (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 usually offered. 

Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts

The Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts is a level 2 qualification equivalent to GCSEs and may allow you to progress to the Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) in year two or to alternative study options. The course 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.

Our Ideal Students

Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design)

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. Students should have some art and design experience but we welcome people from a range of backgrounds, who as a result bring a rich variety of experience and abilities.

Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts

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, often forming friendships which last long after leaving.

Entry Requirements

You will be required to show us a portfolio of work at interview which demonstrates a broad range of skills in a number of media and materials. Applicants for these courses are mostly over the age of 19, however if you are 18 or under you must have already achieved GCSE Maths and English at grade 4/grade C.

For full entry requirements please visit:

Where You'll Study

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

Where Next?

The majority of our Level 2 Diploma in Visual Arts students progress to our Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design).

Access to HE Diploma (Art & Design) students who seek to progress to degree level study often achieve places on higher education courses of their choice, including those at our University.

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

Anthony Earnshaw Bursary Awarded

The Anthony Earnshaw Bursary 2018 was awarded to Anca Lowe, Access to HE Diploma student, who received the prize on the strength of her Drawing a Day project. …

Anthony Earnshaw bursary winners visit Patrick Hughes Reverspective

On Tuesday 27 June the 2017 Anthony Earnshaw bursary winner and runners up were invited to visit the London studio of artist Patrick Hughes. …

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Iconic mosaic restored by students

Students from Leeds Arts University have collaborated with local mosaic artist, Ruth Wilkinson, to create a beautiful new mosaic located in Victoria Quarter. …

First Anthony Earnshaw Bursary Awarded

The Anthony Earnshaw Bursary has been awarded for the first time. Zsazsa Cooper-Williams studying Access to HE Diploma received the prize on the strength of her Drawing a Day project. …

Head of Research launches new book

Dr. Sam Broadhead, Head of Research, will be launching her new book ‘Practical Wisdom and Democratic Education’ at Leeds Arts University …

Leeds College of Art student wins BBC One’s 'The Big Painting Challenge'

Access to HE student Suman Kaur has been selected as one of 10 contestants for BBC One’s ‘The Big Painting Challenge’ …

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Make Your Future…

Make Your Future is a Crafts Council project that aims to reignite a passion for making in schools b…

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Open Days

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

Watch Now

End of Year Show Film

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