This intensive one year course is long established and nationally respected: the qualification was originally developed at the University in the 1950s, and remains at the forefront of foundation education today.

Our students’ breadth of experience and innovative portfolios leads them to progress onto a range of prestigious, highly competitive degree courses including our own at the University.

Our Foundation Diploma foregrounds problem-solving, idea generation and critical thinking; you’ll be asked to reject your preconceptions and take risks outside your comfort zone. You will learn through playful experimentation and will develop lateral thinking strategies in order to approach problems from new perspectives. The course gradually moves from wide ranging staff-led projects to a position of independence, culminating in a significant individual project in the final stage.

The ability to draw is one of an artist and designer’s most valuable tools— that is why drawing, in its many forms, underpins all elements of the course. Within this intensively creative and demanding environment you’ll be challenged to become more inventive and experimental. You will develop your analytical and critical faculties in relation to the work of contemporary artists and designers, and the work developed by your peers.

You will be taught by experienced staff, including practising artists and designers, who have extensive experience across a wide breadth of art and design disciplines. They will support you through the UCAS application process and help you find the most appropriate degree course. Admissions tutors at highly selective universities look favourably on applicants with a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design.


course details

What You'll Study

Stage One — You will be set a range of short projects that will develop your understanding of art and design ‘languages’ in a wide range of media. You will also develop your technical understanding across a range of workshops.

Stage Two — You will work within a specialist pathway focusing on either: MAGPi (including moving image, advertising, graphic design, photography, illustration); Fine Art (including painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, film and video, performance); Textiles, Fashion & Costume (including constructed textiles, embroidery, surface pattern, fashion design, costume design); or Object and Spatial Design (including architecture, interior design, theatre design, transport design, product design, furniture design, jewellery, ceramics, glass). You will have the opportunity to work with a wide range of media and engage in a series of one-to-one tutorials and group critiques.

Stage Three — This stage is a nine week project that is proposed, time managed and undertaken by you. The project forms the bulk of the work that you will exhibit in the End of Year Show. A programme of lectures, seminars, research and reading will introduce you to the breadth of art and design. You will develop an understanding of contemporary practice within your specialist pathway and will compile a critical journal; this will prepare you for degree-course interviews.

Our Ideal Students

We are looking for talented people who have learned from a range of creative and life experiences and who are genuinely excited by the possibilities of art and design practice. Due to the intensive nature of the programme, you will need a high degree of motivation and a commitment to hard work.

Entry Requirements

We interview all applicants with the minimum entry requirements who apply by January 15th. We look at applicants’ GCSE results/projected A level grades. At interview we will carry out a portfolio review and will explore applicants’ understanding of contemporary art and design.

For full entry requirements please visit:

Please be advised that these include achievement of English and Maths GCSEs at grade 4/grade C or above.

Where You'll Study & Past Students

You’ll be based at the University’s Vernon Street building, with full access to excellent facilities across all disciplines. Past students have included Danny Sangra, Sam Arthur, Georgina Starr, Damien Hirst, Marcus Harvey, Georgia Shaw, Jill Shaddock, Phil Proctor, Laura Carlin, Alex Farrar, Nicholas Wheatley, Lucy Clout and Si Scott. 

Where Next?

Our students go on to study art and design at degree level and then on to careers across a wide range of disciplines. The intense nature of the course means that many make lifelong friends whilst on the course who become important members of their creative network.The course has a ‘family’ ethos and most students come back and visit on a regular basis to share their knowledge and experience with current students.

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.

Please see our Portfolio Guide Films for more information on portfolios.

We also run a range of daytime and evening portfolio development courses specialising in preparation for further and higher art and design education. For more information on current courses please click here.

Interview Guide

We’re thrilled that you’re thinking about studying at Leeds Arts University. We know that getting your place can be an exciting and nerve-racking experience, so we’ve chatted to Emily a Foundation Diploma Art & Design student for some tips and tricks about the interview.

What happens when you apply

We think it is very important that we assess your creative potential and ‘fit’ for the course. Once we receive your application form our admissions department checks your grades or predicted grades. If they meet our entry requirements we send a letter inviting you for interview. More in depth details on how to apply are available here.

Get your portfolio together

Before the interview spend some time compiling your portfolio, we recommend that you read our advice on how to put together a great portfolio. You could also consider speaking to your current teacher about which work shows off your talents.

Getting ready for interview

Don’t worry if you’ve never been to the University before, you can get an idea of the passion of our staff and students by watching all the video clips on our website. Most people find interviews make them nervous, try not to let your nerves get the better of you, the atmosphere in University is very welcoming.

Emily said: ‘I was really nervous before the interview, as soon as I stepped into the building the professional yet relaxed attitude of the staff put me at ease’.

Double check which building your interview is in. We’ve got two main sites, Foundation Diploma students are interviewed in the Vernon Street building. See Find Us for a map and directions.

Emily remembers: ’I got completely lost and went to the wrong place! I went to the building for the degree courses. I was then late and had to run down the road dragging my folio.’

If you have applied for the Foundation Diploma course you will receive a list of possible interview questions in the post, it includes things like “which contemporary artists currently inspire you?” or “Which film directors or authors do you like”. Think carefully about these questions, your responses will make you stand out.

Emily said: ‘The tutor asked me which artists had influenced my work and I spoke about an artist from my home town. At first I was a bit worried that the artist wasn’t famous and the tutor hadn’t heard of them but I realised it didn’t matter; it was how I spoke about the artist and my individual thoughts and opinions on their work that mattered.’

What happens during the interview

Our Foundation Diploma course interviews in an unconventional way due to the high volume of applications. When you arrive you will leave your portfolio in the interview room and go for a tour of our studios and workshops, whilst on your tour our tutors will review your portfolio. Your interview will take place when you return. During the interview you can expect to be in a room with maybe five or six other students, and have your interview standing up next to your portfolio.

Emily said: ‘A different member of staff interviewed each of us and the interviews all took place at the same time. There was a real buzz of chatter in the room, being able to hear other people talking made the interview much less nerve-wracking.’

And finally

If your interview doesn’t go as planned don’t worry. Our tutors are trained to spot raw talent, if you’ve got what it takes to do well on the course they’ll be able to see it.

Bear in mind this is general guidance for applications, portfolios and interviews at the University. Follow any specific guidance sent to you by the course.

Finance & Accommodation

Funding for the Foundation Diploma course

The Foundation Diploma course at Leeds Arts University is classed as further education and because of this students are not eligible to apply for the maintenance loan through Student Finance England. Those aged 19 and over, are eligible to apply for the Advanced Learner Loan to help pay for their tuition. For further information, see our Tuition Fees page here.

Accommodation for Foundation Diploma

There is accommodation available for those attending the Foundation Diploma course at Leeds Arts University. Priority is given to those who have received and accepted an offer and who normally reside outside Yorkshire or who are international applicants.

The accommodation information will be sent in the form of an email containing an online form for completion. Upon the form's return the accommodation provider will be notified and at this point they will send out information regarding deposit payment and a contract for completion.

Key Information

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


Foundation Diploma in Art & Design

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"We don't know what the art and design of tomorrow will look like, but we know that it won’t look like the art and design of today."
Andy Grayston, Course Leader
Foundation Diploma in Art & Design