#ArtsEdMatters – UAL Awarding Body Conference 2017

Thanks to all who came to the UAL Awarding Body Conference at Mary Ward House on 10 February. The event was our biggest to date – with over 350 people in attendance!

Instead of running separate conferences, this year’s event brought all subjects together under one roof. Delegates from Art & Design, Music, Performing Arts and Fashion came together in the morning, before separating for subject-specific breakout sessions in the afternoon. The Foundation (FAD) conference had a separate agenda, but delegates joined those from the other subjects during the breaks and post-conference networking session.



audience_james-hopkirkGrayson Perry’s lively presentation. Photo James Hopkirk.


UAL’s Vice Chancellor Nigel Carrington opened the main conference and introduced Grayson Perry (UAL Chancellor), who delivered a lively presentation on why arts education is so important. There were also policy updates from Naomi Nicholson (Ofqual) and Helen Thorne (UCAS).

Subject-specific speakers included: Posy Simmonds (newspaper cartoonist, writer and illustrator), Jenny Mollica (Barbican), Jenni Sutton (Fashion Capital), Sam Summerson (Global Academy) and Dave Randall (composer/producer). Delegates then re-grouped for a moving presentation by Helen Marriage, Director of public arts company Artichoke.

Great to hear from a fantastic student @UALawardingbody conference, this is what it’s all about! #ArtsEdMatters – Sam Summerson, Global Academy

helen-marriage_james-hopkirkHelen Marriage from Artichoke. Photo James Hopkirk.


Posy Simmonds starting with “dots for eyes.” Quirky, gentile and beautiful; another great talk at @UALawardingbody annual conference – The Oxfordshire Creative Academy

posy-simmonds_james-hopkirkPosy Simmonds live drawing her presentation on a visualiser. Photo James Hopkirk.


The FAD conference included presentations on: digital portfolios (Neil Manning, Edinburgh College); writing project proposals (Elspeth Mackie, SEM); the student experience (Natasha Parker-Edwards, former Barton Peveril College student); and the growing emphasis of digital portfolios (Georgia Steele, CSM). There was also an insightful keynote speech by sculptor John Humphreys, who brought several works – including an alien in a body bag – along for delegates to see!

natasha-parker-edwards_ludovicaFormer FAD student Natasha Parker-Edwards. Photo Ludovica Galeazzi.


I believe that process is more important than the…outcome – ace talk by Natasha Parker-Edwards, FAD Barton Peveril Col – CityLit FAD



john-humphreys-sculptures_ludovicaFAD delegates admire sculptures by John Humphreys. Photo Ludovica Galeazzi.


Guests were also treated to live performances by talented students from the Academy of Contemporary Music, West Suffolk College and BSix throughout the day.





george-nash_james-hopkirkLive student performances by West Suffolk College, BSix and George Nash from Academy of Contemporary Music.


Thanks again to all of our guest speakers. You can view the full agenda for the conference here and the full list of speakers can be found below. Click on the hyperlinks to view and download speaker presentations where available:

Grayson Perry – Why arts education matters
Naomi Nicholson – Ofqual
Helen Thorne – UCAS
Helen Marriage – Working the streets: life in the fast lane

Art & Design
Martin Vella – Yearly catch-up
John Kelly/Wendy Breakell – Links to industry
Posy Simmonds MBE – Why drawing matters
Ian Badger/Steve Dixon – Digitalised sketchbooks

Creative Media Production & Technology
Tim Hetherington – Yearly catch-up
Bradley Cocksedge – The student experience
Sam Summerson – Roles within the media industry

Performing & Production Arts

Marc Mollica – Yearly catch-up
Beth Atkin – The student experience
Nigel Hooper – CPD digital platforms
Jenny Mollica – Barbican Box

Music Performance & Production
Andy Sankey – Yearly catch-up
Toby Powell – The student experience
Dave Randall – Politics and music, music and society
Nigel Hooper – CPD digital platforms

Fashion Business & Retail
Sarah Atkinson – Yearly catch-up
Karinna Nobbs – Innovation in digital marketing
Jenni Sutton – Compliance and sustainability

Diploma in Art & Design – Foundation Studies (FAD)
Sue Cook – Yearly catch-up
Neil Manning – Digital portfolios
Natasha Parker-Edwards – The student experience
Elspeth Mackie – Writing project proposals
Georgia Steele – The growing emphasis on digital across all pathways
John Humphreys

Everyone who attended the conference has an event evaluation form via email. We will use the feedback from the form to inform future UAL Awarding Body events therefore please do take the time to complete it if you can spare a couple of minutes.

It is the work that is the boss of you


Alex Schady, programme leader for Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, on understanding work in a gallery context.

Learning to think through making is an important part of arts education. When considering a piece of work, it can be tempting to start with the question what is this work about? Students often want to describe their own making in the same way; starting sentences with my work is about

The problem with this approach is that it limits us to only describe what we already know. We describe a set of ideas and try to attach them to a piece of work, rather than allowing the work to tell us what it is and how it operates.

As the Programme Director for Art at Central Saint Martins, I often tell students that they are not masters of their own work, it is in fact the work that is the boss of them. The skill is in learning to listen attentively to what a piece of work is saying and what it thinks it needs.

When working in the gallery we can confidently assert that our reading of a work is as valid as that of an expert or even of the artist. This is not to say, however, that we can apply any interpretation to any piece of work. If we resist the temptation to ask what is this about and instead look closely at what this is and how it is constructed in space, then a personal close reading of the work is possible.

During the UAL Awarding Body CPD event with Tate, we will run a series of practical (hands-on) activities within the gallery to help us interrogate the work and to better understand it. We will make with the work (cutting, sticking, drawing, modelling) to help us to understand what an object is and how it might find a place in the world.

Alex Schady will be facilitating UAL Awarding Body’s upcoming CPD event on developing students’ critical and contextual research skills with Tate on 24 February 2017. For further information/to book visit arts.ac.uk/cpd.

Image: © Alex Schady

Register now for the UAL Awarding Body Annual Conference 2017!


Keep 10 February 2017 free for the UAL Awarding Body Conference!

This year – for the first time – we’re holding one big conference for all subjects under one roof. We hope the new format will provide greater opportunity for collaboration and networking between different subject areas.

Due to the large number of centres delivering our Diploma in Art & Design – Foundations Studies (FAD) qualification, a separate programme of talks and breakout sessions have been planned for FAD delegates on the day. However, delegates from all subject areas will come together for the breaks, lunch and networking sessions.

We’re thrilled to announce the following guest speakers who will be presenting throughout the day:

Main conference:

  • Grayson Perry
    Chancellor of University of the Arts London and Turner prize-winning artist
  • Phil Beach
    Executive Director Vocational Qualifications, Ofqual
  • Helen Thorne MBE
    Director of External Relations, UCAS
  • Helen Marriage
    Director of Artichoke, a creative company that works with artists to put on extraordinary and ambitious art events

FAD conference:

  • Phil Beach
    Executive Director Vocational Qualifications, Ofqual
  • John Humphreys
    Acclaimed fine art sculptor, his work has appeared in TV and film projects including Dr Who and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The day will also include a number of subject-specific breakout sessions, designed to support delegates with the successful delivery of UAL Awarding Body qualifications.

The conference will take place at Mary Ward House, a beautiful Grade 1 listed building in Bloomsbury, London. Entertainment will come from Performance and Music students and light refreshments will be provided throughout the day.

The conference is open to staff from all centres delivering UAL Awarding Body qualifications and is free to attend. For further information/to book your place visit:

We hope to see you there!

How to write an effective UCAS personal statement

For many students, writing a compelling personal statement for their UCAS application is a daunting prospect. Louise Evans, Head of Adviser Experience at UCAS, shares her top tips for writing an effective personal statement below…


The personal statement is an important part of the UCAS application. It’s a student’s opportunity to describe their ambitions, skills, and experience. However, it’s often the part of the application they also worry about the most.

If they’re in need of some inspiration, then look no further – here are the best places to pick up a pointer or two.

1. The UCAS website
Planning should start at www.ucas.com/personalstatement. There are tips on how to get started and what to include. It also covers technical aspects to bear in mind, such as the character count.

2. Personal statement timeline
The personal statement timeline is really useful. It’s packed with advice on how to spread out the planning and writing stages so there’s no last minute panicking.

3. Our blog
A few years ago we asked university admissions tutors to tell us what they’re looking for in the personal statement. The advice they shared has been so well received that it’s still our most popular blog post to date – read it here.

4. Teachers and tutors
Teachers and tutors are well placed to know a student’s strengths and can point out areas and skills a student may not have considered, but are really relevant.

5. Open days
Open days are not only a chance to find out what a university has to offer, but also to find out what they expect from their students. If at all possible students should make the time to visit a university and ask as many questions as they can. Course tutors can offer advice on what they like to see in personal statements, and what can help somebody stand out from the crowd. Find out when open days are happening in our open days search.

6. Video guide
This video with Jane Marshall from Imperial College has everything a student needs to know about how to write a personal statement. In less than five minutes you can get some great tips.

7. Personal statement mind map
Although it might look a bit chaotic, this personal statement mind map is a great way for a student to get their thoughts in order.


7. Search for course details 
Every course that can be applied for is listed in our search tool, together with entry requirements and a description of what it covers. Students can find the courses they’re interested in and try to match up their strengths and experiences to the course requirements.

8. Friends and family
Once they’ve drafted their personal statement, get your students to read it aloud to people they trust. They’ll be able to offer fresh insight into how the statement flows and any areas that might have been missed.

City College Brighton and Hove student’s film recognised by leading website

Student Max Chatfield, who is currently studying the UAL Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology at City College Brighton and Hove, has had a video essay that he made as part of his college course published on nofilmschool.com.

Max Chatfield

Max Chatfield

nofilmschool.com is widely regarded in the film industry as being the leading destination for knowledge-sharing and provides readers with a wide spectrum of filmmaking material.

The subject of Max’s video was Academy award-winning film editor and sound designer Walter Murch, whose credits include Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, American Graffiti and The English Patient. Max’s film, which was produced as part of his coursework research into professional specialisms in the film industry, will now being used as a research tool by film students all over the world.

Max has been thrilled with the response to his film, he explained:

I’d posted the video on my YouTube channel like I do with all my college work and the next thing I knew, nofilmschool.com had picked up on it and written a whole article explaining my video with a link to it. This led to loads of shares on Facebook and Twitter and the view-count just keeps growing. To be honest, it was quite surreal to see myself being featured on the site because I use it all the time myself. Being on this course has helped me learn so much more about the technical side of filmmaking and also about how the industry works. My ambition is to be a film editor and having coursework that broadens your understanding of the craft really helps with your progression to becoming a professional yourself.

Plymouth College of Art launches new Palace Court campus

Katie Greenyer, Creative Director of Pentland Brands, the London-based fashion group whose labels include Red or Dead and Speedo, formally opened Palace Court, Plymouth College of Art’s brand new Pre-Degree campus for 16 to 19-year-olds studying creative Extended Diplomas.

Palace Court is now home to 500 16 to 19-year-olds studying arts, crafts, design and media. Its opening marks the next stage in Plymouth College of Art’s commitment to offering a progressive continuum of creative learning and practice in the region that extends from the age of three to Masters level study. This growth comes at a time of contraction in art education in schools, in which the consequence, intended or otherwise, of the proposed EBacc control measure risks marginalising the importance of creativity in UK education.

Palace Court courtyard . Photo by Dom Moore.

Palace Court courtyard . Photo by Dom Moore.

Katie Greenyer, Creative Director of Pentland Brands, said:

“The creative industries rely on new blood and the next generation of design talent, and where better to find new talent than in a dedicated campus for young people who get to immerse themselves in their creative studies? We all have a responsibility to nurture the talent of tomorrow and not to limit their opportunities by shunning creativity in education in favour of traditional subjects.”

Plymouth College of Art’s acquisition and redevelopment of the historic Palace Court campus marks a return to the site, which was first occupied by the college in 1949. The refurbished and remodelled campus now boasts over 600m2 of specialist studio spaces and workshops, designed to meet the needs of modern art, design and media students. Palace Court has already been shortlisted for The Building Forum (TBF) of Devon and Cornwall’s Building of the Year award, the winners of which will be announced in November.

Pre-degree fashion students

Pre-degree fashion students

The Level 3, Extended Diplomas delivered by Plymouth College of Art are designed and awarded by UAL Awarding Body, which is part of the University of the Arts London (UAL). Designed in collaboration with industry and education partners, the qualifications are equivalent to three A-levels and are recognised by UCAS, arts universities throughout the UK and by employers in the creative industries.

Ross Anderson, Director of UAL Awarding Body said:

“We are selective about who we work with and actively seek out institutions that are innovative, creative and committed to arts education. We are delighted to work in partnership with Plymouth College of Art, and their investment in Palace Court is truly inspiring. It will provide students with access to an amazing learning environment and exceptional facilities, and will support them to progress to the next stage of their creative journey.”

Matias Shortcook, Associate Dean, Pre Degree at Plymouth College of Art, said:

“Our Extended Diploma qualifications are unique in the way that we place equal value on the technical skills of each student as well as the development of the person behind the creative practice. Our learners develop strong skills in communication, driving their own development and learning to take responsibility for their own workloads and personal growth. Combined with the excellent technical knowledge that they learn in arts, crafts, design and digital media subjects, this means that students graduate with the skills needed to thrive in Higher Education or succeed professionally in the creative industries.”

Palace Court combines a collaborative art school and high energy creative learning environment with a modern curriculum that reflects all the technical and personal skills that young people in the South West will need to progress in the UK’s booming creative industries, which contribute over £80 billion per year to the UK economy and provide employment for over 1.8 million people.

The benefits of teaching maths with art and design

Derek Johnson, Director of the School of Art and Design at West Suffolk College, on how embedding maths into art and design teaching opens wonderful creative doorways:

“Anybody who works in further education (FE) in 2016 will be only too aware of the focus on English and maths. As the Director of a school of art and design with over 400 FE students, I often feel that a huge part of my and my team’s working life is taken over by chasing attendance and achievement in Functional Skills and GCSE. Our funding depends on it, the shadow of Ofsted looms over it, and our overall quality seems to be determined by it. In short, it’s a big deal…a really big deal!

I hear a lot of negativity from parts of the sector, some students and even parents. Let us take a step back though…before this drive we had students leaving education without a chance to improve their English and maths skills or grades. In fact, there was a culture where English and maths were even seen as something totally unconnected to art and design. However, I believe that if approached with an open mind and positive ambitions, the change can improve the quality of education and, in turn, the futures for our students.

The changes over the past few years have made us think, pushed us to revaluate how we deliver our programmes and construct our timetable. It has been a challenge to say the least. In our Art School at West Suffolk College, we have embraced the change and raised standards of technical and creative skills as a result.

Mathematical drawings are influencing and informing our students’ 3D assignments. One exercise involves mapping fir cones according to the Fibonacci sequence, then measuring the geography of the subsequent drawing through a study of coastline fractals using dividers made with cocktail sticks and liquorish strips. The work of mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot (1967) is a wonderful contextual reference for this and the resulting designs become powerful building block for architectural concepts. The process involves demanding mathematical systems – but it is genuinely loved by our students.

Embedding maths in art pine cone image

Mapping fir cones according to the Fibonacci sequence


At our school we have gone one step further by developing an in-house award called the ‘MARS Award’ (Maths, Art, Religion, Science). This grew from a project we did in 2013 when a Level 3 assignment based on the Hindu god of Shiva and the CERN Large Hadron Collider went internationally viral – it was really crazy! Since then all our FE students in term 2 undertake the MARS project, which embraces all the wonders of the wider world into a rich and powerful set of assignments. We work collaboratively with our science school and there are winners on each course and then an overall winner – judged by an invited panel. The award was won in 2016 by Lauren Jones, a second year Level 3 Graphic Design student who explored the periodic table through religion, mathematics and reinventing the symbols as a result. Incredibly sophisticated work – all a result of enjoying the opportunity of DfE changes.”

Want to find out more? Derek Johnson will be a facilitator at our Teaching Maths and Art continuing professional development event on 20 February 2017.

A day in the life of a FAD student

The UAL Awarding Body team learnt first-hand what it’s like for students taking their qualifications, when they went back to college for the day. The team spent Friday 7 October being Foundation Diploma in Art & Design (FAD) students at Central Saint Martins (CSM).

The team-building day was designed to help staff to better understand the needs and priorities of UAL Awarding Body’s customers and students. Led by Associate Lecturers Georgia Steele and Alaistair Steele and Chris Roberts (Programme Director for FAD at CSM), the team engaged in a range of typical activities that CSM’s FAD students are set, including: object-based learning, prototyping and drawing and design. The day culminated in each team member designing their own object and selecting a specialist pathway with the support and advice of teaching staff. Chris Roberts, CSM’s Programme Director for FAD explained:

It was a pleasure to devise a schedule for this staff development day for the UAL Awarding Body team. Knowing that the levels of experience would vary we tried to use activities and objectives that where achievable by all but that were very much in the spirit of the foundation course. We adapted existing projects and attempted to give the staff a realistic view of how a Foundation student at Central Saint Martins would approach their learning experience.

For many team members, this was their first experience of post-16 art and design education. Summing up the day, UAL Awarding Body’s Director Ross Anderson said:

I really wanted to help everybody at UAL Awarding Body to understand what our tutors and students do every day, and to appreciate some of the things that are particular to a high quality arts education. The better we understand our tutors and students, the better we can support them and ensure they have a great experience with us. Also, I thought it would be great fun, and thanks to Chris, Georgia and Alaistair, it definitely was!

Thanks again to the CSM FAD team for an insightful and enjoyable day! You can view a selection of photographs from the day below…

DSC_0063 IMG_9961 IMG_9908 IMG_9898 IMG_9744 IMG_0640 IMG_0013 DSC_0188 DSC_0157 DSC_0125 DSC_0072

All photos by Anuka Ramisch.

Successes for deaf students studying at City College Brighton


Four students from Hamilton Lodge, a school for deaf and hearing-impaired children in Brighton, have excelled on the UAL Awarding Body Level 2 Creative Media Production & Technology course since moving into mainstream education at City College Brighton and Hove.

Oliver Chettle, Louie Sivyer, James Blake and Aaron Cuff all achieved Distinctions for their stand-out work including a modern-day recreation of the famous chase scene from ‘Brighton Rock’. Oliver, whose work was recently exhibited at UAL Awarding Body’s Origins 2016 exhibition, was also named as the college’s ‘Digital Arts City Achiever’.

“It’s fantastic news that all four of us got Distinction grades on our course,” says Oliver. “I loved the course, particularly the photography unit. I think because I am deaf, I’m used to seeing everything around me in more detail maybe, than a hearing person. I’m not distracted by noise around me so I can really focus on my work. Maybe it’s the same for the others. The teaching staff and my student support worker have been fantastic. The City College staff are very deaf-friendly and inclusive and they really helped me settle in and work with hearing students too which was good because it took me out of my comfort zone and helped my confidence.”

Course tutor Jim Lee added “The four students from Hamilton Lodge who studied on the Level 2 Creative Media course this year were a joy to work with. They’ve all shown an incredible thirst for learning and a creativity and flair in everything they’ve done. They’ve also made outstanding projects both during the year and for their final pieces and are all now in a great position to move forward to higher level courses”.

Image: Hamilton Lodge students with tutors. Courtesy of City College Brighton

New Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries


UAL Awarding Body’s first Professional Diploma qualification has now been accredited by Ofqual. The specification for the Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries is now available on our website.

The UAL Level 4 Professional Diploma in Technical & Production Practice for the Creative Industries has been designed to provide students with the skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to work in the production arts industry. It is a one year qualification designed to be a fast track into employment and will open up the possibility of further progression into Higher Education.

The qualification will be piloted in 2016/7 by the new National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries.

About the Professional Diplomas
UAL Professional Diplomas are specialist technical qualifications which provide vocational learning at Level 4. They are developed in collaboration with Creative and Cultural Skills and representatives from industry, universities, further education colleges and employers to meet the Occupational Standards for the sector.

For more information please see the qualification specification. If you are  interested in delivering the qualification in the 2017/8 academic year, then please registering your interest by sending an email to Kitty Jenkins – kitty.jenkins@arts.ac.uk.

Image: Wimbledon degree show 2011 BA Costume Design, Raechyl Esther – With Wild Ecstasy. Copyright Guy Archera