Skip to main content Skip to footer

studying an art and design foundation course


We interviewed Joe Smith who studied the Foundation Diploma at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in Canterbury about his experience and how it led him to study an undergraduate degree in Animation and Illustration.

What is a foundation course?

A foundation is one-year course (or two years if you choose the Extended Diploma after your GCSEs) where you can try several different creative subjects week by week before choosing one subject pathway. This is helpful to many students before going onto an undergraduate degree if they are not 100% sure on what they would like to do for the next three to four years. You are treated as if you are a university student, so nothing is off limits, including workshops, lectures, etc.

why did you choose to do it?

Originally, I did not want to study Art in any way so I went to Sixth Form to hopefully find out what I would like to do in the future, and this actually led to me having an interest in Architecture. Although I wanted to become an architect, I was not sure if I was good enough or if that was my final decision, so the Foundation Diploma seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to discover if Architecture was feasible.

how did it compare to studying at school/college?

Doing a foundation compared to school/college is much more exciting as they give you all the freedom you need for each project, none of your ideas are frowned upon and being in this environment allows you to become independent and gives you more confidence not only in your work but yourself. You also get more one to one time with teachers and I feel as if they are more invested in you.

did you get any financial support?

Unfortunately, with the Foundation you do not get any government financial support which means if you are coming from a distance you will not get financial support for accommodation and this can range from £5,500 to £8,500 depending on the area.

However, it is a free course if you are under the age of 19 when applying. There are also ways around accommodation fees such as room sharing in private housing which could be as low as £300/month. There are also UCA funds in place for special cases such as disabilities.

did you encounter any difficulties this year?

I think my biggest difficulty with Foundation was getting used to the pace of university life compared to usual school work as one of the first things you face is the carousel which many find is fast pace as you have one week of each subject for 5 weeks. In the beginning I did find it tricky to switch from what I learnt in A Level Art to Foundation Studies as usually you are given a title and your work is based on this but that is not the case in Foundation, it is completely up to you on what you want to create. The bottom line is: you get out what you put in.

what skills did you learn?

Foundation taught me a variety of things for example, how to turn a simple idea into a dedicated project without hesitation. I was taught how to use adobe platforms such as Photoshop, Animate, Lightroom, etc, which I would have never figured out for myself. Even the simplest of things such as how to load a manual film camera.

I think the biggest thing Foundation had taught me was patience, school/college in my opinion rushes you through your years and you do not have all the time you need to create something that you are wholeheartedly proud of, in comparison Foundation gives you the opposite. Although having strict deadlines like you would find in the real world, we are allowed time to refine ideas and make positive mistakes before the final outcome.

If you had the chance again, would you choose to do the Foundation?

There’s no doubt about it, I would choose to do the Foundation in a heartbeat. You learn so many great techniques and as a bonus you have all this knowledge for next year as an undergraduate which many in your class will not as they would be straight out of school/college.

I do not regret going to Sixth Form, as it taught me other skills that led me to Foundation. Personally, the Foundation showed me how feasible a career is art is and how I have been directed to a different undergraduate course than my original thought as I fell in love with Animation and Illustration on Foundation as I was originally going to apply to study Architecture at UCA.


The Outreach Hub is here to answer any question you might have regarding Higher Education. We will work hard to answer question you might have and signpost you to the most useful information. You can either use the form below or the details on our contact page.