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About Fine Art

In European higher education fine art is taught at institutions (including academies, polytechnics, universities of applied science, universities etc.) offering programmes combining theoretical, historical, and critical approaches with practical studio and site-based learning and teaching. Contemporary fine art education in Europe encourages students to explore diverse artistic practices, develop conceptual frameworks, and engage with current social, political, and cultural issues. Students select from a wide range of materials, processes, technologies, and conceptual approaches that extend beyond or stretch the traditional disciplines of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, moving image and performance. Inter- and trans-disciplinarity methods are increasingly the norm, with participatory and collaborative approaches becoming more and more prevalent. 

BA Fine Art; BA Visual Arts; MA Fine Art; MA Contemporary Art; MFA Fine Art; MA Visual Arts; Diploma of Fine Art (DE and AUT); MA Research; MPhil; MRes; ResM; PhD; D.Art; and Professional Doctorates

Typical degrees that are offered

Fine Art graduate career destination surveys demonstrate that their artistic, conceptual and technical skills along with their wider inter/cross cultural and socially engaged perspectives, and their ability to be critically reflective, embracing unpredictability, risk taking and failure, enable them to find employment in a very wide range of artistic, social, educational and cultural fields including: professional arts practice; artistic research; community and socially engaged arts; arts education; crafts and applied arts; curation; gallery or museum administration or education; art criticism; art writing; art history; arts consultancy; conservation and restoration; illustration; animation; film industry; gaming industry and theatre or costume design.  


For further reference on occupations: -  

Typical occupations/employment students achieve

View and download the Overview of typical Fine Art field related Generic and Subject-specific Competences

Learning Outcomes


Fine Art Placement Module

Level 6 Year 2

All year module – mandatory

Cohort size – 30 students

10 ECTS 


Module Summary


The aim of the module is to introduce students to career opportunities and professional skills through participating in a work-based placement within a social, cultural, or other arts related context.  Students will be able to identify any skills gaps as well as strengths they have, and they will be introduced to proposal writing, using a reflective journal, and presentation skills. Examples of placement contexts are: arts administration; museums; galleries - commercial and publicly funded; education projects in museums, galleries; community arts organisations; the arts and health/well-being; arts charities; artist studio collectives; arts festivals; arts writing and promotion; arts marketing; maker collectives; theatre production; film production.


Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

  • demonstrate the ability to evaluate personal attributes and competencies mapped to a potential career path.

  • demonstrate an understanding of relevant professional practice(s) and their societal/cultural contexts.

  • identify learning opportunities that address personal developmental needs in relation to a potential career pathway.

  • apply and develop practical skills and demonstrate an appropriate work ethic on a work-based placement.

  • demonstrate communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work as a member of a team. 

  • demonstrate ability to critically reflect on and evaluate own learning and skills acquisition, in visual and written form.

  • demonstrate ability to communicate outcomes of the placement to peers, tutors and work field partners in an online presentation.


Criteria of assessment

The learner is able to:

o   research, select and write a proposal for a placement to extend their skills base.

o   identify, evaluate and reflect upon their skills acquisition in written and/or oral form.

o   complete health and safety and other inductions as appropriate.

o   contribute effectively to tasks set by placement host.

o   use critical reflection and documentation as productive learning tools.

o   identify, evaluate and reflect upon knowledge and understanding arising from work-based learning, in written and/or oral form.

o   effectively communicate key learning in written, visual and oral form. 

o   select and use online presentation method(s).


Indicative syllabus, teaching and assessment methods.


Week One 

  • Lecture #1 Module Introduction (60 minutes): students are introduced to the module aims, learning outcomes, schedule, assessment tasks, and assessment criteria, with opportunity for Q&As. Two or three year 3 students attend to make a short presentation on their placement experiences.

  • Skills Audit Workshop #1 (90 minutes): the module leader delivers a short introduction to skills audit.  Students are divided into small groups - each with a second-year tutor facilitator, and each student completes a skills audit to identify their current competences i.e., knowledge, subject specific skills, and wider generic skills. A template is provided. 

Week Two

  • Professional placement presentations #2 (150 minutes): approx. 10 x professional partners (work field stakeholders) each give a short presentation with Q&A to describe: the type of placements available in their organisations; the timescales and mode of attendance; likely tasks and expectations of the student; available learning opportunities; and mentoring support. 

  • Proposal Writing Workshop #2 (60 minutes): module leader introduces assessment task one – “writing a proposal” for their preferred placement.  There will be a short writing exercise to get the proposal started, and students will refer to their skills audit outcomes. A clearly structured template is provided for the proposal.

Week Three

  • Submission of placement proposal 500 words (written submission or power point/oral presentation as an alternative assessment submission mode for neurodiverse students)

  • Reflective Journal Workshop #3 (60 minutes): the module leader will introduce assessment task two – “making the most of a reflective journal”.  Examples of research journals will be shared by students from year 3.

Week Four

  • Individual tutorial # 1 (15 minutes) with their year 2 tutor, to give formative feedback on the skills audit and give formative oral feedback on written proposal for chosen/allocated placement host organisation.  Guidance will be given on specific placement arrangements, contact numbers, health and safety considerations, and advice regarding safe off-campus learning.

Week Five

  • Proposals shared with host organisations for allocated students. Host organisations arrange dates to meet placement students for inductions and schedules of attendance.

Week Six to Week Twenty

  • Placements take place anytime between Week Five and Week Twenty and students are expected to spend 80 hours/10 days engaged on their placement. The timescale and occurrence will vary according to the host organisation’s activities but will be negotiated by the module leader beforehand.

  • A further individual tutorial for formative feedback (#2) with their year-2 tutor will be timetabled for all students during the placement, to fit timescale of placements. 

  • A group tutorial (#1) will be timetabled for peer learning, facilitated by the module leader, during the placements.

  • Host organisations send midway and end of placement comments on each student’s attendance, conduct and performance to module leader to share with year 2 tutors to inform assessment.

Week Twenty-one

  • Skills Audit Workshop #4 (90 minutes) led by module leader: a second skills audit will be undertaken. Students are divided into small groups - each with a year2 tutor as facilitator, and each student completes a second skills audit to compare skills development and skills acquisition post placement. A template will be provided.

Week Twenty -two

  • Presenting skills Workshop #5 (60 minutes) The module leader will introduce the assessment task: “5-minute online presentation of key learning outcomes and reflections”. Students work in small groups to share skills and start to plan their presentation. This will be facilitated by a year 3 student.

Week Twenty-three 

  • Submission of Research Journal including reflection on outcome of second skills audit. (visual and written assessment). 

End of week Twenty-four 

  • Presentation - 5 minute to share learning outcomes and key reflections with peers, Yr 2 tutor team, and work field placement hosts. This presentation is undertaken live online (oral and visual assessment. NB the presentation can be pre-recorded for students with neurodiverse conditions). All presentations are recorded.

Week Twenty-five

  • Summative Assessment of the Research Journal and Online Presentation takes place with each individual student present, by year-2 tutor with reference to the module criteria, comments from host organisation, and later moderated by year 2 tutor team. Recordings of presentations are retained for External Examiner purpose, then deleted. 


Indicative allocation of study time


  • In-class learning 16 hours

  • Placement 60 hours

  • Online learning 3 hours

  • Tutorials (group and Individual) 2 hours

  • Summative Assessment (including individual presentation) 1 hour

  • Independent study 198 hours

= 280 hours study


Assessment tasks:


  • Proposal: A (normally) written text that sets out a plan – a suggested set of aims and objectives, ideas, themes, methods, for a specific period of learning. It is for the consideration of tutors and work field professional partners as a formative assessment. 500 words. 


  • Reflective Journal: A comprehensive, insightful, and thoroughly self-evaluative written and visual work that documents a student’s understanding of a professional placement, their learning experiences (work-based learning), specific and generic skills acquired, challenges encountered, and problems addressed. Tutor -Summative Assessment


  • Individual Oral Presentation: A formal presentation by each individual student, in which they reflect on their placement process, skills development and key learning outcomes (5 minutes). Tutor - Summative Assessment


Learning and Teaching methods: 


  • Lecture x 1: presenting information and knowledge on a specific topic through lecture and visual aids.

  • Professional placement presentations x 1: presenting information and knowledge on professional pathways.

  • Skills workshop x 5: practical, hands-on sessions focused on learning a specific skill or technique.

  • Individual tutorial x 2: one-on-one sessions to provide support and formative feedback on student work by tutor.

  • Group tutorial x 1: small group sessions to provide support and feedback on student work and progress by peers and tutor.

  • Peer to peer learning between year 2 and year 3 students.

  • Placement: a structured programme of work placement that provides students with opportunities to develop professional skills and experience in the arts and creative industries. It includes mentoring by professional partners.

  • Independent study: encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning through self-directed study and exploration.

Examples of good practice in Higher Fine Art Education

The recognition across the EHEA of the benefits secured for students by resolutely placing them at the centre of their learning is reflected in the European Standards and Guidelines which states that “student-centred learning and teaching plays an important role in stimulating students’ motivation, self-reflection and engagement in the learning process” (ESG 2015 section 1.3 p.12). Within fine art pedagogy, and throughout all three cycles, student-centred learning has been a customary approach, passed down from one generation of artist-teachers to the next, with learning and teaching pivoting around each student’s individual project-needs and development in the studio, supported by individual tutorials and as the mainstay of fine art teaching methods along with peer-to-peer learning. The studio/workshop was established as a learning environment to cultivate creative and embodied knowledge, understanding(s) and a plethora of technical skills through fostering inquiry, curiosity, experimentation, divergent and critical thinking, self-reflection, technical experimentation, and integration of historical and contemporary art, theory and philosophy with practice, resulting in the public manifestation of artworks. For many years, a tacit understanding permeated the art school culture regarding how fine art students learned, which hindered the discipline from sharing its pedagogical ethos and innovative approaches more widely. 

However, over the last few decades, in response to the Bologna Process ( and through subsequent Tuning projects (ELIA 2006 Fine Art Tuning Document, European League of Institutes of Arts. Online accessed 17 April 2023), the fine art academies have come to recognise the value to students (as key stakeholders), and to the cultural sector as a whole, of the need to be more explicit and transparent about how learning, teaching and assessment are designed and delivered in first and second cycle fine art programmes. Artist-teachers increasingly being encouraged to update their pedagogical skills through in-house training and teacher qualifications in order to assure their knowledge about teaching methods in addition to sharing their expertise as artists. Simultaneously, the advancement of artistic research as a legitimate mode of knowledge production has informed the development of the third cycle, with practice-based and practice-led doctorate programmes in fine art and the performing arts leading the field (for an overview of the factors influencing the development of artistic research and PhD awards in the arts see Kälvemark, T 2010 ‘University Politics and Practice-Based Research’ in Biggs, M,. and Karlsson, H,. Eds The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts London and New York: Routledge)

Equally, the impact of artistic research, undertaken by artist-teachers has become increasingly fundamental for updating the BA and MA curricula and nurturing a critically informed and research focussed learning environment in preparation for students progressing to doctoral study, or for entering an increasingly research engaged cultural sector. For BA students the notion of research has needed to go beyond the visit to the library’ (which is nonetheless important for secondary sources), and to instead introduce undergraduate students to ‘finding out’ through practice. On many MFA programmes an introduction to research methods is now core curriculum. This distinct emphasis on artistic research complements the longstanding contribution of artist-teachers’ professional expertise that remains an important foundation of fine art pedagogy. Regarding professional practice and artistic research, changes in contemporary art and education paradigms stimulate and force changes in approaches and practices in learning and teaching. 

Such evolution should always involve the students as participants, for placing the student at the centre of their learning requires that a number of principles are adopted and commitment made to espouse them. This means communicating clearly, accessibly and transparently to the students to ensure they are fully informed about their programmes of study; it means being responsive to the needs of each individual student whilst supporting them to become increasingly independent self-managing reflexive practitioners; it means listening closely to students to understand how they experience their learning, teaching and assessment; it means giving careful attention to being inclusive, and addressing diversity within the curriculum, and ensuring equality in all aspects of the programme, and the learning environment; it means guaranteeing that students are formally represented on decision making committees and are empowered to contribute effectively, and bring about change through, for example, opportunities for co-creation of the curriculum; it means ensuring that they have the digital competences needed in a future oriented learning context.

As artist-teachers, we continue to advocate for student-centred learning and to design learning and teaching activities that provide critical and reflective space for students to identify their direction, with experimentation, and embracing failure, understood as an integral element of their learning journey. These activities, mapped to intended learning outcomes - mapped to the Dublin descriptors, the EQF, and national frameworks, if appropriate - and delivered in various teaching formats (see examples below), require the student to dedicate a proportion of time to independent study, and while this proportion varies across the sector, it is normally at least 50% of study on a full-time BA or MA programme. At the same time, the value of learning collectively and collaboratively is established in most fine art programmes. Individual study provides the building blocks for each student’s progress, while group work reorientates the learner towards others, to the opportunities and considerations of working together. Equally, the location of art practice and education has expanded from the traditional studio as physical site, to increasingly combine more off-site, exploratory and experiential ‘sites’ - understood as including for example: geographical, conceptual, philosophical, social, institutional, psychological, historical sites. Developing fine art programmes with distinct pathways in socially engaged and participatory practice affirms this expansion and reflects the career destinations of an increasingly large number of fine art graduates.

As fine art tutors we attach high regard to employing a critically reflective approach to devising and revising the curriculum and correlated learning, teaching and assessment formats, and across the sector there has been a steady realisation of the value of engaging productively in internal and external quality assurance processes that encourage critical engagement with peer reviewers. Through these productive dialogues the fine art sector has had to articulate and advocate for a fine art teaching ethos and share best practices within and without the discipline. Benefits have also emerged through becoming receptive to learning from other CPAD disciplines.

The example assessment activities listed below should be considered as learning activities, with assessment (also termed evaluation) geared towards the learner’s learning process and individual progress: studio presentation of art practice (all media), exhibition/installation, film/video screening, performance, site-based practice, project work, placement work, portfolio, presentation (group and individual), case study, source review, work/sketchbooks, peer review, test/exam, proposal, artist statement, report, reflective journal, annotated bibliography, research paper, essay, thesis.

Within fine art, both formative and summative assessment are considered as learning tools – with assessment methods designed for, as and of learning (although, in the main, assessment of written submissions continues to be assessed as a distinct summative process). Where differentiated instruction takes place, within a competency-based curriculum, the constructive alignment of assessment is important, as is the use of alternative forms of assessment for the purpose of inclusion - for example, there are benefits from devising alternative assessments for neurodiverse students.  Formative assessment is a means to provide verbal and written feedback to each student on a regular basis and is particularly highly valued because of the iterative nature of artistic practice and the ongoing involvement of peer-to-peer feedback, for example in critique where work has been done to remodel the traditional and hierarchical format of the critique in order to shift the power relations, from teachers to students in light of the negative experience of many students. A positive example of rethinking the critique in the performing arts has been developed by DASarts - now DASTheatre ( accessed 21.11.2023). 

Formative assessment provides a review process for ongoing artwork and problem solving, and enables the outcomes of experimentation with ideas, contexts, materials, and methods to be reflected upon by student and tutor. At the same time, it is future orientated in terms of identifying emerging problems and project planning, with tutors placing an emphasis on feedback that does not inhibit future risk-taking and embraces failure as a creative force. The student should be an active participant in assessment, and feedback can be largely qualitative rather than quantitative. 

Learning, Teaching and Assessment

Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Higher Fine Art Education and Examples of good practice

Student workload & ECTS

In the CPAD European Higher Education sector Bachelor programmes normally vary between 180 and 240 ECTS-credits. Master programmes normally vary between 90 and 150 ECTS-credits. When specified, Doctoral/PhD programmes usually last three years and have 180 ECTS. Some countries, like the United Kingdom, use a different credit system, however, the education level and experience is comparable.​

Quality Enhancement

In working on the qualification framework and defining the learning outcomes/competences for the three cycles the SAG stresses the outcomes are not to be taken as prescribing the content and curriculum of individual arts academies/universities programmes but helping these institutions to ensure the quality and standards of their programmes. 


In developing the quality framework the SAG has adhered to the following values:


  • commitment to respect and promote cultural, artistic, and pedagogical diversity.

  • the needs of society and the world of work for the development of creativity and generative critical thinking, which are key attributes of higher arts education.

  • operating a review methodology based on peer review, in which the participation of students, relevant professional bodies and/or employers as stakeholders is embedded.


The CPAD SAG stresses the content and distinctiveness of the programmes are: 


  • the primary responsibility of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in assuring the quality of their own provision.

  • being responsive to the diversity of higher education systems, institutions, programmes and students. 

  • taking into account the needs and expectations of students, other stakeholders and society. 


In institutions developing their internal and external quality assurance policy and processes the SAG recommends:


  • to promote student-centred approaches to learning, teaching and assessment.

  • to develop a quality culture for excellence and its continuous enhancement.

  • to guarantee the equivalence of minimum threshold standards for any academic qualification offered in the EHEA.

  • to continually enhance the student learning experience to achieve the highest standards; 

  • to operate a review methodology based on peer review, in which the participation of students, relevant professional bodies and/or employers as stakeholders isembedded;

  • to support staff research and encourage the transfer of knowledge gained through it back into teaching and the curriculum.

  • to instil trust and confidence in the processes of quality assurance and enhancement. 

  • to build institutional capacity for high quality internal review and enhancement.

  • to ensure that all its activities are underpinned by explicit criteria and transparent processes.

  • to ensure that all its processes are open to external scrutiny.

  • to establish a range of formally verified external and international reference points and/or criteria (primarily guided by the 2015 ESG).

  • to ensure that the outcomes of its accreditation and assessment processes have formal status, are decided independently and are publicly available.

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