​What is this subject about?

The Art and Design BTEC National Diploma and National Subsidiary Diploma are nationally recognised, dynamic and varied courses for students committed to art and design wishing to progress to higher education or a potential career path in this area. They aim to develop your interest and awareness of art and design in the wider world through increasingly realistic vocational assignments, and to develop your creative ability as an individual. You will explore a wide variety of creative disciplines and experimental approaches, before focusing on a specialism in depth. They are two year courses and the BTEC National Diploma is equivalent to two A Levels whilst the National Subsidiary Diploma is equivalent to one A Level.

The department has an excellent record of successfully enabling students to progress on to many highly respected degree and diploma courses across the country, ranging from architecture to jewellery, fashion to 3D design and fine art to game design, in addition to art foundation courses. Students have also progressed to apprenticeships and work placements in web design and 3D crafts.

Units covered

  • Visual Recording in Art and Design (Subsidiary & Diploma)
  • Materials, Techniques and Processes in Art and Design (Subsidiary & Diploma)
  • Ideas and Concepts in Art and Design (Subsidiary & Diploma)
  • Communication through Art and Design (Subsidiary & Diploma)
  • Exploring Specialist Techniques (Subsidiary & Diploma)
  • Extending Specialist Techniques (Subsidiary)
  • Contextual Influences in Art and Design (Diploma)
  • Drawing from Observation (Diploma)
  • Design Principles (Diploma)
  • Personal and Professional Development in Art and Design (Diploma)
  • Generating Fine Art Ideas (Diploma)
  • Application, Exploration & Realisation in Art & Design (Double Value) (Diploma)

What will I study in the first year?

In Year 1 you will experience a wide range of creative disciplines including painting and sculpture, graphic design and multimedia, photography, fashion, surface and 3D design. Drawing is at the core of this course, and you will develop this aspect through weekly classes exploring a variety of approaches.

This year is experimental and exploratory, and designed to help you to discover new creative strengths and to build your confidence. You will be expected to research and study historical and contemporary art and design, and produce written work on a regular basis to support your creative activities.

Regular trips to museums and galleries will inspire you to experiment and develop creatively as you learn about vocational subject areas. Your work will be regularly assessed by a personal tutor, who will advise and guide you as you develop new skills and understanding.

What will I study in the second year?

This year aims to build deeper knowledge and ability of specific art and design areas while preparing you for your next step towards a creative career. At the beginning of Year 2, we will help you to opt for a ‘pathway’ which will enable you to develop a portfolio for application to higher courses of your choice.

You will be guided by an individual tutor through a personalised programme of advanced practical and written work focusing onto your chosen discipline, while also providing essential instruction in core skills such as drawing, computer applications, portfolio preparation and presentation.

How is the course assessed?

It is assessed through coursework only.


What can the course lead to in terms of higher education and future careers?

The Art & Design department has an excellent track-record for student progression to a wide range of degree and foundation courses across the country. The course provides opportunities across most creative disciplines and equips students with the self-reliance and vocational experience necessary to progress directly to BA qualifications.

The Diploma course also includes a focus on professional practice and presentation and communication skills which prepares students for applications. BTEC Nationals have UCAS points value equivalent to A Levels.

Recent destinations have included degree courses at Central St Martins (Animation), Falmouth College (Graphic Design), Winchester College (Textile Design), Hertfordshire University (Game design), Kingston University (Architecture) and Brighton University (Illustration). Many students also progress to art and design foundation courses at Kingston University, UAL and UCL. The range of transferable and vocational skills developed on this programme enables those who do not wish to enter higher education to apply successfully for apprenticeships in professions such as joinery, graphic design and stonemasonry.

Diploma students receive extensive guidance on progression, and are able to adapt their second-year programme towards the development of a portfolio relevant to their career aims in creative subjects.

Entry Requirements

​What are the formal entry requirements for this course?

Aside from the general College entry requirements, this course requires significant commitment to art and design, and therefore it is expected that applicants will have gained good GCSE grades in creative subjects, or can provide extensive evidence of their own work in a portfolio. You will be set regular written work, including annotation and essays, and should therefore have a good level of written competence, ideally including a grade 4 in GCSE English Language.

Extra Support

​What extra support / enrichment activities are on offer?

You will be supported by the department at all stages of your application to your next course, including portfolio guidance and mock interviews. You will also explore professional practice through live briefs for external clients (past clients include BP, the V&A museum and Sky TV), and learn about how specialists in your chosen field work. Visiting artists and designers, and regular trips including a residential study course, will broaden your horizons, inspiring you to new creative heights.

Subject combination advice

​Subject combination advice:

The Diploma provides a self-contained art and design programme enabling successful students to apply direct to degrees and art and design foundation courses. The remaining two A Level choices can therefore be made from any other subject areas. Consideration should be given to the quantity of coursework overall, and to how mutually supportive subject choices can be.

The Subsidiary Diploma provides a varied art and design programme. Students wishing to apply direct to degrees and art and design foundation courses should consider taking at least one more creative subject to build a coherent portfolio for application.