Change by degrees

makethingshappenWe have already announced that later this year we are planning to introduce two new degrees: Music and Film. Now it is a pleasure to announce that we will be taking a third degree to validation in the autumn: Fine Art.

The main reason for introducing this new degree is in response to student demand. We know there are students who want to work more widely than currently allowed in the Painting degree pathway, but would rather pursue a Fine Art degree – for example combining two and three dimensional practice -rather than the broader Creative Arts degree. We have listened to those requests, talked to our tutors and to colleagues at UCA and are now committed to making this happen.

Once the Fine Art degree is validated – and we are taking all three new degrees to validation in October – existing students whose studies match the Fine Art pathway will be able to transfer across. We anticipate that a number of you on the Creative Arts degree will want to do this. In the meantime for anyone considering studying with the OCA for the first time, there is no reason to delay the decision. The Drawing 1 course will be the entry course for the Fine Art degree. The full pathway will be publicised once the degree is validated later this year.

The commitment to the Fine Art degree, does not mean we are any less committed to the Creative Arts degree. Far from it. Indeed we have taken the opportunity to think about how we can make the inter-disciplinary nature of this degree even more attractive, by allowing students to follow their own direction at level 3.

So from September there will be a new suite of Creative Arts level 3 courses, each worth 40 credits: Body of Work, Research and Sustaining Your Practice. These have been designed as a framework so that students studying the creative arts can study their two selected subjects and propose their own major project in the same way that students on other OCA degrees.

This does means we will be closing some old courses to new level 3 students at the same time: Printmaking 3, Sculpture 3, and Art History 3 will all close. Any students already engaged on a level 3 course will of course continue on it, and be able to combine it with another 60 credit course.

We have also looked at the structure of the Creative Arts degree. With the introduction of the Fine Art degree, Creative Arts students will be required to choose at least one course from two subject areas. We have prepared a flowchart to show how the pathway will work and you can download it from here. If it looks complicated, but the main thing to retain is:

– if you want to study multiple subjects in fine art, eg painting and sculpture – the Fine Art degree is for you

– if you want to study subjects across a broader range, eg drawing and writing – the Creative Arts degree is for you.

So much for degrees, here are some course introductions and changes we will be making in September.

We are introducing a new suite of level 3 Visual Communications courses. There are three 40 credit courses available for all Visual Communications students: Visual Research, Advanced Practice, and Sustaining Your Practice. This completes the Visual Communications pathway and we looking forward to seeing our first graduates in this subject.

We are introducing a new suite of level 3 Textiles courses. Two courses (Personal Specialism and Research) will be available in September and a new Sustaining Your Practice course will follow in the coming year.

As before it does mean we will be closing the existing 60 credit level three courses in Textiles. But as before do not worry if you have already embarked on these: you can continue to study them and your credits will remain valid.

We are introducing two new Photography courses. At level 2, an exciting new course written by Course Leader Jesse Alexander and tutor Wendy McMurdo Digital Image in Culture with replace Progressing with Digital Photography. And at level 1, People and Place gets a rewrite by tutors Sharon Boothroyd and Keith Roberts and is will be relaunched as Identity and Place. Both the older courses will close to new entrants.

Finally there are two new Painting courses. At level 2, Concepts in Practice written by tutor Michelle Whiting with input from Joanne Mullvihill-Allen will replace Exploring Concepts, and at level 1 Understanding Painting Media will replace the Watercolour Practice course. The level 1 course is currently being written by tutor Annabel Dover and will allow students to explore in depth the potential of a painting medium. The structure of the course gives the student the opportunity to make the choice and thus increases the flexibility of the level 1 Painting pathway. Again the older courses will close to new entrants but the credits gained on these courses remain valid.

We appreciate that this is perhaps one of the longest blog posts to hit WeAreOCA and some of it is pretty complex. However rest assured this is all about giving students more choice and investing in new exciting and challenging courses. If you have general questions, please post them below. The team will be very happy to answer individual questions, if you email or ring 0800 731 2116.


  1. Cathie Lloyd 3 July 2015 at 3:38 pm

    So what is happening to art history then? Is it going completely? That would be tragic

    1. Gareth 3 July 2015 at 3:52 pm

      Not at all Cathie. It can be studied, as now, as part of the Creative Arts degree. And in the fullness of time we may well seek to validate a single subject degree.

      1. Temur 5 July 2015 at 11:04 pm

        Can you explaing more clearly what you mean by ‘in the fullness of time?’ In the next 4 years? Longer than that? I am asking to make sure I make the right choices now concerning art history.

        1. Gareth 6 July 2015 at 9:39 am

          Sorry Temur I cannot give you a timescale. The Trustees decide every June on investment plans for the coming year. Art History has been identified as a potential area for a single subject degree, but so have a number of other subjects. How quickly decisions are taken to develop these additional degrees depends on a host of factors, including the numbers of students choosing to study with the OCA and Government policy on loans for part-time students.

  2. Eddy Lerp 3 July 2015 at 3:42 pm

    WOW ….. shame that as you announce the new courses the curriculum for each isn’t available as I’m sure, like me, there’s plenty of students out there champing at the bit to sign up to something different and these courses have been an open secret for a while now. But hey…… it’s really well done to all at head office, all the changes that have happened over the last few years are amazing and so invigorating.

  3. Catherine 4 July 2015 at 11:30 am

    Some exciting new changes there Gareth. When are we likely to know more about the content of the Courses? I’m already thinking about Level 2!

    1. Gareth 4 July 2015 at 11:38 am

      We are working hard to get this information together Catherine, we will definitely have webpages describing the new courses before the end of July and some of these pages will have course samples on them. For some of the courses however the samples will not be there until the beginning of September.

  4. jsumb 4 July 2015 at 7:06 pm

    With my OCASA ‘hat’ on I have been very impressed with the way the college have continued to develop both the core courses as well as the breadth of study opportunities and have striven to keep as many students ‘on-programme’ as possible.
    From a personal perspective I agree with Eddy that the development of the courses has been nothing short of amazing in both ambition and achievement. Well done HQ!

  5. Godot 5 July 2015 at 11:14 pm

    I have just looked at your flow chart. Are you dropping ‘Art History 2’ as well as Art History 3? I have taken both Art History 1 and Understanding Visual Culture 1 and from your flow chart it seems for level 2 I will have to take a new course ‘Understanding Visual Culture 2. Is this correct? This is not what I signed up for.

    It seems Art History will be left with only one course. This seems like quite a blow.

    1. Gareth 6 July 2015 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Godot, sorry to keep you waiting.

      Art History 2 will close to new students on 1 September. Since you have already enrolled at level 2 but not yet specified which courses you want to take, all you need to do is contact the office and say that Art History 2 is one of the courses you wish to follow.

      Art History 3 is a negotiated programme course – that is the subject area of study is suggested by the student and together with the tutor a programme of study is devised. This is exactly what will happen with the new level 3 courses so there is really no change there, other than the fact that students will be able to integrate their study areas.

      So for example, somebody doing creative writing and art history could use the research and body of work courses to produce a novel based on the life of Caravaggio. Which would be a great idea if somebody hadn’t already done it.

      I hope this helps

      1. Godot 6 July 2015 at 1:33 pm

        Hi Gareth

        Thanks for the information. If Andrew G-D hadn’t got there before me this would have been an ideal subject matter! I will ring the office to secure my art history 2 place. Your information is very clear and helpful!

  6. Jackie Gaskell 9 July 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Having transferred at the end of Year 1 University BAFA degree study to OCA to enable me to work from home via distance learning I voluntarily undertook the OCA Printmaking 1 course prior to commencing Higher level courses as I specifically wanted to continue the Printmaking through to Printmaking 3. I made sure that OCA knew this was my intention and checked that Printmaking 3 would be available on a number of occasions……the most recent being just a few months ago. I intend to submit my Printmaking 2 work for formal assessment in November and until I received this post anticipated requesting the Printmaking 3 coursework folder in mid-September after dispatching my work for the November assessment event. Will your new BAFA and BACA course structure allow me to continue with Printmaking at Level 3 or, to be on the safe side, should I enrol in the next few weeks for the existing Printmaking 3 course. I was also told on completion of Drawing 2 that I would be able to combine Drawing 3 (apparently due in September?) with Printmaking 3……I would very much appreciate clarification please.

    1. Gareth 9 July 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Hi Jackie

      You should enrol on Printmaking 3 before 1 September if you want to study this course. This will enable you to graduate with a BA Creative Arts.

      If you want to transfer to the BA Fine Art, you will have to study the new three course level 3.

      I hope this helps.

      1. Jackie Gaskell 10 July 2015 at 11:06 am

        Thank you Gareth. Its difficult to make an informed decision… it possible to see the proposed content of the 3 course Level 3 between now and the end of August, and also the content of Printmaking 3?

        1. starrybird 10 July 2015 at 11:09 am

          Jackie, why not join the fb OCA Printmaking page where you will be able to talk to fellow students about Printmaking 3 content, if not the new level 3 course.

        2. Gareth 10 July 2015 at 3:03 pm

          This is good advice Jackie.

          I have emailed you Printmaking 3 and a sample of the level 3 Photography Body of Work course, which was introduced in September 14. I think you will be able to see the sorts of improvements we are making.

  7. annetteoca 9 July 2015 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks Gareth and thanks too for giving early notice of course and degree path improvements. I agree that its important that you let students know what is coming over the horizon as early as possible and that means that letting us know before the OCA will have it fully worked up. I for one find this helpful and an inclusive approach with early engagement.

  8. Alison Fleming Saunders 10 July 2015 at 7:19 am

    I am slightly confused by the flow chart. I had planned to do painting 1, printing 1 sculpture 1, followed by painting 2, printing 2 and then painting 3. I am just about to finish painting 1 and request printing 1. Will I still be able to do this or have I got to rethink my entire degree?

    1. Gareth 10 July 2015 at 10:32 am

      Hi Alison

      You can still follow this path, at levels 1 and 2 and then at level three you will study the new three course model. As a result you will graduate with a BA Fine Art because all of your courses will be in fine art.

      The key changes are:

      – we are giving students more choice, between an inter-disciplinary BA Creative Arts degree and a dedicated BA Fine Art degree, and

      – we are reflecting the fact that at level 3 students get to chose their area of study by making it clearer that study at this level consists of practice, research and building the skills to continue post-degree.

      I hope this helps.

      1. Christine505070 10 September 2016 at 8:34 am

        I have 2 painting credits at Level 4, and one printmaking. At level 5, my courses are painting and printmaking, but I’m on the Creative Arts pathway. Just wondering why my pathway is different to Alison’s above?

  9. annienoz 11 July 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I have just started the Creative Arts BA and am enroled in Creative Arts Today. Will that go towards the Fine Art BA? Or is it a lost course if I switch degree paths. Also, for the fine arts, could I do photography and sculpture?

    Thank you!

    1. Gareth 13 July 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Hi Annie

      Creative Arts Today will be an option in the Fine Art pathway, so it would not be a problem if you were to switch. However to do photography and sculpture you would need to stay on the Creative Arts degree.

  10. kerry513852 12 July 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Hi Gareth

    This sounds like an exciting development. I’m still a new student doing HWA1 and enjoying it. I started with History of Art course to get some theory before I moved on to drawing and painting, but also to allow maximum flexibility in case I wanted to do 3 years of History of Art.

    Ideally I think I would like to do 3 years History of Art, plus 3 years of painting/drawing. What degree would this end up being? Creative Arts, Painting or Fine Arts? Thanks

    1. Gareth 13 July 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Kerry

      I’m glad you are enjoying the History of Western Art course. Essentially, the answer to your question is dependent on what you want to do at level 2 – if you want to do a Painting and a Drawing course for example you would be heading to Fine Art degree, but only 20% of that level would be theoretical. If you wanted to do a Painting course and the Visual Culture course you would be heading for a Creative Arts degree and about 60% of that level would be theoretical.

      This is a very useful question as it highlights what is a common area of confusion about study at level 2 and 3 and enables me to hopefully clarify things. At level 1 a major emphasis is on building skills, for example in drawing and the student is not necessarily expected to understand much of the history and theory around drawing. At level 2, the theoretical underpinnings become much more important and the courses are designed to help students situate their work in relation to contemporary and historical practice. By level 3 the student is negotiating a work programme with their tutors which is both a practice plan and a research plan.

      I hope this helps.

  11. kerry513852 13 July 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Thanks Gareth, that does give some clarity. I guess I will wait until the Fine Arts degree is published before I decide whether the next course is drawing or painting. But is does seem as though History of Art 2 is not the next step. Would WHA1 still count towards Fine Arts as a module if that is the case?
    Thanks and regards

  12. bevduck 13 July 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Gareth,

    Thanks for this helpful update. I am currently on the Creative Arts degree pathway but would really like to follow the new Fine Art degree pathway if possible. I did Painting 1, Watercolour and Drawing for my level 1 courses and have completed Exploring Concepts at level 2. I am now halfway through the level 2 Mixed Media course and within this have been focusing on 3-D work and photography (rather than painting). Will I be eligible for the Fine Art degree? Thanks.

    1. Gareth 14 July 2015 at 11:47 am

      Hi Bev

      A simple one. Yes, you will be able to transfer.

  13. lauramarie363 14 July 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Gareth

    Please would you clarify my pathway? Currently I am on the Creative Arts route, studied HWA 1, Printmaking 1 and Painting 1, Exploring Concepts 2 and now on Mixed Media 2. Would this switch me over to a fine art degree?


    1. Gareth 15 July 2015 at 9:25 am

      Hi Laura Marie

      Yes, your case is similar to Bev’s (above).

      Essentially the rule will be: if 2 of the 3 level one courses and all the level two courses are within the fine art group, students will be able to transfer to the BA Fine Art.

      I am not sure how much longer you will be studying at level two, but please be aware there could be a delay if you want to transfer. We will validate the Fine Art degree in the autumn and we then need course authors to write the level three course units. This means they are likely to be available to enrol about this time next year. Obviously this isn’t a problem for new students, but if you are just about to finish level two you will have to weigh up the advantage of graduating with a fine art degree and the disadvantage of the pause in your studies.

      I hope this helps.

  14. lauramarie363 15 July 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Hi Gareth, thank you, I am re-submitting part of my exploring concepts for November assessment, currently working on Mixed Media – just completed Assignment 2. So there may be a gap… I enrolled in 2010 so I have till 2024 to complete my degree. If the courses are being re-written will this mean that I have to wait anyway? Thanks

    1. Gareth 17 July 2015 at 9:19 am

      Hi Laura Marie

      I don’t think you will have to wait, but it is probably best to ring the office and ask for Dee or Lia who can give you precise advice.

  15. Christine505070 10 September 2016 at 4:54 am

    The Creative Arts pathway in its new form does not include Painting 2: Mixed Media. Given that CA is a multi-disciplinary degree, I’d have thought that course would be highly recommended.
    I am consistently told that I’m on the CA pathway, having chosen Mixed Media and Printmaking, so any changes should not affect me personally, but still find it a bit discouraging to discover that a course already studied might subsequently have been judged to be irrelevant!


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