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BFA FAQ

The Ruskin School of Art is the Fine Art department of the University of Oxford. The school is often known simply as ‘the Ruskin’. There are three degree programmes available at the Ruskin: a full time, three-year undergraduate BFA course and postgraduate MFA and DPhil programmes. The following questions relate specifically to applicants who are interested in the Ruskin’s BFA course. We hope that this summary of information will help you understand more about what is available at the school and how to consider applying.

What does the BFA at the Ruskin Include?

A wide range of aspects of contemporary fine art are offered at the Ruskin including: sculpture, painting and drawing, print-making, installation, video, sound, photography, film-making, digital media and performance art. First year students also study anatomy. In addition to the strong practical component, the course includes a history and theory trajectory which emphasizes the development of critical and analytical thinking about your own practice as much as visual culture at large.

What is the Ruskin like?

The Ruskin offers a maximum of 30 places each year on the BFA course. With such small numbers of undergraduate students, the Ruskin boosts an extremely high student-tutor ratio. Unique about studying at the Ruskin is its tutorial system whereby part of the teaching comprises of intense converstations with your tutor in very small groups (the so- called tutorials).

Visiting the Ruskin School of Art before applying is strongly recommended. Each year, we offer three Open Days that coincide with college Open Days. For more information please see: http://www.rsa.ox.ac.uk/about/open_days and http://www.ox.ac.uk/opendays

Open Days offer potential applicants the opportunity to visit the main building and the practice spaces, to hear the tutors talk about the course and the admissions process, and to ask specific questions about the Ruskin experience as a whole.

The Ruskin School of Art specifically welcomes teachers, career counsellors, sixth form tutors, and foundation course leaders, along with their students to visit on Open Days. We are keen to provide teachers with further support as to a clear understanding of portfolio preparation and criteria, and academic entry requirements. You don’t have to book for attending the Open Day programme at the Ruskin. Please refer to the website for details of timings and location.

How is Fine Art taught at the Ruskin?

Along with other departments and faculties at the University of Oxford, the majority of the teaching at the Ruskin School of Art is carried out in the form of tutorials. These tutorials usually take place in the students’ studios, or in offices at the main site at the High Street, and not in the colleges.

The history and theory component of the course comprises of lectures for each year group held in the Examination Schools, along with associated seminars and tutorials in the main building at the High Street.

In addition, the course includes twice-weekly group crits, visiting artist talks, skill-based workshops, gallery and studio visits, projects and seminars. As members of the University, Ruskin students are able to attend ‘open lectures’ offered by other faculties and departments.

Can a Ruskin tutor review my portfolio during an open day?

No. Ruskin tutors are unable to review individual portfolios during Open Days or on any other visit to the department. Please liaise with your art teacher for advice about your work.

The Ruskin offers guidance on how to prepare a portfolio that is available to download from this website; this includes formatting advice for digital submissions.

How does the collegiate system work?

At the University of Oxford, each student belongs to both a department/faculty (i.e. the Ruskin School of Art) and to a college. For the duration of your course, the college is your ‘home’, where you live and eat etc. The fellowship of each college decides if a subject is being taught at the college, and how many places in that subject they wish to offer. As a result, colleges do not always offer places in all subjects taught at the university.

A map indicating where the colleges are located is at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/colleges/map_of_the_colleges_and_halls/index.html and you can find a thorough explanation of the collegiate system here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about/organisation

What qualifications do I need to apply to the Ruskin?

At the University of Oxford, all applicants, for all subjects, are required to reach the same academic criteria in order to apply to the University. Applicants who fail to reach the stated grades are unable to be short-listed.

Recent school leavers need to meet the university entry requirement of three grade As at A-level (or equivalent); in the case of a mature student this criterion may still be appropriate, or other evidence is required of their ability to study and write essays.

For a full explanation of the academic criteria please follow these links: http://www.ox.ac.uk/enregs For international applicants, please follow this link: http://www.ox.ac.uk/intquals

Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions office with any further queries. Telephone : +44 1865 288000 Email : undergraduate.admissions@admin.ox.ac.uk

Do I need to study at a foundation course before applying to the Ruskin?

The Ruskin highly recommends that students do a Foundation course before making an application, as it prepares them better in terms of artistic development, breadth of engagement and focus. The Ruskin does not have any preference for where to study a foundation course; students have been accepted from a wide variety of colleges.

How do I apply to the Ruskin?

The admissions process at Oxford begins in mid-October. We regret that we are unable to accept applications outside of the regular admissions process. 

The Ruskin School of Art does not accept deferred entries. Candidates are expected to be ready to start a course the year following their application. 

The first step in applying to the Ruskin School of Art is to submit a completed UCAS application form online, by the mid-October deadline, at http://www.ucas.com. When you complete your UCAS application, use the institution code O33 to select the University of Oxford. The course code for Fine Art at Oxford is W100.

More information on these codes can be found at: http://ox.ac.uk/ugcolls 

The second step is to submit a portfolio directly to the Ruskin before the deadline in mid- November. The downloadable document on the Ruskin’s website offers guidance on how to prepare a portfolio, with formatting guidelines for digital submissions. Please note that the same guidelines apply to national as well as international applicants. 

It is very important that both a UCAS form and a portfolio are submitted. If you submit only one component of your application, or if you make only one deadline, your application will be termed incomplete and therefore void.

Once the portfolios and UCAS form submissions have been reviewed, and a shortlist of candidates has been drawn up, the Ruskin School of Art informs the colleges of the results. 

The Ruskin is unable to confirm shortlisting and interview results directly to applicants during any stage of the admissions process. All correspondence should be made via the colleges.

How do I choose a college when applying to Oxford?

When applying to Oxford there are two options for selecting a college. One option is for an applicant to choose a named college. If this is your preferred route, please check the college page to find the college's UCAS campus code.

The other option is to make an open application. In this case, an applicant is assigned a college by the Undergraduate Admissions office after the mid-October deadline (i.e. the UCAS submission deadline), and upon receipt of the UCAS form. The code for an open application is 9.

Further guidance on how to choose a college can be found at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/collegechoice

What happens if I am shortlisted?

Candidates who have been shortlisted, will be invited for an interview that takes in early December at the University of Oxford. In certain cases, it is possible to be interview via Skype. Please contact your assigned college to make this request.

Due to the collegiate nature of the University, candidates will be interview by college tutors and by members of the Ruskin academic staff. This usually means two separate interviews but occasionally there isa single interview conducted by apanel comprised of both college tutors and Ruskin staff members.

Candidates are invited to bring samples of new work to discuss at their interview in addition to work from the submitted portfolio.

During the two-day interview process, one day will be devoted to the Practical Test. This is an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate their visual curiosity and creative mind.! A range of basic materials will be provided, including paper, glue, tape, pencils, pens, ink, charcoal, acrylics, watercollours, brushes, scissors, wire etc. The Practical Test is held in the Drawing Studio at the Ruskin’s main site at the High Street. Further information about the test is provided for all shortlisted candidates and will be sent to you by the college.

Candidates will be informed of the results of the interview process by their colleges.

To listen to some podcasts, including information on interviews at Oxford, please follow this link: http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk

I am studying a vocational course, can I still apply to the Ruskin?

Yes. We welcome applicants who have studied vocational courses. A guide to the required grades can be found at this link:

http://www.ox.ac.uk/vocquals

Please note that those applicants who are studying for a BTEC National Extended Diploma (BTEC) are welcome to apply if their course has included a substantial element of both fine art and history and theory.

For further information, do contact the Undergraduate Admissions office via telephone : +44 1865 288000 Or email : study@ox.ac.uk

Are there English language requirements for studying at Oxford?

Yes. All applicants need to provide evidence of sufficient fluency in written and spoken English to study at the University. All non-native English-speaking applicants must meet the requirements found in this link: http://www.ox.ac.uk/englang For further information about the requirements for English language qualifications to study at this University follow this link: https://uni-of-oxford.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/463/related/1

Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions office with any further queries. Telephone : +44 1865 288000 Email : study@ox.ac.uk

 I am a mature student. Can I still apply to the Ruskin?

Yes. The Ruskin welcomes BFA applicants from diverse backgrounds, including mature students (over 21 years) and those who have already studied for a previous degree.

Downloads and other information, including a pdf for mature students, can be found here

Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions office with any further queries. Telephone : +44 1865 288000 Email : study@ox.ac.uk 

Can I study for a BFA part-time at the Ruskin?

No. The BFA programme at the Ruskin is a full-time three-year course. 

The Ruskin also does not accept deferred entries nor is there a waiting list beyond those places that are offered to candidates.

Can I study Fine Art at Oxford with another subject? 

No. The BFA is a single honours degree.

What exams are there in the BFA programme?

In brief, at the Ruskin there are two key examination periods during the BFA course:

  • i) Prelim exams take place at the end of the first year and comprise of work in anatomy, written work in history and theory, a portfolio and an exhibition. Students are required to pass these exams in order to be able to enter the second year of the course.
  • ii) The Final Examinations take place at the end of the third year and comprises of written work in history and theory, a portfolio and an exhibition.

​You are welcome to refer to the BFA Handbook on this website for more information about examinations. 

How can I see the work of Ruskin Students?

Ruskin students and staff organize a wide range of events, including exhibitions, talks and performances, in Oxford, London or beyond. For current projects and events, check out the Ruskin’s website.

The annual Degree Show, the exhibition of the Ruskin finalists, also offers an opportunity to view current student work. Details of opening times, and the artists, will be posted on the Ruskin’s website.

Can I study short-term at the Ruskin?

The Ruskin is not currently engaged in any exchange programmes, such as the Erasmus Programme.The department does accept visiting graduate research students for one or two terms of study. Please follow this link for more information: http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/new/recognisedstudents/

Can you offer advice on funding and costs for the BFA?

The University has a series of webpages offering information on funding: http://www.ox.ac.uk/feesandfunding

Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions office with any further queries. Telephone : +44 1865 288000 Email : study@ox.ac.uk

Does the Ruskin offer scholarships and bursaries for the BFA? 

Unfortunately there is no financial support available at this time from the school. However, the University has generous non-repayable bursaries and tuition fee reductions for full-time Home (UK) and EU students with qualifying household incomes. 

Other sources of support are available elsewhere – for more details please see: http://www.ox.ac.uk/feesandfunding

What is it like being an art student at Oxford?

There are three 8-week terms each academic year: Michaelmas term (October-December), Hilary term (January-March) and Trinity term (April-June). Terms are short and intense. In addition to tutorials and crits, students and staff are usually also involved in other, extra-curricular projects as well. Past projects include work created for the Botanic Gardens, the Pitt Rivers Museum, the Ashmolean Museum and Modern Art Oxford. Field trips to art collections and studios in London or other places are held regularly. The Ruskin’s Professional Practice Programme offers second year students optional national and international work experience opportunities at galleries and art organisations.

College life can bring an exciting dimension. Students have worked as set designers for college plays, may exhibit their work in college galleries, are offered the opportunity to join sports teams, choirs, or orchestras etc. There are also a large number of University societies one can join. Each college provides information on their website about their facilities and specifically what it is like to live in a college. Some student comments about life in college can be found at: http://www.ox.ac.uk/100faces

Starting somewhere new can be daunting - and exciting! Here is a guide as to what a student can expect on their arrival at this vibrant and diverse University: http://www.ox.ac.uk/students/new/arrive

What opportunities are there after studying fine art?

Many of our students pursue a career as full-time artists and do a postgraduate degree after the completion of their course. BFA graduates have established careers as professional artists, critics, writers, teachers, designers and directors in the creative industries.

The Ruskin’s Professional Practice Programme introduces BFA students to the myriad of career options that can they can consider beyond their studies, ranging from arts publishing to teaching, art therapy to education, and interpretation departments in galleries and museums. Each year, the Ruskin hosts an annual career day, Beyond the Ruskin, where alumni and art professionals discuss their careers and motivations.

The University has an extensive Careers Service that offers advice to students, as well as workshops and 1:1 guidance on CV preparation and interviews. Their website can be found at : http://www.careers.ox.ac.uk

Once a student has matriculated at Oxford, they become a member of the University’s Alumni. Information on what is available for this extensive and exciting network can be found at: https://www.alumni.ox.ac.uk

For a link to more Frequently Asked Questions on the central University’s website, please see: http://www.admissions.ox.ac.uk/faq.shtml