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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 component 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 has an extremely high student-tutor ratio. A unique aspect of studying at the Ruskin is the tutorial system, whereby part of the teaching takes the form of regular intense one-to-one conversations with your tutor (the tutorials).

The intimate working environment of the school, arranged in two buildings, allows art history, theory and criticism to be treated as integral to the development of studio work. 

Students work alongside each other in collaboratively-organised studios. Whereas many fine art courses run in an environment devoted exclusively to art and design, Ruskin students, as members of a collegiate university, have the advantage of contact with their contemporaries on all of Oxford’s other courses, and there are frequent inter-disciplinary collaborations with students in other subjects.

Unlike other art courses in the UK, the Ruskin does not require its students to specialise in any particular medium. The Ruskin course aims to develop strong independent points of view and a mature grasp of the range of critical debate surrounding contemporary art and its many international histories. Oxford’s short terms, coupled with the ambitious atmosphere at the Ruskin, suit highly-motivated and resourceful students with a good sense of how to organise their time both in and out of Oxford.


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: https://www.ox.ac.uk/visitors/map and you can find a thorough explanation of the collegiate system here: http://www.ox.ac.uk/about/organisation


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. 

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


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 individual tutorials and a termly group critique with your studio tutor.  These tutorials usually take place in the students’ studios, and not in the colleges.

The history and theory component of the course consists of a programme of lectures for each year group, along with associated seminars and tutorials in the main building at the High Street.

In addition, the course includes 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 I visit the Ruskin before applying?

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: https://www.rsa.ox.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/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 welcomes teachers, career counsellors, sixth form tutors, and foundation course leaders. We are keen to provide teachers with further support as to a clear understanding of portfolio preparation and criteria, and academic entry requirements. Teachers should contact the Ruskin if they want to arrange a visit: info@rsa.ox.ac.uk



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 on this page; this includes formatting advice for digital submissions.


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.

Candidates applying straight from school / sixth-form need to meet the university entry requirement of three grade As at A-level (or equivalent). Post-A-level candidates who are undertaking or have completed an Art Foundation Diploma will be considered with AAB at A-level (or equivalent). They will be expected to submit an outstanding portfolio and to achieve at least a Merit or equivalent on their Foundation course

Students taking a BTEC Extended National Diploma should achieve DDD. Applicants are studying for the UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design would be expected to achieve a High Merit. 

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.  Foundation students not only develop a more mature portfolio, but also gain a better idea of what its like to study art full-time, and not just as one of a number of subjects taken at sixth-form. It helps them to really focus and gain understanding of their own practice and interests, as well as developing specialist techniques they won’t have had access to at A-level. Some students realise, having taken a Foundation, that while they want to remain passionate ‘amateur’ artists, they don’t want to pursue it academically into Higher Education. Others discover that they have a passion for a particular medium, like ceramics, or textiles, or metal forging, so they can then make a more informed decision about what degree programme they want to follow (for example, the Ruskin doesn’t have specialist teaching in those particular areas).

The Ruskin does not have any preference for where to study a Foundation course; students have been accepted from a wide variety of colleges, including and especially from local Further Education (FE) colleges, as well as specialist art schools.


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 'Submitting a Portfolio' page 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.  

The primary interview is with a panel of Ruskin tutors, including - if your college of application has a Fine Art Fellow - that member of the Ruskin faculty. Some colleges also require that their candidates have a second interview with a panel of college tutors. 

Candidates are invited to submit samples of new work to discuss at their interview in addition to work from their orginal portfolio.

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

Generic guidance about interviews can be found on the main University website, but please be mindful that this may not be so relevant to a Fine Art interview: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/guide/interviews


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:


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.  Just like everyone else who applies, mature students need to demonstrate academic ability and commitment to study. Therefore, mature applicants are required to meet standard formal entry criteria, and the University will therefore still need to see academic qualifications completed in the past 3 years.

Guidance for mature applicants can be found on the main University Admissions website: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/mature-students

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: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/fees-and-funding

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? 

The University has generous non-repayable bursaries and tuition fee reductions for full-time Home (UK) students with qualifying household incomes. These are funded through the central University rather than by the Ruskin School of Art; and students coming to Oxford will be informed when they enrol.

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


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 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

last edited: April 24th 2024