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Exterior of Arts University Plymouth main building and gallery space
Arts University Plymouth Postgraduate Centre

Arts University Plymouth is an independent university-sector Higher Education (HE) provider located in Plymouth in South West England. The former Plymouth College of Art was officially granted university status in 2022.[1] In April 2019 the specialist college was awarded taught degree awarding powers (TDAP) by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), granting the institution the authority to award and accredit its own BA (Hons) degrees and Masters awards.


The University provides creative education at undergraduate, postgraduate and pre-degree level, specialising in the fields of art, design, crafts and media. Pre-Degree courses include  Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.[2][better source needed]

The Gallery, Plymouth Arts Cinema[3] and Fab Lab Plymouth[4] are located in the city centre campus, offering a range of short courses, masterclasses, and National Art & Design Young Arts Club. The college is a UK Advisory Council Member of the Creative Industries Federation, a Member of the Crafts Council Advisory Group, a founding associate of Tate’s Tate Exchange programme and a Steering Group Member of the Cultural Learning Alliance.

Student body

The University caters for approximately 2,000 students, with around 85% of full-time students on Higher Education courses in 2017.[5] Over 400 members of staff are employed by the college. Students are enrolled from the local area, the wider south-west region, and further afield in the United Kingdom. The college also attracts international students,[6] with Erasmus+ partnership institutions across Europe including Design Academy Eindhoven and National Academy of Art, Sofia.[7]


The University is administered by a corporation.[8]


Founded as the Plymouth Drawing School in 1856,[9] Arts University Plymouth is one of the last specialist art schools in the United Kingdom.[10]

The College has delivered higher education (HE) provision for over 20 years, initially as part of an indirect funding partnership with the University of Plymouth to develop foundation degrees. In 2006, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) awarded directly funded student numbers to Plymouth College of Art, and the College transferred its validation arrangements to the Open University (OU).

In December 2008, Plymouth College of Art and Design was renamed to Plymouth College of Art.[11]

Palace Court, Plymouth College of Art's Pre-Degree campus

In 2013, the college founded the city-centre free school for 4 to 16-year-olds Plymouth School of Creative Arts. Together the school and college have established a radical and progressive continuum of creative learning and practice in the region that extends from early years to Masters level study. The school's landmark building The Red House was formally opened by Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota who hailed the opening as "a historic event in the history of education in this country".[12]

In 2019, Plymouth College of Art received Taught Degree Awarding Powers (TDAP), granting them, as an independent Higher Education Institution, the power to award their own degrees. In autumn 2020, the first cohort of undergraduate and postgraduate students graduated from Plymouth College of Art with an award accredited by the institution.

In May 2022, the College was awarded University status [13]

Honorary Degrees

In 2009, the college awarded two honorary degrees which were conferred by The Open University. Artist Anthony Frost was awarded an honorary Master of The Open University and Raindance founder Elliot Grove was awarded an honorary Doctor of The Open University for their services to art and education and culture, respectively.[14]

Honorary fellowships have since been offered to artist David McKee, Toby Gorniak MBE, Peter Jenkinson OBE, Sir John Sorrell CBE and Lady Frances Sorrell OBE, and Sir Nicholas Serota and Richard Deacon CBE,[15] among others.  

In 2018 Honorary Fellowships were awarded to Mike Westbrook OBE, musician, to Clare Twomey, a leading British ceramics and performance artist, as well as photographer Suki Dhanda and former Director of Plymouth Arts Centre Bernard Samuels.[citation needed]

Students' Union

Arts University Plymouth Students' Union, usually abbreviated "AUP:SU" is based at the Tavistock Place campus. It was established in 1998. Each year, students elect a paid Student Union President who will represent them for the following year, along with a team of voluntary Student Union Executive Committee positions. The Union offers a range of services (such as the Student Union Food Bank) and a number of events throughout the year, including Freshers.

The current Student Union President is Fraizer James, elected for 2022/23 after being a Student Ambassador for the University.

In 2021, Arts University Plymouth Students’ Union (AUP:SU) won Best Campaign Supporting Student Wellbeing at the 2021 Think Student Awards, beating leading international universities to be selected as the winner by the Student Pulse panel of 40,000 students.[16]

See also

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "Plymouth College of Art given university status". BBC News. 25 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Plymouth College of Art | LinkedIn". Archived from the original on 11 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Plymouth Arts Cinema". Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Fab Lab Plymouth". Fab Lab Plymouth. Retrieved 3 November 2017.
  5. ^ "Page 1 Plymouth College of Art and Design" (PDF). Ofsted. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  6. ^ "International Students — Studying — Plymouth College of Art". Archived from the original on 11 August 2014. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Erasmus+ — Study — Plymouth College of Art". Plymouth College of Art. Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Corporation and Governance". Plymouth College of Art. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  9. ^ "Getting Into University: A-Z Unis & Colleges". The Independent. 27 July 2007. Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  10. ^ "Partnership announcement". University of Plymouth. 28 April 2006. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Name Change at Art College". South West Media Group. 20 January 2009. Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  12. ^ "Plymouth School of Creative Arts | Primary and Secondary Education". Archived from the original on 22 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Plymouth College of Art given university status". BBC News. 25 May 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2022.
  14. ^ "A college 'first' as artists are honoured". West Briton. 13 July 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2016.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "Plymouth College of Art awards Honorary Fellowships to Sir Nicholas Serota and Richard Deacon CBE". Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Student wellbeing support wins acclaim for Plymouth College of Art…".

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