Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

BA Painting

UCAS code: W120

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Painting

The Painting programme focuses on developing confident, enquiring, resilient students.

You will be able to research and articulate your practice, and question your position, and that of painting, within the wider context of contemporary visual culture.

We put emphasis on drawing and research through visual thinking at all levels. Work can also be realised through practices such as:

  • printmaking
  • artists' books
  • installation
  • digital and lens-based media

Studio work

This programme is centred on the studio. You will identify, reflect on and develop your personal, visual vocabulary through the languages of painting. The nurturing and development of the individual is a priority.

You will be allocated your own personal space and you will be able to access exhibition spaces in and outside the College. Students can install work individually or in small groups. Such events then create a platform for discussion.

Skills and methods

You will be instructed in:

  • technical methods
  • use of materials
  • different types of grounds and supports

We want you to explore how to make a painting and also what it means to make a painting.

Visual culture

A visual culture strand provides a multidisciplinary context for your study syllabus across all art programmes at ECA.

This involves the imaginative research, analysis and communication of issues raised by the visual aspects of culture.

Our students engage in a critical and creative dialogue with the work of their peers. They also gain an understanding of the nature of today's diverse visual cultures.

You will study the artistic, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative practice in visual arts. You will also learn how to best communicate this knowledge in a range of written, oral, visual and practical forms.

Year 1

Each of our four-year BA (Hons) programmes in art shares common elements of study during the early part of Year 1. All Year 1 Art students work together in the first semester.

This year you will experience a wide range of art practices, including:

  • painting
  • photography
  • sculpture
  • intermedia art

Studio practice

We introduce you to studio practice, workshops and the types of teaching you will experience.

For example, you will learn:

  • what a project brief is for
  • what a crit is
  • how a seminar works
  • what to expect from a tutorial
  • what feedback is for and how you use it

Visual culture

We introduce you to key visual culture texts, methods and methodologies of art theory and practice.

As the year progresses you have project options to enable you to specialise in the subject most appropriate to your work.

In semester two students make decisions about which programme they wish to study supported by feedback and advice from staff.

Option courses

In Years 1 and 2 you can choose option courses . These allow you to build a suite of courses that reflect your interests and enhance your main study.

The choice of option courses in Year 1 comprises a total of 40 credits, nominally made up of two 20-credit courses. You can choose courses from within ECA, or across the wider College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, subject to availability.

Developing your study

You will later develop your specialist study of painting in relation to the wider field of contemporary art practice.

You will also enhance your learning by being exposed to a wider range of methods and knowledge beyond the confines of the studio through a choice of option courses.

Year 2

You will be encouraged to engage with and explore your ideas through drawing and research.

By taking part in exhibitions and group crits you will establish tactics for presenting, evaluating and discussing work with your peers and other audiences. This helps build a foundation for your professional practice.

Visual Culture lectures and seminars will broaden your understanding of methods and methodologies of theory and practice.

Option courses

In Year 2 there are a total of 40 credits of option courses available. We offer more than 20 option courses. There are also many more option courses from across the wider university to choose from - subject to availability.

Year 3

As your study progresses you will engage in experimentation and risk-taking to expand your own personal visual language.

You will be supported and challenged to grow your understanding of suitable approaches to articulating your ideas. This will involve personal and collaborative initiatives and experimentation.

You will take part in a range of externally-focused projects. You will also clearly identify and define conceptual areas of your work through personal exploration. This will be demonstrated by extensive research activity.

You will also have Visual Culture options to choose from. These will help develop the contextualisation of your studio work.

Year 4

Visual Culture written work and working towards your Degree Show exhibition form the basis of Year 4.

The body of work you produce will be underpinned by a highly self-motivated attitude to the planning and production of your research and practice.

This work will demonstrate the ability to analyse, resolve and implement the means by which your ideas are best communicated to an audience.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2021/22)

Our facilities

At our Lauriston Place campus you will learn in purpose-built workshops and studios. These include facilities for:

  • intermedia
  • painting
  • photography
  • sculpture

You will also be able to access the exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college.

Some of your lectures and tutorials will take place in the George Square area.

You will have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities.

Investing in our learning environment

The University is investing in the Edinburgh College of Art estate and facilities. This will further develop our supportive, stimulating and sustainable learning and research environment.

Find out more on the ECA website.

Facilities and resources at ECA

Study abroad

The School of Art offers exchange opportunities with partner institutions across the world. Exchanges usually take place in Year 3.

Studying abroad allows you to:

  • become immersed in a new culture
  • make new friends
  • expand your working knowledge of another language
  • realise a degree of self-reliance, which future employers will regard as an asset

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most of your teaching for compulsory courses will be in a studio environment and involve a range of experiential projects. For option courses, teaching and learning methods vary.

Methods used to explore conceptual, material and technical issues include:

  • seminars
  • workshops
  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • critiques

The programme sees research and critical thinking as essential to your development.

You will study visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts of creative practice. This often involves participating in exhibitions and live projects.

You will learn both in group settings and regular one-to-one tutorials with your studio tutor.

How will I be assessed?

We use continuous formative assessment throughout your study. This helps give meaningful feedback and encourages experimentation in the studio and beyond.

Assessment can take the form of:

  • project work
  • participation in group events and presentations
  • written submissions

Art careers

Many graduates pursue careers as artists or enter other art-related professions and go on to undertake residencies and commissions in a global context.

A high percentage of graduates establish themselves in workshops and studios. Many have achieved considerable success and built international reputations.

Transferable skills

Our programmes provide a progressive education in contemporary art practice.

Our students develop:

  • analytical and practical skills
  • the ability to work with others in an organised manner
  • lateral thinking skills

These attributes can be applied to a wide range of career possibilities.

Some students continue their studies at postgraduate level. Others go on to teach or make an impact in the wider creative industries.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements


Applicants will be asked to submit a digital mini-portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

Portfolio guidance

Important dates

Dates for the opening of the mini-portfolio submission site, and deadlines for submission, will be posted in March 2021.

BTEC/UAL Diplomas

Applicants studying Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Art and Design will be considered for entry with the following:

  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma with DMM.
  • Pearson BTEC Diploma with MM plus one A Level at A (or DM plus B at A Level).
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at B (or M plus AB at A Level).

Applicants studying the University of the Arts London Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design will be considered with Merit.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants with a Foundation Diploma will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the first year entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB, relevant HNC, etc). In some of our less competitive degrees it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These must have been achieved in one set of exams, at first attempt.

A list of accepted HNDs, along with further information for adult returners, can be found on our adult returner page:

Adult returner applicants

(Revised 25/05/2021 to provide more accurate information and link to further details.)

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BA Painting

Additional costs

Your materials costs will vary depending on your programme of study and the materials used to make your work.

Some programmes will offer fieldwork. There is no additional contribution required for the teaching costs involved. However, for the residential fieldwork and individual field-based projects, you are usually required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel cost.

Your actual student contribution depends on the programme involved and the courses selected.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding