Whether you’re tossing up your choices for the right Art School, debating between a Design or Fine Arts undergraduate, or considering whether Fine Arts is the right degree for you, looking at the pros and cons of studying a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Studio Practice) at UNSW is a great way to find out.
In this article, we’ve asked Lilli, a recent Bachelor of Fine Arts (Studio Practice) graduate at UNSW, to give her personal insight and opinions on her study experience.
Let’s dive in!
Why should you study a Fine Arts degree at UNSW?
A Bachelor of Fine Arts is a great degree for anyone who wants a guided and professional pathway towards becoming an artist.
Pursuing a career in art may seem daunting if done alone. Through the help and insight of tutors, who also work as contemporary practicing artists, students can form industry connections, build their portfolio and importantly, understand the current Australian art scene.
At the same time, students develop their techniques, the way they see the world, and how to represent their worldview through their medium.
For a creative impact on the world, this is a great start.
Top 3 Pros of a Fine Arts degree
#1: Flexible major and room for experimentation
“Most majors are super flexible,” Lilli says. “I did painting and drawing [as majors], and ended up doing mostly textile studies for my assessment.”
There is a lot of liberty and creative freedom in Fine Arts assessments. While you may choose a certain major, this doesn’t mean that you are restricted to the typical medium(s) of that major.
This reflects the core value of experimentation in UNSW Art and Design school, where bending artistic “rules” can often be seen as a way to demonstrate personal motivation and impact.
#2: You get a year to decide your major
Before jumping into your major, Lilli tells us that “now you can study multiple major streams in your first year before deciding.”
In the first year of the degree, students are exposed to different mediums and with that, they may find out that the major they were once set on isn’t what they actually wanted.
Along with Art history core units taken in the first year, students can first see what they enjoy before diving into that commitment — and who knows? Some students end up choosing a major they hadn’t thought of before!
#3: Relaxed classes
“Most classes are super relaxed — if you need a coffee, you can go and get a coffee,” Lilli explains.
In a Fine Arts degree, students find that classes are something to look forward to — as they are pursuing their creative passion. Even though studio sessions (which make up most of the classes in the course) are usually four hours long, the class structure is designed to keep creative spirits high through.
Top 3 Cons of a Fine Arts degree
These cons are based on personal opinion and depending on your preferences, they may actually be favourable to you!
#1: No Art History prior to 1850
Lilli explains that UNSW Fine Arts is not a traditional art school and does not teach Art History prior to 1850.
“If you are wanting to learn about art history, the Bachelor of Arts is for you. This degree is predominately modern art theory,” she says.
Depending on the chosen major, such as Drawing and Painting, this may mean that you won’t learn the full history of the mediums you specialise in. For majors that focus on contemporary mediums like Moving Image and Photography, you may see this as less of an issue.
#2: Double-degree students get less experience
For double degree students, less Fine Arts units are available to you.
Firstly, Lilli says, “You won’t learn techniques unless you take a first year level tech class — this is available for single degrees, but for double degree students these aren’t available unless you plan to extend the duration of your degree.”
Secondly, double-degree students don’t have Fine Arts electives. This can be disadvantageous as “there are classes that aren’t a part of the majors that teach you so much more about concept, techniques etc.”
#3: Focused on independence and self-drive
Like many things in the world, what you put out is what you get in return. So, for students who are looking for career success, they must put in the effort.
“There are no careers and employment services on the Art and Design campus,” Lilli explains.
“You will have to head to the main campus for this. However the counsellors aren’t much help as their techniques are more for business/engineering/science students. You will need to seek help from teachers — and even then it’s a ‘personal choice’.”
UNSW also does not offer career development support on campus.
Reflecting on her university experience, Lilli says that her one regret is “that I [she] didn’t partake in more student run exhibitions.”
Before applying to independent or more established exhibitions, UNSW Galleries is a great starting point for students to build their name and portfolio. This allows curators to see what the emerging artist’s work is all about and be more likely to take a chance on them.
What do you wish you had known before starting UNSW Fine Arts?
Harking back to the cons, Lilli wishes she knew that as a double degree student, “I wouldn’t be learning art history or traditional techniques.”
If Art History or techniques are something you want to learn in your undergraduate, check the course programs to see if it is offered!
What makes UNSW Fine Arts different from the ones offered at other universities and what inspired you to choose it?
For Lilli, the unique double degree options are what sets UNSW Fine Arts from other universities and art schools.
UNSW is great for an interdisciplinary university experience as it ranks favourably in many subject areas. As she studied both Science and Fine Arts, this was something crucial to her.
Though, Lilli notes that “if design was offered more as a double degree — with Science in particular, I would have chosen that”.
What are the possible career paths?
Depending on the student’s specialisations, the medium they work with, and whether the student studied a second degree, the range of career options for a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Studio Practice) graduate vary.
Nonetheless, some viable career options include:
- Visual artist
- Photographer or photojournalist
- Art director in advertising and communications
- Art critic
- Art instructor
Lynn Chen is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education and is a Communication student at UTS with a major in Creative Writing. Lynn’s articles have been published in Vertigo, The Comma, and Shut Up and Go. In her spare time, she also writes poetry.