Arts University Plymouth: Nurturing tomorrow's creative visionaries

Arts University Plymouth: Nurturing tomorrow’s creative visionaries

An art school experience is incomplete without meaningful experiences. This is a fact Arts University Plymouth (AUP) — voted the Top Arts University in the UK for student satisfaction in the 2022 National Student Survey — understands best. Here, there are many opportunities to realise the many aspirations of students coming from all walks of life.

A specialist arts university run by artists and designers for artists and designers, this is where students begin their professional careers from the moment they step onto AUP’s vibrant modern open-plan campus in the city centre.

“I remember AUP being full of young bubbly students, in what looked like a very positive and supportive environment, and that immediately caught my attention,” says BA (Hons) Commercial Photography graduate Maia Cazzani. “The lecturers made it clear how much they really cared about the journey of the individual student, which was what swayed my decision.”

Today, the fashion photographer from Italy is excited about what the future holds, thanks to her time at AUP. “I have taken the summer to focus on my future. Finishing university allows you to take a break and let everything you’ve learned sink in,” Cazzani says. “In the meantime, I’ve kept my photography going by taking on events near me, but the plan is to move to London and build my career towards the world of fashion photography, as that’s my passion.”

In 2022, Arts University Plymouth was the first university to win Gold in the Small or Specialist Institution category of the Whatuni Student Choice Awards. Source: Arts University Plymouth

Founded in 1856 as the city’s first specialist school of art and design, AUP offers a comprehensive range of specialist undergraduate, postgraduate and pre-degree programmes in arts, design and media. Combining over 165 years of creativity with contemporary thinking and cutting-edge resources, AUP’s personalised, hands-on learning has led many graduates to successful careers.

The programme Cazzani chose — BA (Hons) Commercial Photography — was designed to equip students with advanced technical skills in studio and location lighting, digital capture and post-production techniques. The focus is to develop the practical skills and imagination needed to thrive in the competitive photographic industry.

Cazzani never anticipated the profound impact her three-year journey at AUP would have on her career outlook. “I started out not knowing what exposure was, let alone working in a studio or shooting with models, but all the self-directed study time we had encouraged me to research and experiment,” she says. “It got to the point where studio work and directing models is what I feel most comfortable doing now.

AUP prioritises exploration and experimentation in both traditional and emerging technologies. As such, students can develop skills beyond their regular coursework through the Workshop Wednesday programme, which offers technical, academic, career, and creative opportunities, including access to Fab Lab. The fabrication laboratory has 3D printers, 3D scanners, a vinyl cutter, a CNC milling machine, a CNC router and a laser cutter. Such facilities encourage students to think of themselves as practitioners – photographers, illustrators, designers, filmmakers.

The diverse range of creative programmes at AUP equip students with the critical knowledge and technical skills needed to succeed in industry today. Source: Arts University Plymouth

Business acumen is part of every programme here. From studio internships and on-location film crews to working behind the scenes at Fashion Week, embedded industry experience lets students tackle live briefs set and assessed by industry professionals. Not only do these get students liaising with a wide range of creative industries, but imbue them with crucial insights into project management, marketing, creative team dynamics, and client interactions.

Thinking through making — and doing this on a regional, national and international scale — is just as important at AUP. Jointly launched with Millfields Trust in 2018, Makers HQ is a facility set in a former Jaeger factory in Plymouth that offers production services to the fashion industry and emerging designers, students and graduates have access to sampling studio services including pattern drafting, creation of single samples, and short production runs. Whether you’re creating one-of-a-kind pieces or entire collections, Makers HQ serves as a tangible connection between education and real industry experience.

More opportunities beyond Britain’s Ocean City are available for AUP students. From London Fashion Week to Paris Photo (Europe’s biggest photo fair), design event SCHMUCK in Munich, the British Ceramics Biennial, and the Contemporary Craft Festival, they can join the very best industry events related to their field of interest. Many students secure industry placements with organisations such as Vogue, Zandra Rhodes, Hallmark, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Urban Outfitters, as well.

The creative industry can be challenging — which is why the university’s mentoring programme pairs students with experienced members of the creative community who are eager to support their career aspirations. These mentors guide students through crucial aspects of personal and professional development, helping them set goals, develop entrepreneurial skills, build resilience, and enhance emotional intelligence.

All these opportunities have enabled many AUP alumni to thrive upon graduation. “Studying at AUP gave me the opportunity to grow both creatively and personally in a way I wouldn’t have done anywhere else,” says Cazzani.

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