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Posted 17.12.18

Top tips: the best advice to prepare for your university interview

By Sarah Packer

From our Undergraduate BA (Hons) Degree programmes and Extended Degrees to our Postgraduate Masters Degrees, we offer something for everyone looking to further their artistic practice and secure a career across the creative spectrum.

We know it can be a daunting task putting together a creative portfolio or showreel, so we caught up with some of our Programme Leaders to get their advice on how to get yourself ready for that all-important interview.

Gayle Matthias — BA (Hons) 3D Design Crafts

“I would advise a student to show us work or a project that they think exemplifies their thought processes, skills and ambitions, and to be able to discuss the development of this project through their sketchbooks, portfolio, models and possibly a more resolved solution (or photograph of the finished work), and reflect on what they thought was and was not successful about this project.

"In the  interview  we are looking for passion in students' voices, those who will genuinely love what they are studying.”​

Kirsty Smith — BA (Hons) Fashion Media & Marketing

“We are looking for candidates with a knowledge of not just our subject but on global issues and how they may impact on fashion practises.

“We encourage interview candidates to engage with more than just fashion magazines and online bloggers and vloggers. We are looking for candidates that have a sense of where things are moving.

“This might be evidenced in a written piece, or part of a project they have undertaken, a discussion during their interview about a visit to an exhibition or to another country.

“Specific to our course, we ask students to bring with them a visual portfolio that examines their critical thinking. The way they have approached projects visually and through annotation.

“We are keen to explore each student's investigative process outlining the resources they have used to draw their conclusions.

“We also ask them to bring a written example so that we can discuss their interests and see if they align with the course. In the interview we are looking for passion in students voices, those who will genuinely love what they are studying.”

Steven Paige — BA (Hons) Fine Art

"There is never a perfect portfolio - in fact the ones that we see that seem less perfect are sometimes the most interesting! We want to see evidence of an applicants' creative thinking and problem-solving that manifests in their making. In Fine Art reflective thinking around material development is key to driving ideas forward, where taking risk and trying things out is highly productive process." 

"We want to see sketchbooks; workings out, experimentation, moments of inspiration that eventually lead to accomplished and innovative work. What is also important when thinking what to include in a portfolio is one or two pieces that might have been a challenge or is not completely resolved. Being able to describe a solution to a creative problem or how the problem inspired a new direction is a very effective narrative in an interview."

"We expect to be able to see a connection between the students' making and thinking that is evident in how they describe their approach to what they are presenting. This not only means talking through their material explorations, but how they go about researching; what exhibitions or artist they have found inspiring, how they evidence the depth and range of their interests but also sustain their practice. We are looking for students that are driven by a passionate desire to make but also to fully explore their chosen topics."

“Each portfolio choice should be something that has a story about it;  what was the journey of the design process?"

Mohini Chandra — BA (Hons) Photography

“In photography, we are looking for an inquisitive and creative approach to photographic practice. We want to know why you already do photography and how we could help you develop your practice both in terms of techniques and ideas.

“When you come for interview we would like to see examples of your photographic work and hope to find interesting and sustained projects that you have developed over time. We are really interested in what you can tell us about these projects like how and why you made them.

“While you might have some really great images that you are really proud of in your portfolio, we also want to talk to you about your willingness to experiment and try something new – we’re all about pushing boundaries and broadening your knowledge of photographic practice.”

Majella Clancy - BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing & Printmaking

"We love to see a range of work in a portfolio that also showcases current thinking and making in either painting, drawing or printmaking or another relevant area. We love to see drawing either on loose sheets or in sketchbooks as we see drawing as fundamental to thinking and  is the foundation for many discipline areas."

"We also appreciate seeing sketchbooks, this enables us to see the preparatory work, the doodles, the thinking, the experimentation, the development of ideas, this is really important to how one thinks and begins to understand their practice." "

"We also appreciate seeing how initial ideas have grown and developed into more substantial work and seeing where reflective and critical thinking is beginning to be applied."

Lucy Leake — BA (Hons) Film

“Show us your ideas and enthusiasm – this could be through photography, scripts, artwork, film reviews – you don't need to know how to make films yet!

“If you do have films then bring them on a memory stick as well as uploading to Vimeo/YouTube so we can watch them at interview.

“Know what you want to show us BEFORE you get here – sections of work are often more valuable than whole films, and be prepared to tell us the strengths and weaknesses of your work, it doesn't need to be perfect!

“And finally, we love to hear your ideas!”

Martial Bugliolo - BA (Hons) Game Arts

"We are looking for candidates with clear ambitions and how the BA (Hons) Game Arts programme can help you to achieve your goals."

"When you come for an interview, we would like to see examples of traditional and digital drawings including character and environment compositions."


Cathy Freeman — BA (Hons) Textile Practices

"Come with a portfolio that gives examples of your drawing skills and shows an interest in collecting and using visual imagery. You also need to be able to talk about pattern and colour as well as have an interest in fashion, interiors and design in general. Be enthusiastic and be confident to talk about your own work and why you are interested in textiles in particular – we don't bite!

"It is also important to show that you like to experiment and manipulate materials, paper etc and be able to show off any of their design and making skills. An enthusiastic and curious nature and an ability to be able to talk about their work as well as an interest in design, fashion and craft would be good."

Tim Gundry - BA (Hons) Commercial Photography, Fashion, Advertising and Editorial

"In commercial photography we like to see a well-considered portfolio that shows a good range of visual and technical skills. Whilst we're not expecting technical accomplishment, we do want to see that applicants can work a digital camera, can get their images in focus where they need to be, with some control over exposure and depth of field. As a lot of commercial photography, especially fashion and editorial, involves people, we like to see shots of people, either in the studio or on location."

"Beyond the technical and compositional skills, we are also interested in ideas. We want to hear about applicants interests, influences and the thoughts and concepts that drive their work. Sketchbooks and journals are great to bring to the interview so that we can see the research, the thinking and their working methods. Within this we also hope to see some written work to gain some sense of how applicants are able to explain their thinking. "

"Commercial photography is a dynamic and fast moving industry and applicants need to show some genuine passion and a desire to succeed."

If you are struggling with your application, check out our How To Apply page or get in touch with our Admissions Team on (+44) 01752 203400 or admissions@pca.ac.uk for more.

Deciding where to study is a really big decision. Our main interview weeks will begin to take place from the end of January 2019, but if you haven't made your choice yet, then don't worry. We still accept and interview applicants throughout the year – providing we have places – if you don't meet the 15 January deadline.  

An Open Day is a great opportunity to find out more about our range of study options, explore our studios, meet current students and staff, and see what we can offer you. Come along to our Open Day on Saturday 5 January 2019. You can register online now, and you can book tours of programme-specific areas and find out everything you need to know about the courses you're interested in.

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