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Our Journal

From a Foundation Diploma to Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Arts

Alumni Xanthe Burdett writes about how Plymouth College of Art broadened her horizons and prepared her to succeed at Cambridge University.

Xanthe Burdett, from Buckfastleigh, Devon, completed a UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Plymouth College of Art in 2014, and currently has work on show at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Xanthe has written here about how Plymouth College of Art broadened her horizons and prepared her to succeed at Cambridge University, setting her on a career path that combines her love of painting and community arts.

Xanthe, smiling with brown short hair and a grey tshirt, stands in front of a number of small paintings in wooden frames

Xanthe Burdett

Studying at Plymouth College of Art opened a window into the creative industries. From the start of the Foundation Diploma year I was pretty fixed on oil painting, but the breadth of perspectives and techniques taught gave me a wide pool of resources to draw on.
Xanthe Burdett, UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design alumni

My creative journey has taken a few twists and turns; I’ve painted since I was young and taught myself oil painting at fifteen. I studied the UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Plymouth College of Art before successfully applying to study Education, English and Drama at Cambridge University.

Studying at Plymouth College of Art opened a window into the creative industries. From the start of the Foundation Diploma year I was pretty fixed on oil painting, but the breadth of perspectives and techniques taught gave me a wide pool of resources to draw on.

A painting of Afolabi Alli, a portrait of a black man with short black hair and beard wearing a white tshirt in front of a blue background

Xanthe's painting of actor and friend Afolabi Alli featured at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition.

My painting fell by the wayside as I focused on my degree, but I began again as soon as I had graduated from Cambridge University. From the start of the pandemic in 2020, the lockdowns gave me the time and headspace to really commit to painting again. I now split my week between painting and teaching workshops, mostly working with community art groups and charities.

My time at Plymouth College of Art definitely gave me an interesting perspective for going on to study at Cambridge. I spoke a lot about studying visual art in my interview and two of my dissertations incorporated visual art elements.

The combination of studying the Foundation Diploma in Art & Design and a degree in Education really helped me to develop the community arts and teaching elements of my practice. I work with participants with a diverse range of needs and having a theoretical and practical understanding of different arts and ways to teach them enables me to deliver projects that are accessible to everyone.

Xanthe's painting in place in the Royal Academy of Arts, two people stand to the left hand corner of the photo looking at the paintings, one of which is large and red with pink, surrounded by smaller paintings and framed pictures

Xanthe's painting in the Royal Academy of Arts

You can see Xanthe’s work exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition until 2 January 2022 and in the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London from 11 to 21 November 2021.

Follow her progress on Instagram or on her website, where she offers commissions and sells small paintings and studies.

Find out more about our UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design, an exciting and immersive one-year course that gives students a chance to discover, experiment and explore across a wide range of disciplines – as well as maximise their chances of gaining a First if they decide to progress on to degree-level study.