When you apply to a course in a subject like fine art, graphic design, fashion design, and other hands-on disciplines at UAL, a portfolio is a very important part of your application.
Be sure to check the Apply section of your chosen course's web page for detailed entry requirements. The information below will give you guidance to help you to prepare a portfolio or improve an existing one.
What is a portfolio?
A portfolio is a collection of your work, or a 'visual diary', showing how your skills and ideas have developed over time.
It demonstrates your creativity, personality, abilities and commitment, and helps us to evaluate your potential.
Why do I need a portfolio?
Your portfolio helps us to assess your suitability for your chosen course. It shows your ability to work with different materials and themes and to select your most successful pieces.
It demonstrates your technical and visualisation skills, including drawing and photography. It shows evidence of your practice (for example, essays, journals and blogs) and how you use research, theory and process to develop your ideas.
What should my portfolio include?
Below is a list of what we’d recommend you include in your portfolio:
- Examples of your research, development of your ideas and finished pieces
- Your most recent work, even if it's not finished
- Your own independent work; for example, work completed at summer school or on a short course, photography and/or your own experimentation
- Your sketchbooks – they're a really good way to show us your research and development of ideas. They should include primary and secondary research, rough ideas and notes, descriptions and annotations. They should demonstrate a variety of media and experimentation
- Your portfolio could include the following areas of work:
- 3D and product design
- Drawing and painting
- Fashion and textile design
- Film, video and animation
- Graphic design and illustration
- Interior and spatial design
- Printmaking and digital prints
- Printmaking and digital prints
- Sculpture and installations
- Written work including essays, journals, blogs and magazines.
How should I present my portfolio?
Remember that entry requirements, including portfolios, are different for each course. Check the Apply section of your chosen course's web page for more information. Below is some advice for how we’d recommend you present your portfolio:
- A portfolio can be any size, depending on the work it contains, but make sure it's practical to carry around
- There's no limit to the amount of work it can contain, but be practical and select only your best work – usually a selection of different projects and 2-3 full sketchbooks is a manageable amount
- Large pieces of work, for example, 3D objects or large paintings, can be photographed and presented in your portfolio. You can bring 1-2 physical examples with you if you’re invited to an interview, but only if they're small, light or difficult to photograph
- Keep it simple, uncluttered and relevant – mount work on to the same size sheets of white cartridge paper
- Give your work space to breathe, for example, if you have 10 similar prints then choose only the best 2 or 3 for your portfolio
- Position your work logically and try to present your work so that everything’s facing the same way up
- Start and end your portfolio with your strongest pieces of work
- Make sure that your portfolio shows variety
- Show work that you're able to talk about.
How do I submit my portfolio?
If you're applying for a course where a portfolio is needed to support your application, you'll move through one of 2 different journeys, depending on the course:
1) Submit your application
2a) You will be invited to submit a digital portfolio through UAL’s online portfolio tool, PebblePad, for the first assessment of your work. If successful, you may be invited to interview and asked to bring your full portfolio
2b) You will be invited to interview and you may be asked to bring your full portfolio
3) If your application and interview are successful, we may offer you a place on your chosen course or a suitable alternative course.
Check the Apply section of your chosen course's web page for more information about portfolio submission.
If you live outside of the UK and have applied through your local official UAL representative, you will usually have a face-to-face interview in your country with one of our academic staff. They'll also give you feedback about your portfolio.
If you are unable to attend an interview in person, a digital portfolio may be accepted instead. This will be arranged by our College Admissions Service, who will contact you once they receive your application.
Do different levels of study require different portfolios?
Portfolio requirements are different for pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate levels of study.
Check the Apply section of your chosen course's web page for information about entry requirements.
What if I don't have a portfolio?
UAL offers a number of courses to help you prepare your portfolio for entry onto our pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. They vary in length from a few days to a full year:
- Portfolio preparation courses for pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level international students are 6 weeks long and based at Chelsea College of Arts
- Portfolio preparation full-time courses vary in duration and are based at Central Saint Martins
- Short courses based across all 6 UAL Colleges.
Our pre-degree courses are one year in length and help you to develop the skills, experience and portfolio required for undergraduate-level study. Some of our pre-degree courses do require a portfolio to support your application. Check the Entry Requirements section of each course page for more information:
- Foundation Diploma in Art and Design based at Central Saint Martins
- Foundation Studies in Performance based at Central Saint Martins.
We offer 3 one-year pre-degree courses designed specifically for international students, each of which provides English language support and academic writing guidance throughout:
- International: Introduction to Design and Media Communication based at London College of Communication
- International: Introduction to the Study of Fashion based at London College of Fashion
- International Preparation for Fashion (Certificate in Higher Education) based at London College of Fashion.