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Portfolio Reviews for Art and Design

What is a Portfolio Review

When you apply to a course in a creative subject like fine art, product, illustration, interior architecture, fashion, graphic design, Jewellery & Metalwork we ask you to submit a portfolio of relevant work for us to review.

The portfolio review helps us understand whether we are able to offer you a place on the course you’ve applied for. Your UCAS statement and portfolio provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate your creative experience, potential ability and enthusiasm for the course you’ve applied for. Your portfolio review can be carried out face to face, or by online submission.

We realise that attending a face to face portfolio review isn’t always possible and this can be for a number of reasons including time constraints due to work, study, family and care duties, as well as financial constraints. If your application is successful you will receive an email inviting you to book a face to face portfolio review or to submit your portfolio online, via email – it’s your choice.

We can assure you that both in person and online applications are dealt with equitably.

Having a portfolio review doesn't mean you're guaranteed a place on the course – your UCAS personal statement and reference, portfolio and supporting text* (*online submission only) all contribute to us making our decision.

How will my Portfolio be reviewed?

Face to face
On the day of your portfolio review, you will be given a comprehensive presentation about the course delivered by the staff team and also shown around our facilities including workshops and studios by one of our student ambassadors. During your tour, the course staff will look through your portfolio. You will then be seen individually by a member of the staff team in an informal portfolio review. The portfolio review itself will take approximately 15 minutes. We won't try to 'catch you out' or ask embarrassing questions. We want you to feel at ease and to be able to ask any questions you may have for us. After all, you need to decide whether the course you have applied for is right for you.

The portfolio review provides you with an opportunity to discuss your portfolio. You will not be asked to describe everything in your portfolio, but you should be able to talk in detail about one piece of work (often a project of our choice) and to answer questions about it.

We may also ask you

  • why you have chosen this particular course
  • questions about your personal interests
  • design, designers, art, artists and genres you particularly admire and why
  • popular culture
  • to talk about exhibitions, galleries and events you may have been to
  • to talk about blogs and magazines you read.

There will be an opportunity for you to ask us questions. You may have questions about the course or something you need to know about living in Sheffield.

Friends and family are more than welcome to accompany you and listen to our presentation and tour the facilities, but we do ask them to wait at one of our cafes or another location while the portfolio review itself takes place. It's a great chance for them to tour the University and enjoy Sheffield city centre.

Online Portfolio Submission:
Applicants have the option to submit their portfolio online, via email. When choosing an online portfolio submission we request that you submit a supporting written statement along with your portfolio of work. The supporting text will help us understand how you approach your creative work and the subject you want to study, as well as your decision to apply to Sheffield Hallam University: this mirrors the questions we ask at interview. To determine whether the course you have applied for is the right course for you, members of the course team will carefully review your portfolio and your supporting text.

Your portfolio should be in PDF format and feature examples of your work. Any sketchbook, painted or printed examples should be photographed or scanned and placed within your pdf. If you wish to submit a video as part of your portfolio this should be embedded within your portfolio as a link for us to view.

Writing your supporting text
When writing your supporting text, first choose one of the pieces of work or projects from the portfolio that you particularly value. We’d like you to tell us why it is important to you, what you learned through doing it (especially as this relates to the course to which you are applying) and how you might further develop the idea if you had the time. Secondly, please tell us why you’re applying for this particular course at Sheffield Hallam University and what you hope to gain from studying it. The supporting text should be no longer than 500 words.

To create your supporting text please use the template here. This will help you to structure your submission and makes sure we have all the information we need.

Read our guidance on how to format and submit your portfolio. Please refer to the invitation email for the email address of where to send your submission.

Once we have reviewed your portfolio and supporting text, the university will provide you with a feedback statement and our offer response. Due to the volume of applications please allow approximately 3 weeks for us to review your portfolio submission.

Don’t worry if you haven’t already visited us. There will be an opportunity for you to visit us to see first-hand what we do and to gain an understanding of what it is like to study Art & Design at Sheffield Hallam University at one of our open days.

What else can I experience at the University?

At the face to face interview you will have the opportunity to tour the Art & Design Department and see the facilities, workshops and studio. You will also be able to meet our ambassadors and hear about their student experience, take part in additional activities if desired and learn more about the careers opportunities as a result of studying art and design.

All students are encouraged to visit the university at one of our open days. It’s your chance to find out what we’re about – how we teach, how we support you, and what facilities and activities are on offer on our campuses. You can also discover your new home of Sheffield which is a lively, friendly, scenic and affordable place to study.

You can also book to see our campuses and accommodation on our weekly student-led tours. Alternatively, if you would like to visit the University in your own time, please view our self-guided tour booklet. Find out about our tours and book your place now.

What should be in my portfolio?

Imagine your portfolio as the way we can view your world allowing us to see your skills, your personality and your potential. Your portfolio is a collection of your work that demonstrates to us how your creativity has developed over a period of time.

It shows your ability to work with different materials, themes and techniques, as well as how you conduct research, develop and plan your ideas. We do not look for highly finished professional work, a portfolio should be carefully put together; but we want to see imagination, enthusiasm and a confidence in exploring a range of creative approaches. Your portfolio should provide a clear view of your creative potential through the work you have done.

Take time with your selection when putting the portfolio together. Do not include everything you have ever done, present a good, clear selection that represents your abilities. Your portfolio may include past and current school or college work, other personal projects, work in progress and other work that you feel demonstrates your creative potential. Alternatively, this may include work completed in other fields outside of those traditionally thought of as the 'creative subjects' such as writing, research, problem solving.

The portfolio should include some or all of the following:

  • A range of drawing skills. Different types of drawing and mark making.
  • Experiments with a range of media, printmaking, photography.
  • Typography, illustration, layout, design sheets.
  • Screen-based/digital work (this can be brought on a clearly labelled USB storage device to a face to face review)
  • 3D work and making skills in wood, metal, plastic, ceramic, card, fabric etc – or good quality photographs of the work if it’s too big to bring with you.
  • Sketchbooks demonstrating research, idea generation and problem solving.
  • Anything else that you feel promotes your creativity.

If your school or college work is likely to be sent away for assessment or put on display, keep copies so that you can still include that work in your portfolio.

For advice on how to put together your online portfolios please refer to the online portfolio submission help section above.

How should I organise my portfolio?

We will only have a short time to look at your portfolio. The important thing is to assemble a lively collection that shows both the breadth and depth of your work.

Order your portfolio so that it opens with your strongest piece of work that you are confident about and which represents you best. You can’t include every bit of work you've done. Be selective, but not too selective. Show your process – sketchbooks and evidence of your research and development work is just as important – we want to know how you think.

Portfolio commentary
Make sure your name is clearly visible on the outside of your portfolio. Add a short explanatory title and one or two sentences at the start of each piece of work saying what it is, what it’s about and when it was done. This will help to ensure that your portfolio is understood in the way you want it to be when you are not there to explain it. For online submissions your supporting text will also help to provide us with this detail.

What are we looking for?

Throughout the process, we will be looking for people who are genuinely curious about their subject with an enthusiasm and motivation to thrive at University.

Who is on the portfolio review panel?

Sheffield Hallam Art & Design academic staff.

How do I find you?

Our face to face portfolio reviews take place at our city campus. Details of where your portfolio review will be held will be sent to you with your booking. Please allow plenty of time for travelling as parking is limited on all campuses. Please read signs carefully when parking as there are restrictions in place. We strongly recommend that you use public transport where possible.

Please follow this link for more information about getting to the campus, public transport links and parking.

I'm disabled and require support at the portfolio review. Can you help?

If you have a disability (this includes sensory and physical disabilities, dyslexia, mental health conditions and medical conditions) and you feel that you will need some support during the portfolio review process (for example, a sign language interpreter, note taker, materials provided in different format or wheelchair access), we strongly recommend that you contact the Events team on 0114 225 6737 or a.mallon@shu.ac.uk within three days of confirming your face to face portfolio review or in advance of submitting your online portfolio.

The selection team will then be able to make any reasonable adjustments so that you can fully participate in the portfolio without any disadvantage.

Disability advice whilst studying at the University

You may or may not have indicated that you have a disability on your application form. In either case, the Disabled Student Support Team is keen to hear from you. If you would like to meet or talk to an advisor to discuss, in confidence, possible support whilst studying, please ring +44 (0)114 225 3813 or email disability-support@shu.ac.uk

Inclusion at the selection event

We welcome everyone to Sheffield Hallam University and want to be as accessible and inclusive as possible. If you wish to disclose any information with us, such as a change in name or any other personal status that you feel is relevant this will be treated sensitively and fairly, ensuring you are represented impartially at your portfolio review. Please contact our events team on (0114) 225 5584 or at recruitmentevents@shu.ac.uk

What happens after my portfolio review?

After the portfolio review our offer will be communicated via UCAS track, so please check your account regularly.

You will receive one of the following decisions.

Conditional offer for the course that you have applied for – you must fulfil certain criteria (usually based on the qualifications you are currently taking) before you can be accepted on the course. If the requirements are met, the offer becomes unconditional.

Unconditional offer for the course that you have applied for – usually made when you have already completed your qualifications and met the academic requirements we are asking for.

Change of course offer for the foundation degree. If your portfolio reviewers decide that you are not ready to make a successful start on the degree course that you have applied to, you may be offered a place on this course. This takes the form of a foundation year, run in-house by our tutors, with the aim of building your creative skills and attributes. If you complete the foundation year successfully, you will automatically progress onto your chosen degree course.

Unsuccessful – This means that unfortunately we are not able to offer you a place on the course as your portfolio reviewers do not feel that you have the necessary skills or experience to be successful on one of our courses. However, this does not prevent you from applying in the future, should you undertake further study to develop your skills and experience and portfolio.

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