Emma Wood

BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting

Progression Pathway: Prince’s Trust Team Programme to Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design to degree.

"I love everything about being a student on this degree. I like the space, the people, the way the lecturers talk to you and explain things and that I have the freedom to choose what I’m doing within the structure of each module. The lecturers really help you to be the best you can be."


Former Rainford High School student Emma Wood began left school to study the traditional mix of three A level subjects at Sixth Form. Within weeks Emma realised that this route was not for her, so made the decision to leave, joining St Helens College’s Prince’s Trust programme. From there, Emma successfully progressed onto the level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design, where, as part of her course, she attended a UCAS event in Manchester, which provided the opportunity to meet a range of representatives from universities nationwide. With a keen interest in pursuing her art studies further, Emma began to explore a selection of universities that offered arts based degrees but was disappointed to find that work space was often small, cramped and shared, meaning artwork had to be removed at the end of each taught session, to allow another student to use the same space.

After learning more about the degree course in Fine Art Painting, offered by University Centre St Helens, Emma was delighted to discover that students are allocated a large, individual studio space for the duration of their degree. Emma decided to enrol, beginning her degree in September 2017.

Just one of eight students on the first year of the degree course, Emma explained that not only did the large, airy studio space appeal to her but also the fact that she could continue living at home. The lower tuition fees were also a factor, as was the promise of smaller class sizes that provided a natural transition from her College course.

Taught over four full days per week, with regular trips to galleries such as The Walker and The Tate as standard, the BA (Hons) Fine Art Painting is a unique course, one of only a few of its kind in the UK, allowing students to specialise from day one.

Speaking about her time to date on this degree, Emma said, “I love everything about being a student on this degree. I like the space, the people, the way the lecturers talk to you and explain things and that I have the freedom to choose what I’m doing within the structure of each module. The lecturers really help you to be the best you can be.

Every time I am in University, I sit down with my lecturer Wayne, look at my work, look at what I need to do and then Wayne makes suggestions to allow me to achieve my full potential. This regular one to one advice and guidance really is invaluable and I feel very lucky to have this as I know it simply doesn’t happen elsewhere. Having your own studio space also really helps you to begin thinking about what it will be like to work in industry, as we need to think carefully about how we hang our work for display, so it can be assessed.”

Explaining how this highly practical degree is structured, Emma clarified, “At the start of each session we all sit down with Wayne, who explains the aims and objectives of the session to us. We recap on what we have done, what we are going to do and how we can progress. We also look at where we should be at in terms of the overall module structure before going off to our individual studio spaces. The lecturers then work their way around each of us, providing the one to one advice and guidance. Each week, we also attend a series of workshops, where we receive demonstrations on how to undertake and develop different techniques. As our lecturers are all practicing artists themselves, we really are being taught by the experts.”

Upon completion of her degree, Emma already dreams of using her talents to support others through work as an art therapist. Admitting that at the very beginning she wasn’t wholly sure what to expect in terms of the day to day structure of the degree course, Emma acknowledges she has been pleasantly surprised by everything:

“The lecturing team at University Centre St Helens are absolutely amazing! They tell you what you need to know and explain it very clearly but without stressing you out. They are lovely people too, who are very easy to get along with and we all enjoy a ‘normal’ chat together. There hasn’t been a single thing that I can comment negatively on. My advice to anyone considering this degree would be to definitely apply! Be prepared to come with a portfolio, no matter how small, and be prepared to discuss with the lecturing team which artists influenced you and why you made certain choices. It’s strange really because looking back at the pieces I selected for my portfolio now, I don’t think they were very good but it’s great to reflect and see how far I’ve come in such a short space of time as an artist.”