University Of Canterbury Fine Arts

The Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) is a four-year degree in visual arts and design subjects. With a high teacher/student ratio, the School of Fine Arts offers a boutique-style education in both the practical field of fine arts and the wider liberal arts.

The ability to specialise in one of the five disciplines – design, film, painting, photography and sculpture – is unique within New Zealand. Staff are all practising designers or artists with established reputations. Our graduates are highly employable with lateral thinking skills as well as solid organisation skills.


Fine Arts students at UC work in purpose-built studios, workrooms, darkrooms, and computer labs, and have access to technician workshops and the Ilam Campus Gallery. Fine Arts programmes revolve around basic teaching disciplines which are divided up into five specialisations:

  • Film
  • Graphic Design
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpture

There is strong competition for places in the Intermediate Year (first year) of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) – see the degree page for information on entry requirements and how to apply.

Why study Fine Arts at UC?

  • Te Kura Kōwaiwai | Ilam School of Fine Arts at UC provides a stimulating environment that will allow you to flourish creatively. The first art school in Aotearoa New Zealand, it is one of the oldest in the English-speaking world. School staff are a highly qualified and experienced community of artists, film-makers, and designers of international standing.
  • UC graduates have been accepted into prestigious Fine Arts postgraduate programmes overseas, and many, such as photographer Boyd Webb, artist Bill Culbert, film-maker and screenwriter Vincent Ward, and painters Rita Angus, Shane Cotton, Seraphine Pick, and Dick Frizzell, have made notable contributions to Aotearoa New Zealand’s artistic and cultural life, and achieved acclaim internationally.


Fine Arts is the main subject area for the Bachelor of Fine Arts, which offers introductory courses in studio practice and technique, the professional arts industry, and allows students to focus their degree on one studio subject.

See also Art History and Theory available as a major or minor in other degrees at UC.

Bachelor of Fine Arts

See the Bachelor of Fine Arts for the compulsory courses in the degree.

After the first year, students will specialise in one of the following studio subjects:

  • Film
  • Graphic Design
  • Painting
  • Photography
  • Sculpture

Fine Arts students choose their studio subject on the basis of experience and grades gained from the first year. Most students are able to gain places in one of their two studio options.

The following years of the degree also allows optional courses from Bachelor of Arts subjects. Some students choose to build on the Art History and Theory courses taken in first year, and others choose to pursue a variety of courses, such as in languages, Management, Sociology, or Philosophy, to gain the broadest possible education to supplement their practical education in Fine Arts and design.

Career opportunities

Alongside the creative and practical skills learned, Fine Arts graduates develop excellent skills in organisation and time management during their four years of self-motivated study. These skills prepare Fine Arts graduates for a wide range of employment opportunities.

In particular, graduates who have taken courses in Photography, Film, and Graphic Design have clear career prospects in rapidly expanding industries in these areas. Other Fine Arts graduates have access to a wide range of vocations within an expanding art world both in Aotearoa New Zealand and overseas. Numerous exhibitions and events are organised by Te Kura Kōwaiwai | Ilam School of Fine Arts throughout the year, allowing students to showcase their work to multiple audiences.

Recent graduates have gained employment as professional artists, art gallery directors, photojournalists, commercial photographers, film directors, designers, consultants, art conservators, illustrators, fashion designers, art critics, art historians, graphic designers, lecturers, and art teachers.

Contact us

Phone +64 3 369 3377 
Email [email protected]

Fine Arts building, Block 2 – see campus maps

Postal address 
College of Arts | Te Rāngai Toi Tangata 
University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha 
Private Bag 4800 
Christchurch 8140 
New Zealand