With students facing more choice than ever, a University of Sunderland programme is playing a critical role in bridging that gap between school leavers and undergraduates.

The Foundation Diploma in Art and Design is an exciting, one-year course that prepares students for degree level study in the creative arts.

Here, as they show off their work in this year’s Degree Shows, these students reveal how they now feel fully armed to begin building a career within the creative industries.

Ryan Whitfield, 19, of Gateshead

Business-minded Ryan has dreams of creating his own brand following his Diploma year at the University.

For his Degree Show piece, the former Thorp Academy pupil created a texture-inspired creation.

Ryan, who will be heading to Manchester Met in September, said: “I wanted to play on the desires people have to touch textures and textiles, but because this is full of pins, they might get hurt. It’s a look but don’t touch piece.

“It’s taken me about six weeks in total to pull all of this together. I think it’s very bold and stands out from the crowd.”

Ryan, of Crawcrook, says the Foundation Diploma allowed him the breathing space he needed to find his creative niche.

He added: “I’ve loved doing the programme, it’s really given me that freedom to work the way I wanted, while receiving the right amount of support.”

Amy Jobe, 19, of Ovington, Northumberland

Visual artist Amy was inspired after she came across an old, 1987 copy of Vogue magazine.

Looking at how women were portrayed in articles and advertisements at the time, Amy subverted the then stereotypes of the female form to create her work.

She created a video of images, pulling together representations of women during that time. Amy used her work as an opportunity to critique the way women were used in magazines.

Amy, who is going to go on to study filmmaking in Leeds, said: “This past year has been really important to me, it’s given me the chance to have a different outlook on my work. It’s allowed me to broaden my perspective and really find out what I want to do.”

Bonny Woodhouse, 19, of Whitley Bay

After studying psychology as part of her A-levels, artist Bonny wanted to incorporate psychological elements into her Degree Show work.

The former Kings Priory School pupil said: “It’s about how people are only diagnosed with things in certain ways; whether that be phobias, their upbringing, or their dreams.

“I brought in some Sigmund Freud theories to create this collage – then I leave it to the audience to interpret and take away what they want.”

Bonny, who will be heading to Manchester Met in September, added: “Ultimately, I like to get more involved in graphic design, perhaps designing for magazines or a fashion brand.”

Describing the Foundation Diploma as “the year I needed”, Bonny said: “I’ve made a lot of new friends; in many ways it’s a shame the course is only one year long, but this was the year I needed to work out what I really wanted to do, the artist I want to be.”

Molly McGoldrick, 19, of Newcastle

Sustainability and fast-fashion are at the heart of former Sacred Heart pupil Molly’s work.

The 19-year-old, from Kenton, wanted to expose the wastage and problems synonymous with the fast-fashion industry.

Molly said: “I wanted to reveal the very real sustainability concerns, the amount of dye that is used, the huge amounts of cotton, and the waste associated with that. Also, the sweatshops in which many of these products are created.”

Molly told how the Foundation Diploma had played a vital role in helping her decide on the career path she wants to follow.

She added: “You are surrounded by artists doing so many different types of things, that makes it really inspiring for your own work.

“Although I’m not completely decided, I’m thinking about going into fashion buying but concentrating on the sustainability side of things.”

Joe Woodhouse, Programme Leader Foundation Diploma/Art and Design Extended, said: ““The Foundation Diploma here at University of Sunderland runs innovative and exciting projects to give students first-hand experience of the full range of art and design disciplines – often through live projects and real world settings.

“We are really proud this year to have been awarded the Advance HE Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence, their Spotlight Award and also to be acknowledged as Outstanding by Ofsted for our work in this area – the students have done us proud too.

“The Foundation can be a vital next step after school or college, giving students the experience, skills and confidence to choose the degree course that is right for them.”

This year’s University of Sunderland Degree Shows are now underway across the city, for more information, visit here