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Overseas university spotlight: Norwich University of the Arts (UK)

I'm just going to come right out and say it; Norwich University of the Arts just might be my favorite art school in the UK I've visited yet.


With 11 unique buildings in the heart of a historical city, this university emphasizes learning through making.


And whether you're studying fashion, photography, architecture, design and more, it's easy to be inspired by the surroundings of Norwich, which has more medieval streets than anywhere in the country.


Here are some of the highlights from my trip to campus in February 2023!


Norwich University of the Arts campus

Norwich University of the Arts - Campus


The city itself is essentially the campus; its buildings are set amongst the cafes, bars, galleries and shops of creative Norwich.


They literally are some of the most beautiful buildings, steeped in history and well-preserved and renovated with the best and modern amenities.


Media Lab
Media Lab

Boardman House was the first place I visited.


Norwich University of the Arts campus

You'll notice each entryway displays a depiction of the building and description of where certain degrees are housed.


Norwich University of the Arts map of the building layout
Norwich University of the Arts foundation stone in 1879
Lower level labs in Boardman House
Lower level labs in Boardman House

The atrium in this building is just stunning.


Norwich University of the Arts campus
Norwich University of the Arts campus

One of the coolest things is that whilst the university has preserved the historical aspects of its buildings, there are some quirky bits, too - such as staircases that lead to nowhere (just covered up with glass).


Staircase to nowhere

In restoring this building, architects were not able to close off this classroom by adding a wall, so it has since become known as the fishbowl teaching room.


Fishbowl teaching room at NUA
Film studios in the Boardman House, which acting students can access
Film studios in the Boardman House, which acting students can access

Students do have to pay for materials they use within their degrees, but there are plenty of free scraps to encourage reuse and reduction of waste.


Building models at NUA
Free material scraps
Free material scraps

There is also a student shop conveniently located in the Duke Street Building (mostly a postgraduate student space) to pick up any necessary materials.


NUA student materials store

I've decided I would like to have the brickwork from this building in my own house!


NUA's Duke Street Building
NUA's Duke Street Building
NUA's Duke Street Building
Small library in NUA's Duke Street Building
Duke Street Building
Duke Street Building

In September 2021, Norwich opened a new building for acting and film, as well as the Duke Street Riverside residences, which is one of the most in-demand student halls.


Duke Street Riverside
Duke Street Riverside
Duke Street Riverside
Duke Street Riverside

It's close to the unofficial student bar, the Norwich Playhouse, which is also a venue for live theatre and music.


Norwich Playhouse, a student favorite
Norwich Playhouse Bar
Duke Street Riverside in the distance
Duke Street Riverside in the distance
River through Norwich city
Norwich University of the Arts building

Just across the river from the Norwich Playhouse is the Guntons Building.


Guntons Building
Guntons Building for fashion
Guntons Building
Guntons Building
Inside the Guntons Building
Student artwork
NUA 3D Workshop
Guntons Building workshop
Fashion facilities
Fashion facilities
Fashion facilities and sewing machines
NUA Graphics Studio
NUA design studio for large format printing

Around the corner from there, the photography building, which may be the most stunning of them all.


NUA Media Lab
NUA photography building

You just would never guess there would be modern, professional style studios and labs inside!


NUA photography studio

There are plenty of cafes within the Norwich facilities as well, offering fuel ups at student-friendly prices.


Norwich University of the Arts campus
Cafe NUA
Cafe NUA

Academics


Norwich is a specialist arts university made up of 2,700 students, 9% of whom are international.


Because of this, students get the benefit of really getting to know their professors and classmates over the course of their degrees.


Admissions is test-blind and based on a portfolio of creative work, and all students are evaluated for scholarships automatically with the application.


Norwich offers a range of subjects, from acting to fashion to creative computing, UX design, illustration, interior design and more.


It's also the only university in the UK to offer a BA in Design for Publishing and has the biggest student-run magazine in the UK, Storehouse, for which students need to apply if they want to get involved with it.


And one of the key features of a Norwich degree is that the business and career-readiness elements are built in from the beginning.


I was fortunate to take a masterclass in textiles during my visit and learned the art of screenprinting.


Screenprinting workshop at Norwich University of the Arts
Screenprinting instructor
Screenprinting class

I had only about 25 minutes to create a design, but I think it turned out OK!


Don't laugh though...
Don't laugh though...
Pressing and drying the finished product
Pressing and drying the finished product

Norwich


One of the common phrases you'll hear regularly about Norwich is that there is a church for every weekend and a pub for every day.


At its height in the medieval ages, there were 58 churches serving 15,000 people.


St Peter Mancroft, Norwich's largest medieval parish church
St Peter Mancroft, Norwich's largest medieval parish church
St Peter Mancroft and the public market
St Peter Mancroft and the public markets
Public markets
Public markets
One of the Norwich churches
Slate-made church in Norwich
Norwich Cathedral
Norwich Cathedral
Norwich Cathedral
Norwich Cathedral
Another Norwich church

Nowadays, many have been converted, but there are still 31 churches, which is more than any other city in northern Europe.


Rated as one of the top 10 safest cities in the UK, Norwich was also known for its shoe production, with 23 shoe factories at its peak.


People still do come to Norwich for its shopping though.


Royal Arcade shopping
Royal Arcade shopping
Inside the Royal Arcade
Inside the Royal Arcade

There is quite a strong connection between Norwich and the U.S., too.


During World War II, many American forces were based here, as depicted in American Library within the larger Norwich public library.


Public library in Norwich dedicated to American soldiers from WWII

And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Norwich Castle, which peers down onto the city from above a hill.


It's currently being renovated to restore its five levels and is one of the largest heritage projects of its kind currently underway in the UK.


Once completed, people will be able to access the original dungeons, which was a prison for 500 years, and it will be the best place to study the Normans.


Norwich Castle

Another really cool area of the city is Elm Hill Road.


In 1508, a huge fire destroyed almost everything, including most of the thatched roofs.


After that, people were told they had to build their roofs out of tiles.


Elm Hill Road
Elm Hill Road

Norwich itself is quite alternative and artsy, and it seemed like everyone I met or overheard (people in coffee shops, students, academic staff) was in a band.


Norwich Creative Quarter

As usual, I went on a quest to find the best coffee shop, and I really liked the view at Artel.


Artel coffee shop in Norwich

Another interesting place is the Cinema City Cafe Bar, which used to be a 14th century merchant's house.


You can grab a drink and actually take it into the onsite cinema!


Cinema City Cafe Bar

And if you're looking for a place to stay overnight, I highly recommend The Maids Head hotel.


It's the oldest hotel in the UK, dating back 800 years.


Interior of The Maids Head
Interior of The Maids Head

Some say it's even haunted, and I must admit, the first night I was there, my TV randomly turned on in the middle of the night - spooky!


Nevertheless, it has a great location across the road from the Norwich Cathedral grounds.


Norwich Cathedral grounds
Norwich Cathedral grounds
Outside the Norwich Cathedral

Lastly, I also recommend checking out the Belgian Monk pub and sampling the cherry beer.


Belgian Monk cherry beer

Summary


I have nothing but positive thoughts about Norwich University of the Arts and the city of Norwich as a whole.


Norwich is a great option for someone wanting a specialist arts university and small community in a historical, inspiring city.


Norwich river

Here, students are encouraged to truly be themselves, and their differences are embraced.


NUA inclusive bathrooms

Norwich's academic staff are established artists in their respective fields as well, and students are assessed through practical, project-based tasks - not exams.


Best of all, Norwich has its own airport with connections to mainland Europe, and it's easily accessible by just a 2-hour train from London.


 

Interested in applying for college or grad school abroad?


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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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