Contemporary Textiles BA (Hons)

Course code W231

What is special about this course?

Do you want to study contemporary textiles in a unique setting? Come to Shetland and be inspired by the rich design heritage and stunning landscapes.

This course builds on the reputation of the northern island communities for quality textiles. You will gain the technical skills and the knowledge to produce innovative textiles, and the business skills to market them globally.

You will develop your practical skills in a range of textile areas such as knit, weave, computer-aided design, and print.

Our vibrant course aims to harness your talent and equip you with the skills that will help you sustain a career in this sector. Professional practice will be integral to your training and there is a strong emphasis on contemporary design and awareness of market trends.

We offer well-equipped, modern studios and expert tuition from a team of practising artists and designers. You will also benefit from individual and small group tuition.

Live project work and attendance at textile trade fairs is an important part of the course. Previous students have exhibited at New Designers graduate fair, Shetland International Textile Festival and Wool Week. Study trips differ each year but have included visits to Premier Vision in Paris, Textile Museum in Tilburg and Berlin Fashion Week.

Special features

  • You will learn through a combination of practical workshops in art and textile techniques, face-to-face tutorials, and video conference lectures
  • The course offers the flexibility to exit as each level with a valuable qualification
  • Excellent knit, weave and print facilities with a Textile Facilitation Unit, run by an experienced textile technician and equipped with Shima Seike knitting systems. The unit creates fabrics for designers and SMEs globally
  • Regular visits to local and national studios, firms and galleries will ensure that you keep up-to-date with current practice and strengthen your understanding of contemporary and historical textiles, art and design
  • You will learn highly sought-after practical, professional and computer-aided design (CAD) skills
  • You can study full-time or part-time to suit your personal circumstances


We can provide information on local accommodation options on request to help you find a place to stay

Entry requirements

  • 3 Scottish Highers at grade C or above OR
  • 2 A levels at grade C or above
  • Preferably including English or a social subject with a strong essay writing assessment element
  • Alternatively, the completion of an Art Access course with evidence of ability in written coursework, for example a unit in Art History or contextual study
  • You will also be required to submit a portfolio of visual work which clearly demonstrates your capacity to cope with the demands of the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles

Advanced entry:

  • Entry to year 2 may be possible with a relevant HNC, CertHE, Foundation Diploma, or other SCQF level 7 of study, with a basic knowledge of textiles and design
  • For advanced entry to year 3, you must have an intermediate knowledge of textiles and design gained from, or alongside, a relevant HND, DipHE, or other SCQF level 8 of study

Access routes

If you do not have the required qualifications you could follow one of the following paths:

1) take the National Certificate (NC) in Art and Design

2) complete a portfolio access course, available at:

  • Inverness College UHI
  • Lews Castle College UHI
  • Moray College UHI
  • Orkney College UHI
  • Perth College UHI
  • Shetland UHI

3) SWAP Access courses
If you are eligible to undertake Scottish Wider Access Programmes (SWAP), please visit our SWAP access list for further information on grade profiles and available subjects.

Year 1 - CertHE

Core subjects are:

  • Knitted textiles
  • Printed textiles
  • Drawing
  • Critical and contextual studies 1
  • Woven textiles
  • Textile skills: material, form and context

Year 2 - DipHE

Core subjects are:

  • Constructed textiles: specialising
  • Constructed textiles: making and meaning
  • Professional practice 1
  • Critical and contextual studies 2: textiles

You will also choose one option modules which may include:

  • Art and social practice
  • Painting
  • Lens-based media
  • Images of Scotland
  • Printed image
  • Art film
  • Art and archaeology

As part of professional practice 1, students will participate in a local competition.

Year 3 - BA

Core modules are:

  • Theory and practice: design
  • Constructed textiles: development and exploration
  • Research project: design
  • Constructed textiles: public exhibition
  • Professional practice 2

You will also undertake a textile investigation project in which you will participate in UK or international competition briefs.

Year 4 - BA (Hons)

You will complete both research and practical elements in your final year. This year will also allow you to develop your design and art skills in-depth, with emphasis on studio work. Students will have the opportunity to show their work at international competitions and exhibitions such as New Designers and Degree Show.

How will I study my course?

Additional information for course delivery in 2021-22

From September 2021, it is our intention that physical campuses will be open to all students for access to study facilities, support services and social activities, subject to Scottish Government guidance. Our priority is to provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff. We will continue to review government guidance as restrictions shift and will inform you of any further changes to the information provided below about your course. You will study the course through our blended learning approach. From September , where practical and safe to do so, on-campus practical delivery will be prioritised in line with the developing Scottish Government public health measures and guidance, including social distancing, where this is not possible alternative options will be available. The theory elements will be delivered online through a combination of video conference seminars, tutor-supported study and self-directed study using the university's virtual learning environment. You can access your online and video-based classes from home however it is our intention to provide on-campus space for individual students where required as far as possible. Further information will be provided by your home campus. You will have an opportunity to attend an online induction at the start of the course. International students requiring a Student Route visa to study with us must access scheduled classes on-campus.
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • You will learn through a combination of practical workshops in art and textile techniques, face-to-face and video conference lectures and tutorials, and online study via the university's virtual learning environment (VLE), with support from your tutors

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 4 years @ 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 8 years @ 18 hours per week
  • Part-time (unstructured): negotiable

Number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in lectures and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Shetland UHI

Start date

  • September
  • January (part-time study only)


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £1,820 £1,820
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £645 £645
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £215 £215

Rest of UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and with a term time address in Scotland studying this course full time, the following fees apply:

Year 1 CertHE £9,000 £9,000
Year 2 DipHE £9,000 £9,000
Year 3 Degree £9,000 £9,000
Year 4 Honours free free

4th year free only for students studying full-time, on continuous study, who have paid for the previous three years at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Part-time (per 20 credit module) - £1,500.

Fees are payable in advance each academic year unless otherwise agreed.

There are a number of funding options available to UK students to help you pay for your studies and your cost of living while studying.

EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status in the UK

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Scottish Government has confirmed that EU/EEA and Swiss nationals starting their study in Scotland from academic year 2021-22, who do not have settled or pre-settled status, will be considered as international for fee purposes. For 2021-22, students will get an automatic scholarship of £3,000 per annum and the 4th year of study will be free for those studying full-time, on continuous study, who have paid for the previous three years at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

This includes EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

Year Level 2021-22 Full-time With scholarship
Year 1 HNC £12,360 £9,360 
Year 2 HND £12,360 £9,360 
Year 3 Degree £12,360 £9,360
Year 4 Honours Free Free

Students will need Student Route visa sponsorship to study on the UK.

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK or European Union and with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £12,000 £12,360
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year** £6,000 £6,180
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module)** £2,000 £2,060

Part-time study is not open to international students requiring Student Route visa sponsorship to study in the UK.

Further information on international course fees.

A no fee increase guarantee is available for self-funding full-time and structured part-time rest of the UK, EU and international undergraduate students for continuous study for the same award, up to the permitted standard time limit for the relevant award.


External scholarships and financial support may be available. Contact Shetland UHI for more information.

What can I do on completion of my course?

As the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles course combines practical, professional and computer-aided design (CAD) skills, you will be prepared for a number of diverse employment opportunities. You might like to consider:

  • Working in the textile design industry in roles such as:
    • Textile/technical/fashion/interior designer
    • Textile maker/practitioner
    • Textile/clothing/colour technologist
    • Textile buyer
    • Trend forecaster
    • Product developer
    • Visual merchandiser
    • Fashion/interior/lifestyle/textile stylist
  • Establishing your own practice in textile design
  • Work in community arts
  • Further education training
  • Higher education lecturing
  • Marketing

Can I progress into further study?

You can progress to the MA Art and Social Practice.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

I am from Slovakia and I relocated specifically to study in Scotland, on the beautiful Shetland Islands. This course is about creating fabrics from scratch, choosing fibres,
learning techniques and making designs, which is all a journey. What is more, creating something out of nothing is really beautiful to me. I really admire how this university
supports students across the Highlands and Islands, providing us with opportunities, activities and support. I am delighted to be part of this. 

Tomas Toth is studying in his third year of the BA
(Hons) Contemporary Textiles at our Shetland
College UHI campus

When I did the NC Art and Design here at Shetland UHI, I got the chance to experience an ERASMUS exchange programme and spent a month in Norway working for a business which specialised in making the Norwegian national costume, the Bunad. I loved it - I learned so much, and that is when I realised that textiles was definitely the type of degree I wanted to pursue.

I want to start my own knitwear business. It would be challenging, of course, but with the support of the Shetland College Textile Facilitation Unit — which produces knitted textiles for both students and business — it could be a plausible prospect.

Rhea Kay graduated with 1st class honours from the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles at Shetland UHI and was announced Shetland UHI and University of the Highlands and Islands Higher Education Student of the Year 2018.

I did consider other courses but the facilities and unique curriculum at the university, as well as the heritage of Shetland itself, swayed me towards this contemporary textiles course.

Nicole Taylor graduated with honours from the BA (Hons) Contemporary Textiles at Shetland UHI. She has gone on to be employed by Prickly Thistle, a tartan-design company based in the Black Isle, after winning a placement with them as part of a design competition.

Apply for Contemporary Textiles BA (Hons)

I want to start in Jan/Feb 2022 or Aug/Sep 2022 or Jan/Feb 2023

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.