A student presents their work during our Transitions into GSA event 2022.

Widening Participation

Funded by the Scottish Government, our Widening Participation (WP) programme helps young people from under-represented communities access the information and experience they need to apply to art school, through portfolio courses, workshops, taster sessions, application support and more.

Read our brochure for more information on the on-campus and online study options we offer to eligible young people.

At the GSA, we believe that diversity among our staff and students makes the School a vibrant place to study and enriches the lives of all who spend time with us. Widening participation to higher education is also a priority for the Scottish Government, who seek to ensure that everyone – regardless of their social or financial circumstances – has an equal chance to study at university.  We receive funding from the ScottishGovernment via the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to help our dedicated WP team deliver Widening Participation (WP) activity, tailored for specific groups who are under-represented at GSA and within higher education across Scotland. These groups include those who live in a priority postcode area, young carers and care-experienced people, refugees and asylum seekers and others. Studying at art school is a great experience and we want to make sure that the young people we work with have access to the information and experiences they need to get the most out of it.  The goal of our WP programme is to help the young people we work with to make informed decisions about their future study choices, develop their making and research skills, and expand their knowledge of contemporary art, design, and architecture. All of our activities are free of charge and as far as possible, take place in the evening, at weekends and during school holidays, so they don’t clash with the school timetable. Eligible pupils can start working with us when they begin S4 and continue with our programme all the way through to S6.

If you are no longer at school or applying from college, find out more about other routes into the GSA on our advanced entry page here


The Widening Participation team works with S4-S6 pupils from state secondary schools in Scotland who meet one or more of following criteria:

  • live in a priority postcode area
  • are care experienced
  • are a young carer
  • are estranged from their parents or legal guardians
  • are a refugee or seeking asylum in the UK
  • are a young Black person or young Person of Colour (BPOC)
  • live in a very rural or island community across Scotland
  • are eligible for FOCUS West support

Please note, supporting evidence may be requested to verify eligibility.

If you are eligible for WP activity you may also be eligible for adjusted entry requirements through GSA’s contextualised admissions for applicants living in Scotland. This information should be available within the entry requirements for each undergraduate programme.

Definitions of our eligibility criteria are outlined below.

Priority postcode: TheScottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) classifies residential post codes into one of five groups called 'quintiles'. Priority postcode areas are those which are quintile 1 and 2. You can use our Priority Postcode Checker to find out if you live in a priority postcode area.

Care experience: Young people who have been looked after by a local authority for any length of time, including adoption, foster care, residential or secure care, formal kinship care or looked after at home with support from social work.

Young carer: Those who care for someone, who due to illness, disability, mental health issues, or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.

Estranged from parents or legal guardians: Young people who are studying without the support of their parents or legal guardians through an irreconcilable breakdown in relationships or through being disowned. Young people in this position often have no verbal or written contact at all with both of their parents or legal guardians for a significant period of time and this would be very unlikely to change.

Refugee or seeking asylum in the UK: Someone who is forced out of their country to escape war, indiscriminate violence or persecution. A person who is seeking asylum has also fled their country for their own safety but is still awaiting the outcome of their application to be recognised as having refugee status by the Government

Young Black person or young Person of Colour (BPOC): Someone who identifies as belonging to a racial or ethnic group that is not white or has experienced discrimination based on their ethnicity or race.

Very rural or island community: The Urban Rural Classification assigns postcodes into one of eight categories to provide a consistent definition of urban and rural areas across Scotland. Most very rural and island areas have postcodes which are a 7 or 8.

How to get involved

If you meet our eligibility criteria and want to work with us, read this guide to find out what to do next.    

Application support

If you are applying to undergraduate programmes at the GSA, there are three distinct steps to the application process. Each step of the application process to the GSA is important and takes a lot of preparation. We have provided a range of resources below to help you with this.

UCAS Application
An application to any Higher Education course must be made through UCAS. This is where you submit your personal details, all of your qualifications to date including those which are pending, a reference from a teacher and most importantly, your personal statement. The UCAS personal statement is where you can communicate why you have applied to your chosen courses and explain how you are suited to study these courses.

The deadline for applying to the GSA through UCAS is 31 January 2024. Applications submitted after this date are marked late and may not be considered so make sure you submit it on time. Below is some guidance for constructing a strong and relevant UCAS Personal Statement.

Digital Portfolio and Digital Portfolio Statement
When the GSA receives your UCAS application, you will receive an e-mail asking you to submit a digital portfolio and digital portfolio statement. A digital portfolio is a selection of images of the work you have made, organised to show how you develop work. It is vitally important that you photograph your work properly to ensure it looks its best. We have made some resources which advise you how to do this and how to organise the images of your work.

The digital portfolio statement is an opportunity for you to talk more specifically about why are suited to studying this particular course and provide some further information about the work in your digital portfolio. Have a look at our guide below:

Admissions selectors will assess your UCAS application, digital portfolio and digital portfolio statement together. Your application will be numerically scored against the assessment criteria. The assessment criteria for each programme are contained within the guidelines which can be found by clicking on the programme you are applying to here.

The scoring is between 1-7 (7 being 'excellent evidence of' and 1 being 'unsatisfactory evidence of'). Ensuring that your UCAS application, digital portfolio and digital portfolio statement are relevant to the assessment criteria is necessary in order to be shortlisted for interview. If your application is unsuccessful at this stage, the decision will be communicated to you via UCAS track.

Interview (for all courses except Architecture)
If shortlisted, you will receive an e-mail inviting you to attend an interview. This is a chance for staff from the course to meet you, hear you talk about the work in your portfolio and find out more about your readiness for the programme. It is also a chance for you to get a clearer sense of the course, find out about the facilities available and ask any questions that you may have.

Take a look at the link below which gives some advice for preparing for an interview.

Admissions selectors will numerically score your performance at the portfolio interview against the assessment criteria. The assessment criteria for each programme are contained within the guidelines which can be found by clicking on the programme you are applying to here. The scoring is between 1-7 (7 being 'excellent evidence of' and 1 being 'unsatisfactory evidence of').

The outcome of your application will be communicated to you via UCAS track. If your application is unsuccessful, you can request feedback on your application by emailing admissions@gsa.ac.uk and you will be provided with your scores. If you receive an offer, have a look at guidance below.

How Widening Participation can help

Eligible applicants, regardless of whether they have participated in our activities previously or not, may benefit from application support from the Widening Participation team in the following ways:

  • Help creating your digital portfolio.
  • Help preparing for interview.

Please note, we are a very small team and endeavour to work with as many eligible applicants as possible however we will prioritise care experienced applicants and those applying from quintile 1 postcode areas in line with Scottish Government guidance.

Please email wp@gsa.ac.uk as soon as possible if you are an eligible applicant and would like to access application support from our team.

WP at GSA is supported by Scottish Funding Council, The National Schools Programme and FOCUS West.