Teaching is also very good, according to the report by the Further Education Funding Council. Twenty-four per cent of the lessons were judged outstanding last year - compared to an average of 17 per cent for all other subjects.
Seventy-one per cent of lessons were better than satisfactory, compared to the average of 62 per cent. Level 3 general national vocational qualification results are similarly encouraging.
But at level 2 (intermediate) in the national framework, retention and achievement rates are similar to other programmes, and at level 1 (foundation) often worse.
Art and design have fewer part-time students than other subjects. The inspectors say that some of the energy devoted to maintaining the status quo, principally for full-time, level 3 students should be used to create opportunities for a broader range of students. " "This will ensure that arts education plays a greater part in the Gvernment's drive to increase student numbers in further education and achieve a 'learning society'."
Courses in media continue to grow in popularity, lessons are well-taught, and most teachers are well-qualified academically and vocationally.
But inspectors say that some national training organisations are concerned that the broad-based qualifications do not adequately prepare students for employment in the media industries.
Courses in music technology and contemporary music are increasingly popular with students, few of whom have conventional qualifications. But dropping out is a problem and more must be done to match courses to individuals' needs and abilities.
Many students are highly motivated and successful and stand a realistic chance of beginning or enhancing a freelance career. But others are aimless and attend irregularly. "A two-year full-time programme may add little of value if the motivation of such students is not improved," the report said.
Aspects of Art and Design in Further Education. FEFC, tel: 024 7686 3265