The a-n Degree Shows Guide 2014 is packed with all you need to know when visiting degree shows around the UK – what’s on adverts and listings for over 60 shows, tips from artists, curators and academics on what to look out for, plus the views of graduating students as they head towards this key time.

Many of those interviewed for the guide pick up on the theme of change, both from a technological perspective and in terms of how cultural shifts inform practice. In his introductory essay, Justin McKeown, head of fine art and computer science at York St John University, discusses the challenges and opportunities the digital age presents artists, asking if art education is keeping pace with our changed world. “What will the emerging paradigm of 21st century art be and will it involve using code to enhance the already interactive aspects of artworks?” he writes. “Maybe this year’s degree shows will offer some clues.”

There’s plenty more thoughtful consideration of degree shows in the guide. For artist and curator Kevin Hunt, degree shows are where it all begins. “The thing that I love is when you see something that is great and you think, if this is what they’re doing at this point in their career, what will they do in the next two, three, five years?” he says.

And curator Kirsty Ogg says she’ll be looking at this year’s shows through slightly different eyes since joining New Contemporaries as director. “Degree shows are a kind of barometer for what new artists are thinking about and how they are approaching the making of work. That’s important because it’s something that changes on a generational basis – people grow up in a different socio-economic, political context, surrounded by a specific cultural framework, and that absolutely informs their practice.”

“Nervous, but excited”

Alongside the views of artists and arts professionals, we hear from four graduating students – all regular a-n bloggers – who give some insight into the student mindset at this always frantic and exciting time of year. Catherine Wynne-Paton, a BA Fine Art student at Hereford College of Arts, sums up what many are feeling: “I am very nervous, but I’m also excited because this exhibition is the beginning of my future as a fine artist.”

Elsewhere, academics ponder what a ‘successful’ degree show should do, there are tips on buying work, and we catch up with 2013 graduate Ali Reed, who’s had an eventful first year as an artist – it’s included setting up a studio space in Stoke city centre, a three-week residency in Wakefield, and in March winning the New Art West Midlands prize.

This year’s guide is the first to be published using digital platform issuu to broaden its reach further than ever before (the 2013 guide received over 290,000 page views in the first month of publication). It’s the perfect companion to the degree show season – a time of year described by Falmouth School of Art’s Ginny Button as a “pivotal as well as celebratory moment” for all graduating art students.

a-n’s Degree Shows Guide 2014 is available to view online via issuu