Yes, this is essential not only because most universities ask for this but it is related to your theoretical / contextual studies (written work – used to be called art history).
We cannot work in a bubble, unaware of others’ creations both historically and currently.
All art and design courses have theoretical studies as part of their courses to engage you in how your work fits in the context of the bigger art and design world.
This involves research, reading and written work. With more and more art and design being conceptually driven the colleges need to sure of your ability to understand, interpret and communicate your ideas, visually, orally and in written formats.