School of Art, Design and Architecture

BA (Hons) Illustration

UCAS tariff 96 - 144
UCAS course code W222
Institution code P60
Duration 3 years
Course type Full-time
Location Plymouth

Study in lively, purpose-built studios with creative students and award-winning staff. We help you forge your visual voice to succeed in today's fast-paced creative worlds. You set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips. Take part in an International Exchange programme to broaden your cultural references and gain new contacts in the international illustration scene. Prepare to get noticed in the professional world with external commissions and competitions.

Careers with this subject

The course will help you develop a range of skills that employers are looking for, including:

  • Creating and designing
  • Teamwork
  • Observation
  • Analysis
  • Ideas generation.

And it clearly works – graduates from this course have gained international praise and recognition as freelance illustrators, animators, artists and teachers.

The skills you’ll learn on this course will be beneficial to you in your working life, regardless of your chosen career direction.

What can you do with an illustration degree?

Careers service

Careers advice is embedded into your academic programme through workshops, events, placements and networks, working with the academic staff teaching on your course.

We also offer materials, networks and resources online through our 24/7 portal, and a wide-range of activities, opportunities and support centrally in the Careers Service space within the Student Hub.

Learn about our careers service

We are here to help you to explore, connect and succeed.

Key features

  • Learn the skills and tools. Develop your Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign and Flash skills in digital workshops, and explore typography basics, bookbinding, creative writing and more.

  • Work in industry, from simple studio visits to longer-term placements and collaboration.

  • Get noticed. Develop your visual voice and get noticed in the professional world by taking part in external commissions and competitions.

  • Define your direction. Explore specific routes such as comic/graphic novels, children’s markets, printmaking, and design for animation/screen – or continue within a broad range of practice.

  • Go global. Set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips to places such as London, New York and Barcelona.

  • Learn from experts. Benefit from a varied visiting speaker programme of illustrators, commissioning editors, publishers and ex-graduates ready to share advice and insight to help shape your future career.

Course details
  • Year 1

  • The first year will introduce you to the basics of illustration practice. You’ll develop your knowledge of image-making through character design, life drawing, printmaking, bookbinding, sequential and conceptual approaches, digital workshops and media exploration. We’ll also introduce you to the techniques and essential processes of illustration practice within historical and contemporary frameworks, preparing you for your second year.

    Core modules

    • Character (ILLUS405)

      You visually explore character creation via a broad range of traditional and digital media and formats whilst being introduced to some of the design processes utilised within illustration practice. Practical character development, narrative, creative writing and debate on the ethics of representation are featured. Critical reflection underpins practical work and help you to identify strengths and weaknesses.

    • Gaining Confidence In... (ILLUS406)

      You explore a range of conceptual, theoretical and practical projects and challenges concentrating upon the fundamentals of contemporary and future Illustrative practice. Areas include narrative sequence, interactivity, semiotics, metaphor, ideas generation, drawing, printmaking, critical and analytical reflection and writing, allowing you to gain confidence in a range of practical and conceptual skills. Potential for collaborative practice.

  • Year 2

  • In your second year, you can keep your focus broad or pursue a more specific area of personal interest at a deeper level. You’ll make contact with experts in the industry and analyse why the creative world is how it is. Critical and contextual modules with a varied visiting speaker programme will help you begin to position yourself as a professional. You’ll also have the opportunity to take part in placements, live briefs and competitions, to study abroad or collaborate with other disciplines.

    Core modules

    • Thematic (ILLUS502)

      Working on a shared theme you explore a range of design processes highlighting the potential strand exit awards. The resulting diverse array of outcomes developed from one central topic helps you to consider the impact audience and context have upon communications. You identify a context within illustration practice and in consultation with tutors write an individual proposal which reflects personally identified objectives. A visual research journal evidences research into the breadth of Illustrative practices culminating in a written report.

    • Research and Practice (ILLUS503)

      Engaging with representational theories within the global, historical, contemporary and cultural landscape you express your findings as part of a group. Study trips offer the opportunity to gain primary research. Lectures, research, seminars and tutorials, run throughout the module. Drawing skills are defined and explored as a test bed for ideas and a reflective tool-kit for discovery. The module is also designed to extend your visual research skills and awareness of the value of drawing within illustration and associated media

    • Interpreting Information (ILLUS504)

      Choosing from a selection of information from a variety of sources aligned to UN Sustainability Goals, you initially engage in group activity and then negotiate a personal project brief that allows you to interpret that information for a specific illustration context. This negotiated learning helps you to question and, where appropriate, reinforce your ambitions. Competition briefs and/or work-based learning through placements or studio visits may be undertaken as part of this module (subject to negotiation).

    • Common Challenge: Technique and Approach 2 (ILLUS505)

      Working on a Faculty set theme, individual or group research identifies, analyses and communicates an investigation into the theme. Lectures and research run throughout the module, to support the writing of an essay on the work of an individual or a group of practitioners in illustration or an allied area whose practice reflects the theme. Preparation for dissertation is undertaken. Drawing skills develop along with knowledge of the value of drawing within illustrative practice within a collaborative, cross-disciplinary environment.

  • Final year

  • There is increased emphasis on developing and consolidating your personal visual 'voice' in your final year, while visiting lecturers will offer a variety of viewpoints. You’ll undertake a dissertation related to your personal interests and have the chance to exhibit your work at both our Degree Show and in London. Modules focus your attention on building up your analogue and digital portfolios and raising your professional profile and confidence ready for your first job in your chosen field.

    Core modules

    • Common Dissertation: Critical Practices (ADA600)

      The module engages students in situating practice through research, contextualisation and critical reflection, in relation to their final stage study and post University aspirations. Programmes can offer: a traditional dissertation; preparation for an extended dissertation; situating existing practice; or the construction of a new body of work as practice-based research.

    • Negotiated 1 (ILLUS601)

      A number of broad themes are presented. After reflection and evaluation of previous conclusions and future ambitions, you select one theme and submit a typed brief associated with the selection to satisfy your personally identified goals. Upon acceptance of your brief, you undertake an in-depth study of the chosen theme (or the identified aspect of the theme) and produce a body of work that responds to your written brief, demonstrating a full engagement with the task defined within the brief. Competition or live briefs may be undertaken as part of this module provided they fit within the agreed proposal and cover the Learning Outcomes. At the end of this module you may opt (subject to negotiation) to focus your studies towards one of the specific exit award titles.

    • Negotiated 2 (ILLUS622)

      This module is designed to consolidate the learning achieved throughout and prepare you for your professional ambitions. After an initial period of preparation, research and consultation, you submit a written brief identifying aims and objectives reflecting your practice and professional aspirations. Following approval of the proposal you undertake an extensive period of self-directed, negotiated study leading to the production of a substantial body of work. The work is presented either via report or verbally and visually. Competition or live briefs may be undertaken as part of this module provided they fit within the agreed proposal and cover the Learning Outcomes.

    • Professional Practice 1 (ILLUS641)

      After an initial period of preparation, research, consultation and proposed project work, you submit a portfolio / showreel evidencing your practice to date and a short type-written summary reflecting upon your practice and professional aspirations, identifying your aims and learning objectives for the year ahead. You start to build links within the professional world you have ambitions within. Competitions, live briefs or work-based learning may be undertaken as part of this module.

    Optional modules

    • Extended Dissertation: Conclusion (ILLUS634)

      You build upon the work undertaken within ADA600 Option 1 to further develop your chosen topic and existing research and reflection, assimilating this into a final output of a dissertation of critical writing (between 10,000 and 12,000 words). You are allocated a tutor for the module. Field study trips to gain first hand research may be undertaken.

    • Professional Practice 2 (ILLUS642)

      You locate your studio-based practice within a context of your chosen area of professional specialism and articulate this understanding through production of a report and associated promotional items, thereby equipping yourself for entry into professional practice or post-graduate study. You gain a deeper understanding of the business and professional dimensions of the subject of illustration. Field study trips to gain first hand research may be undertaken.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BA Hons Illustration programme specification 3888

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the changeable nature of the situation and any updates to government guidance, we may need to make further, last minute adjustments to how we deliver our teaching and learning on some or all of our programmes, at any time during the academic year. We want to reassure you that even if we do have to adjust the way in which we teach our programmes, we will be working to maintain the quality of the student learning experience and learning outcomes at all times.
Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

96 - 144

Applicants are required to submit a portfolio, with an optional informal interview, for entry onto this course. Please note all applicant interviews for 2021 entry will take place through Zoom. Your Zoom interview will be arranged by our academic team. If you have any questions, please contact our Admissions Team; drop us an email at or alternatively give us a call on +44 1752 585858.

Advice on how to create and submit your portfolio.

A level
A minimum of two A levels; General Studies accepted.

International Baccalaureate
26–36 points.

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma

BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification, it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information, we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.

All access courses
Pass a named Access to Higher Education Diploma (preferably Art and Design or combined), with at least 33 credits at merit and/or distinction.

T level
Merit in digital production, design and development.

Mathematics and English Language grade C.

English language requirements.

Equivalent qualifications may be considered; please contact

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications, refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding
New Student 2022-2023 2023-2024
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £14,600 £16,300
Part time (Home) £770 £770
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business additional costs.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

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Student success
Let our students' work and achievements inspire you.

Illustration graduate Joe Lyward

"The course gives you three years of intensive practising and developing"
Alumni Joe Lyward is now an illustration artist, picturebook maker and artist-educator.

<p>Yi Hong Lim - BA (Hons) Illustration</p>

"I undertook a placement with Hallmark, where I had the chance to work with professionals from different backgrounds"
Yi Hong Lim talks about her experience on the course.

Learn from experts in their field

* These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni (Unistats) is updated annually in September.