School of Art, Design and Architecture

BA (Hons) Illustration with Foundation

UCAS tariff 32 - 48
UCAS course code W229
Institution code P60
Duration 4 years
Course type Full-time
Location Plymouth

The foundation pathway provides students with non-standard entry points to progress onto the BA (Hons) Illustration programme. The foundation year allows you to develop skills across a range of media and introduces creative best practice in preparation for the first year of the undergraduate programme. During the foundation year you will have the opportunity to explore creative processes relevant to visual design, animation, illustration, print-making, fine art, and photography.

The course is designed to encourage visual exploration and creative discovery within an engaging and vibrant studio setting. Upon successful completion of the foundation course, you will join the undergraduate BA (Hons) Illustration programme equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully complete an undergraduate degree.

Illustration with Foundation

Student working on hand-drawn illustration

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.

Find out more about where an illustration degree can take you


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

Your foundation year will:

  • Welcome you to an engaging, experiential learning environment with a focus on active exploration, experimentation and discovery across a wide range of material, methods and media.
  • Help develop your practical, technical and creative skills through studio and workshop based projects.
  • Provide training in key learning skills for further undergraduate study and build an awareness of practise, context and theory.
  • Introduce you to the accessible community of experienced academics, practitioners and technical staff that will support you on your studies.
  • Give you access to a wide range of enviable specialist workshops, laboratories and facilities across the campus and become part of our vibrant student community through the various opportunities available within the School of Art, Design and Architecture.
  • Enable you to explore and develop your personal interests and strengths as a creative practitioner.

This course is an integrated part of the BA (Hons) Illustration degree at the University of Plymouth. Successful completion of your foundation year (Year 0) will not lead to a separate award or qualification in its own right but provides progression onto Year 1 of 

Or one of the following related degree programmes:

When you join the BA (Hons) Illustration with Foundation, you will:

  • Be inspired by a varied studio-based culture and practise in our easy-access workshop facilities. Take part in everything from life and location drawing to printmaking and media exploration.
  • Develop your Photoshop, Premiere, InDesign and Flash skills in digital workshops, and explore typography basics, bookbinding, creative writing and more.
  • Gain invaluable knowledge, confidence and professional awareness by seizing work experience opportunities in years 2 and 3. This can range from simple studio visits to longer-term placements and collaboration, such as graduate Kate Mowbray’s placement as a Publishing Assistant with BBC History Magazine.
  • Develop your personal visual ‘voice' and start getting noticed in the professional world by taking part in external commissions and competitions. Get an insight into the world of our award-winning students with freelance illustrator, Jack Teagle.
  • Define your illustrative direction within specific routes such as comic/graphic novels, children’s markets, printmaking, and design for animation/screen – or continue to explore within a broad range of practice.
  • Build up your analogue and digital portfolios and develop your professional profile and confidence, ensuring you’re ready for whatever future direction you wish to pursue, whether freelance, studio-based or within further education such as MA or PGCE courses.
  • Our National Student Survey (NSS) 2020 return show that 96% of students felt our staff were good at explaining things and 92% of students agreed staff made the subject interesting.*
  • You will set your work in a global context through inspiring overseas study trips to places such as London, New York and Barcelona. You could also choose to take part in an International Exchange programme in your second year, broadening your cultural references and forging new contacts in the international illustration scene.

Course details
  • Foundation year

  • Core modules

    • Materials, Methods and Media (ADA001)

      This module will introduce students to various techniques, materials and mediums through practise-based experiments, play and problem solving. You will be introduced to different creative processes and methods of working that will help you to develop your ideas and engage in critical and reflective practice.

    • Image, Type and Narrative (ADA002)

      Students will experiment with media, photography and typography to explore the relationship between image and word. This module enables students to gain knowledge within subject areas and explore the importance of developing an independent voice. Projects will become increasingly student driven as they develop their ability to propose ideas and solutions through self-directed inquiry, discovery and production.

    • Risk and Resolution (ADA003)

      Students will consolidate their skills, knowledge and understanding in initiating, researching, developing and presenting a final project and exhibition. This module will also enable students to continue to research and develop their strengths as an independent art and design practitioner and prepare them for their next stage of study.

    • Critical Themes in Art & Design (ADA004)

      This module introduces students to transformative phases within the historical and contemporary context of art, design, photography and media. Students will learn to ask critical questions and find answers through information gathering, reading and research. Through articulating responses, students will be introduced to academic conventions in preparation for progression to further Higher Education.

  • Year 1

  • Core modules

    • Character (ILLUS403)

      Students 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 and creative writing are a feature. Critical reflection underpins practical work and help to identify strengths and weaknesses. Potential collaborative practice is also a feature.

    • Gaining Confidence in... (ILLUS404)

      Students explore a range of conceptual, theoretical and practical projects and challenges concentrating upon the fundamentals of contemporary and future Illustrative practice. Areas include narrative, interactivity, semiotics, metaphor, ideas generation, drawing, printmaking, critical and analytical reflection and writing.

  • 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.

    Optional modules

    Japanese Exchange and Report (ILLUS520)

    This module enables you to extend your experience and understanding of illustration through study abroad. You spend a minimum of twelve weeks at the Hokkaido College of Art & Design, Bisen, Japan. This offers the opportunity to increase communication skills, self-reliance, a greater awareness of cultural values and increased vocational prospects. You write and present a critical evaluation of your educational, cultural and personal experience.

    International Exchange and Report (ILLUS531)

    The module is designed to extend your experience and understanding of subjects through study abroad. You spend a minimum of twelve weeks at an approved international institution offering illustration or complementary design options as a major subject. This offers the opportunity to increase communication skills, self-reliance, a greater awareness of cultural values and increased vocational prospects. You write a critical evaluation of your educational, cultural and personal experience.

  • Final Year

  • 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 with Foundation Programme Specification 2021 22 6748

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

32 - 48

Don’t have 32–48 UCAS tariff points? We will consider ‘non-standard’ applications on a case-by-case basis.

A levels: For Level 3 entry the Tariff points entry level will normally be 32–48 points from A level or equivalent. Non-standard applicants will normally be interviewed.

BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended

Irish Leaving Certificate: Irish Highers, H5 in five subjects equivalent to 32–48 points.

International Baccalaureate: 24 overall

Proficiency in English: Students for whom English is an additional language will need to demonstrate ability in spoken and written English equivalent to an IELTS score of 6.0 and/or successfully complete the university’s special test before entering the foundation year.

English language requirement

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

We are looking for applicants with good potential including with non-standard qualifications and background, so will consider every application on a case by case basis. Alternatively, if you have any questions or concerns about meeting the entry requirements listed above we would encourage you to contact the Admissions Team on +44 1752 585858 or email admissions@plymouth.ac.uk, where a member of the team can offer you further advice.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2021-2022 2022-2023
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £14,200 £14,600
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. For more information about fees and funding please visit www.plymouth.ac.uk/money.

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 international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

Student voice

Be part of our community

Student success

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

"The course gives you three years of intensive practising and developing"

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

"I undertook a placement with Hallmark, where I had the chance to work with professionals from different backgrounds"

"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.