Children's Book Illustration MA

Postgraduate ( full-time, part-time)



Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration: 18 months or 3 semesters (full-time); 30 months or 5 semesters (part-time).

Apply online

Applications take just ten minutes


Follow in the footsteps of acclaimed children’s artists by studying your Children’s Book Illustration MA degree at ARU. Work with a dedicated support team of internationally-recognised illustrators to develop your own personal visual vocabulary. Make connections in the children’s publishing industry.

Find out more about teaching options and studying during COVID-19 in the Entry requirements section, below.

Full description


Many of our past students now enjoy careers as freelance authors and illustrators for children. Among our published graduates are Paula Metcalf, Marta Altés, Nadia Shireen, Birgitta Sif, Rebecca Patterson and Jo Empson.

You may decide to take your work to a deeper level with a research degree, like our PhD Children’s Book Illustration.

You can show your work to leading publishing companies and literary agencies at our annual graduation exhibition, held at a venue in London before returning to our own Ruskin Gallery in Cambridge. You can also choose to take part in our student booth at the annual Bologna Children's Book Fair, where you can set appointments with publishers to show them your portfolio and dummy books, as well as attending lectures, workshops and parties.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • This module can be seen as a foundation module for the MA in Children's Book Illustration. You will propose a thematic drawing-based project designed to underpin and explore personal visual themes and preoccupations. Individual proposals are finalised in writing. The module is designed to take students (who may be from a range of backgrounds) to a period of drawing and mark making as a means of exploring a personal visual vocabulary without reference at this stage to a particular age-group audience. You carry out the project work in your own time, and the taught class sessions provide individual tutorial feedback, guest presentations workshops and group critiques. A series of lectures on a range of subjects relating to the context of the specialism accompanies the studio sessions and endeavours to fuse practice and theory, lectures often being delivered by practitioners.
  • This module invites you to make sequential visual statements around individually proposed themes. Themes may have emerged from the previous module, Observation and Experiment. You are encouraged to experiment with media and approaches, and to make use of relevant resources, both digital and traditional. Studio practice is pursued within an ongoing dialogue around the nature of sequential visual communication. This takes place through individual tutorial discussion, presentations, seminars/critiques and contextual lectures. Each student presents a written proposal for a sequential visual sequence that may be narrative or thematic in nature, fiction or non-fiction. This does not necessarily need to be aimed at an audience of a specific age group at this stage. Within a dialogue around each student's developing work, issues of visual pace in sequence will be introduced and discussed. A series of contextual lectures supports the studio dialogue.
  • You will propose and negotiate a completed visual statement designed to communicate with a child audience of a stated age group. Projects can vary greatly and may include, for example, picture books, animated films, series of posters, portfolio of illustrations to fiction or non-fiction texts for older children.
  • As the major written element of this course, you will propose and negotiate a 6,000-word essay that places your own visual practice in the historical and contemporary context of the discipline. You will reflect on your practice exploring personal influences and aspects of the 'industry' that are of particular interest, historically or theoretically. The purpose of this module, and its supporting lectures, is to bring a more informed and reflective aspect to your personal creative practice.
  • The Masters Project represents the culmination of your learning on the programme, giving you the opportunity to develop and resolve a major area of enquiry. This is a self-directed visual project negotiated with the staff team and peers. You'll need to negotiate, manage, co-ordinate and bring to successful conclusion a complex, practice-based project within your field of art, media or design. You'll start by formally presenting your research proposal to staff and peers, and will be expected to build on your previous modules to identify a complex area for investigation and enquiry, as well as research methods appropriate to the project. Following negotiation with staff, peers and, where appropriate, outside agencies, you'll then submit a written research proposal. Your project may involve external engagement alongside a personal exploration of themes and concepts in your specialist field. You'll need to show your ability to innovate, think strategically and be sensitive to changing cultural and social climates. You'll be assessed by portfolio (a body of work comprising a written project proposal, and developmental and final visual work) and a 1200-word reflective commentary. This commentary will specifically outline the methodological and ethical considerations relevant to your portfolio work, and evaluate your final visual work.


Modules are subject to change and availability.

Throughout the course, you will be asked to create various projects, to reflect on the work you have created, and to research and apply that research to your own craft.

The Observation and Experiment module will be assessed 100% on portfolio and your own reference of your portfolio work. In the Sequential Image module, your portfolio will be worth 80% of your grade, and an essay makes up the other 20%. The Diploma Project module grade is based 90% on portfolio and 10% on a research proposal. Your Diploma Review thesis will be assessed 100% on your 6,000 word essay, while the Master's Stage Project will be assessed 90% on your project work and 10% on your written report.

As you advance through the course, you’ll learn to work progressively more independently, preparing you for life beyond graduation.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

At Cambridge School of Art, we combine the traditions of our past with the possibilities afforded by the latest technologies.

Using our expertise and connections in Cambridge and beyond, we nurture creativity through experimentation and risk-taking to empower the makers and creators of the future.

Our academics excel at both practice and theory, making a real impact in their chosen fields, whether they are curating exhibitions, designing book covers or photographing communities in Africa. They are also regularly published in catalogues, books, journals and conference papers, their research classed as being of ‘international standing’, with some elements ‘world-leading’, in the most recent Research Excellence Framework.

Where can I study?

Lord Ashcroft Building on our Cambridge campus

Our campus is close to the centre of Cambridge, often described as the perfect student city.

Explore our Cambridge campus

Specialist facilities

You will work in dedicated illustration studios right next door to Ruskin Gallery.

As a Cambridge School of Art student, you can also receive access to, and full training in, all of our other industry-standard facilities. These include traditional letterpress and printmaking workshops as well as digital facilities such as animation and graphic design studios.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK students starting 2022/23 (total cost)


International students starting 2022/23 (total cost)


Additional costs

Materials: costs depend on direction and ambition of your work, though students are expected to experiment with materials, techniques and ways of making throughout the course so should be prepared to purchase a range of supplies (estimated £250 per year). Though it is not required, many students prefer to purchase their own books to use for the major essay module and would need to consider this cost, as well, which will depend on the specific topic, scope, and availability of books.

Technology: Students will need regular access to internet for engagement with email and Canvas, our online teaching platform. Scanning and printing of work is necessary for creation of mock-ups of project outcomes. While students may use campus computer systems, there will likely be a need to access computer systems from home for the above uses.

Optional London graduation show (including catalogue design, printing and mailing; gallery space rental and private view for publishers): has ranged from £170 to £250 over the past few years, depending on how many students participate and the options they choose. There is an additional cost for each student to prepare their work, which will depend on the individual choices they make, such as how they choose to print, bind and display their artwork and dummy books.

Optional Bologna Book Fair stand portfolio inclusion: approximately £340, plus costs of preparing work and creating promotional materials. Many students also choose to attend the fair, which would incur additional travel costs. Neither the London show nor Bologna Book Fair are requirements of the course.

How do I pay my fees?

UK students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments – though you won't need to pay until you've accepted an offer to study with us.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You can pay your fees upfront, in full or in two instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit of £4,000 or a sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees

Funding for postgraduate students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our finance guide for postgraduate students to learn more about postgraduate loans and other funding options.

We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships and bursaries, which provide extra financial support while you're at university.

International students

As well as a number of scholarships, we offer an early payment discount. Explore your options:

Entry requirements

Loading... Entry requirements are not currently available, please try again later.

Interview and portfolio

You will be required to attend an interview of around 20 minutes, during which you will evidence your discussion with a portfolio or, if you are resident outside of the UK, an e-portfolio.

For more information on how to prepare and submit your portfolio please visit our portfolios and interviews page, or go straight to the detailed guidance for MA Children's Book Illustration portfolios.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

Studying during COVID-19

Due to national restrictions all universities in England, including ARU, are only able to provide face to face teaching on campus for a limited number of courses. Visit our restrictions page for details.

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic the majority of our apprenticeship courses are being delivered online only using our established online learning systems. The provision offered is subject to change due to the possibility of further Government restrictions, however the University remains committed to delivering teaching and ensuring a COVID-19 secure environment for those that are on campus.

International students

We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning from September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

Improving your English language skills

If you don't meet our English language requirements, we offer a range of courses which could help you achieve the level required for entry.

We also provide our own English Language Proficiency Test (ELPT) in the UK and overseas. To find out if we are planning to hold an ELPT in your country, contact our country managers.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for postgraduate courses.

Check the standard entry requirements for IELTS requirements for this course.

Suggested courses that may interest you


Full-time, part-time postgraduate ()



Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online