Discover your visual language at the renowned Cambridge School of Art on this practice-based illustration course. Experiment with different media to find those that best suit your work. Follow in the footsteps of award-winning graduates, nationally and internationally recognised, on your way to a career as a professional illustrator.
Being an illustrator is a great way to find your own creative voice, and one that allows you to share your creativity with the world through many different projects. UK creative industries have never been so vibrant, global and high profile, and illustration is involved across many different aspects of them. You might illustrate books; become a satirical cartoonist; design film sets, product labels or community murals; or even work on animated films.
Also, drawing is not only a lot of fun, but is widely considered to be good for your health.
Most of your work will be practise-based coursework, giving you the necessary time to develop your artistic skills, then stand back and consider them critically, as a professional would. The emphasis of the course is on ideas and visual problem solving: finding the best media to suit your work, whether it’s a Victorian printing press or a digital notebook.
Our group discussions, critiques, and tutorials - as well as your own visual and textual research – will help you discover more unique ways to express yourself creatively and develop your own visual language – a crucial asset in today’s competitive marketplace.
I won a contract with Macmillan and they are publishing my book.
You’ll also go on group drawing/reportage trips in the UK and overseas, as well as visits to museums and galleries. These will assist your own visual research as well as helping you understand how illustration intersects with cultural, environmental and ethical issues, which play an important role in editorial illustration.
We will encourage and support you to enter national and international competitions, undertake live industry briefs (recent briefs have been set by Doc Martens, Stansted Airport and Cambridge Corn Exchange), take up internships and attend professional practice talks and discussions, giving you an awareness of what it takes to work as a professional illustrator, as well as a chance to make important contacts for your career.
You’ll work in our dedicated natural light illustration studios, right next door to Ruskin Gallery, with the opportunity for training in all our other industry-standard art facilities as well, including a traditional printmaking room, 3D workshops, animation suites, and life drawing studios.
At the end of the course, you’ll display your work to the public and professional commissioners at our Cambridge School of Art Degree Show and, optionally, New Designers in London. You’ll also find opportunities throughout the course to exhibit at local venues in Cambridge and further afield, as well as discovering many inspirational areas of natural and architectural beauty around the city to inspire your work, such as the Botanic Gardens and historic city centre.
Our BA (Hons) Illustration continues a 150-year tradition of drawing at Cambridge School of Art. You’ll follow in the footsteps of acclaimed illustrators such as designer and war artist Edward Bawden, satirist and illustrator Ronald Searle; founders of TV phenomenon Spitting Image Roger Law and Peter Fluck; and more recently, Bethan Woollvin, winner of the Macmillan Prize 2014 and author of picturebooks Little Red and Rapunzel.
Many of our students have had their work reviewed in trade journals and design magazines, including Blue Print and Creative Review, or received recognition in competitions such as the D&AD awards (Hannah Bigley, New Blood award 2015); the Penguin Design Awards (Tim Parker - Winner, Puffin Children's Prize 2013; Angharad Burnard, Highly Commended, Random House Design Award 2014), and the YCN Awards (Max Machen, Winner of Royal Court Brief, 2013).
Your studies will be supported by our team of staff who are all recognised illustrators in their own fields:
You’ll also work with nationally-recognised visiting lecturers, who will give you their perspectives on modern-day illustration, and valuable advice for your future career. Recent visitors have included Melliss Castrillon, Angus Greig, Jonny Hannah, Olivier Kugler, Laura Carlin, George Butler and Graham Rawle.
We retain annual membership of The AOI (Association of Illustrators), giving you access to a crucial industry network.
We work with employers to make sure you graduate with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need. They help us review what we teach and how we teach it – and they offer hands-on, practical opportunities to learn through work-based projects, internships or placements.
Our past students have found success in many different creative industries, often as a direct result of making contacts at our end-of-course Degree Show or the New Designers exhibition in London. Past employers and commissioners have included Sky TV, Oxford University Press, Katana (creative media design agency), Eljo's Haberdashery, Moonpig Greetings Cards, The Mill (post-production company), Wilkinson (for work on a luggage range), Hallmark cards, Tigerprint and Tesco.
Across all three years of the degree, you'll have opportunities to enter competitions, participate in live industry briefs and take up relevant internships and voluntary work, all of which will give you a valuable grounding in what it takes to be a professional illustrator.
Some of our recent graduates include: Bethan Woollvin, successful children’s books creator and winner of the Macmillan Prize 2014; Catherine Rowe, who runs her own design business with clients including Paperchase and Liberty of London; and Aleesha Nandhra, whose clients include the Barbican Centre, Film4 and BuzzFeed News, and who recently took part in the ‘Creating Heroines’ project in Nepal.
You might decide to stay in academia after you graduate, perhaps specialising your talents on our MA Children’s Book Illustration. If so, you might be interested to know we offer an alumni scholarship that could save you up to £2000.
For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure (pdf).
You’ll demonstrate your progress through a combination of written and practical work.
As well as verbal feedback in taught sessions and tutorials, you’ll be given thorough personal written feedback that highlights your successes while indicating areas of improvement for future submissions.
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.
At the start of the second year, you’ll have the chance to take part in a one week, highly intensive location/reportage drawing trip. Recent trips have included Porto, Seville and Lisbon, and we currently have two sponsors who subsidise the cost to our students.
For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages
Estimated cost of materials across three years £250.
Optional field trip £250-280.
Optional participation in London show - New Designers Approx. £260 depending on the number of students taking part.
You can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or alternatively, there's the option to pay your fees upfront.
We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.
You must pay your fees upfront, in full or in instalments. We will also ask you for a deposit or sponsorship letter. Details will be in your offer letter.Paying your fees
Most new undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.
We also offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.
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 BA (Hons) Illustration portfolios.
Important additional notes
Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email email@example.com for further information.
We don't accept AS level qualifications on their own for entry to our undergraduate degree courses. However for some degree courses a small number of tariff points from AS levels are accepted as long as they're combined with tariff points from A levels or other equivalent level 3 qualifications in other subjects.
We welcome applications from international and EU students, and accept a range of international qualifications.
If English is not your first language, you'll need to make sure you meet our English language requirements for undergraduate courses.
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 onto a degree course.
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