Illustration BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years, 4 years with foundation year)





Discover your visual language at Cambridge School of Art by studying this full-time, practice-based Illustration Degree course. Choose to study abroad for one semester and join our annual overseas drawing trip. Get support to find work placements and work experience, and take part in live briefs set by local industry. Develop your own unique creative style on your way to a career as a professional illustrator.

Full description


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.

Find out more about our placements and work experience, or the faculty's employability support.

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.

Modules & assessment

Level 3 (foundation year)

  • Foundation in Art and Design
    This module will provide students with the necessary skills to begin studying at level 4 in art, design and related courses. Students will be introduced to the core skills necessary to succeed in higher education, including researching and referencing appropriately, demonstrating appropriate ICT skills, and communicating effectively verbally and in writing. Students will be introduced to practical art and design skills including developing skills of visual storytelling, image-making both in traditional and digital media, visual language and communication, formulating an independent creative response to a broad range of subject matter. Students will also be introduced to the fundamentals of design from a creative perspective, and to some of the key ideas/movements dominating art, design and culture, during the past few centuries. Students will work extensively in groups and collaboratively, with students from art and design, architecture and engineering pathways. The module is made up of the following eight constituent elements: Interactive Learning Skills and Communication (ILSC); Information Communication Technology (ICT); Composition and Style; Creative Workshops 1; Approach to Design; Critical and Contextual Studies; Creative Workshops 2; Specialist Project.

Year one, core modules

  • Illustration Practice 1
    On this module, you'll examine approaches to media and processes, specific to illustrative image making. Drawing is the fundamental language of the illustrator. You'll be encouraged to look closely at the visual world through studio and location-based observational drawing, using sketchbooks and notebooks to develop and explore a personal, individual visual vocabulary. In the early stages of the module, you'll take part in numerous location-based drawing trips in a variety of destinations, such as museums, markets and town centres. You'll also undertake life-drawing classes in the drawing studio. From a basis in observational drawing, you'll begin to explore imaginative drawing, sequential and interpretative drawing through a range of project briefs, as well as being introduced to processes of graphic reproduction, including printmaking and letterpress.
  • Image Manipulation
    This module will introduce you to a range of methods of image generation and manipulation in the context of the wider field of illustration. You will be encouraged to experiment with the deconstruction of the photographic image, arrangement and manipulation of found material, and production of imagery through various combinations of traditional and contemporary media. You'll find your preconceptions about what constitutes creative 'ownership' of an image challenged, with project briefs that will invite you to respond in a way that demands an experimental approach to image manipulation. You'll attend workshops on digital and photographic processes that focus on both the technical and conceptual aspects of image manipulation. You will also be able to explore the possibilities of photography in illustration, and the areas where photography and drawing collide or overlap. You'll be assessed on your portfolio of selected work, research notes, sketchbooks, photographic material and a reflective critique.
  • Print and Process
    On this module you'll study the relationship between print processes and the specialist area of Illustration. You'll explore the application of graphic processes and media both through your own creative practice and through exposure to contemporary and historical examples. You'll attend seminars on reprographic processes and possibilities that will be augmented by studio projects and demonstrations, with a particular emphasis on the historical and contemporary relationships between print as a method of mass reproduction, and printmaking as a contemporary medium for illustration. The module will be delivered in the illustration studio and print workshops and you will be encouraged to make use of open access time in the print workshops.

Year one, optional modules

  • Contextual Studies
    This module will introduce you to valuable skills that you’ll use throughout the rest of your course. You'll cover how to research, analyse and write about art and design, and gain an overview of some of the major developments in art and design relevant to your specific course, considering issues of both industry practice and critical theory in relation to the social, cultural and intellectual climate of their times. The module may draw on examples from graphic design, interior design, fashion, industrial design, architecture, product design, media communications and fine art, but is taught with a particular emphasis on your own discipline. A constant question for us therefore concerns the possible definitions of 'design' itself. As well as this subject-specific content, the module also includes a series of workshops and exercises which will introduce you to the skills of library research, critical analysis of visual imagery, essay writing and academic referencing, providing a foundation for your later studies. For your assessment, you will demonstrate these skills by submitting an essay on a thematic subject.
  • Understanding Images
    You’ll become more familiar with the ways in which images are constructed, and the critical theories and tools that can be used to analyse and interpret both images and texts. You'll explore critical ideas and theories through practical 'workshop' style sessions centred on close readings of selected images: illustrations, illustrative and narrative paintings, animations, and works that combine text and image in a variety of ways. You'll attend weekly seminars, in which you will discuss a range of critical approaches and ideas, and practice critical skills in class and small-group discussions. The module will also develop your critical writing skills, through a series of short written assignments in a variety of modes. You'll be assessed on two pieces of critical writing, amounting to 3,000 words in total, selected from your short written assignments.
  • English for Study 1 & 2
    These two modules are only available for International Students, and are worth 15 credits each. You'll focus on the advanced writing and organisational skills necessary for essays and other written assignments, including planning, paragraphing, and developing an argument. Your studies will have a particular emphasis on the importance of good academic practice, especially accurate referencing and the use of bibliographies. You'll also practise extracting key points from a variety of spoken or written texts and writing summaries, and develop your discussion skills so as to contribute confidently to seminars and tutorials, as well as receiving guidance about independent learning using the wide range of resources available in our University Library and Language Centre.

Year two, core modules

  • Illustration Practice 2
    On this module, you'll explore a range of creative possibilities and conceptual challenges within areas of applied illustration practice. The relationship between observational/ location drawing and individual creative visual problem solving continues to be emphasised and developed. You'll build upon your experience of visual information-gathering by applying personal research methods to visual communication project briefs. These briefs will cover a range of conceptual challenges including narrative/sequential contexts, visual interpretation for editorial design, type/ image relationships. You'll also be introduced to 'The Book' as an object, a personal visual statement and a fundamental vehicle for illustration. You'll undertake a major practical project in semester 2 to create your own 'book', which may be anything from an experimental 'artist's book' to a traditional children's picture book. This section of the module includes bookbinding workshops and demonstrations. You'll be encouraged to explore a range of graphic media and processes both traditional and digital, with a particular emphasis on reprographic processes- printmaking and digital printing.
  • Debates and Practices
    On this module, you'll explore the links between critical studies and practice, enriching your knowledge and developing your articulacy about your specialism, as well as drawing on wider perspectives in relation to your own work. You will focus particularly on debates about contemporary practice. Your studies will be seminar-based and, where appropriate and possible, held in the studio. In discussions, you'll engage with theory and history alongside your own developing ideas about contemporary production, with an open agenda that will respond to current events, work and interests.
  • Ideas Through Design
    This studio module will give you the chance to examine and experiment with applied visual communication. The importance of the visual idea is present throughout the delivery of this module. Through group project briefs, seminars and presentations, you’ll take a look at the way complex concepts can be articulated visually, in the context of, for example, editorial illustration and design, and illustration and design for advertising, covering concepts such as the visual metaphor and 'closure' in visual sequence. In seminars you’ll examine the work of leading practitioners in the field, including Peter Till, Peter Brookes and Paul Rand. Practical project briefs will involve visual problem solving, the translation of arcane subject matter into coherent visual form. You’ll concentrate on and develop your personal methodology for developing visual ideas.

Year two, optional modules

  • Business for the Creative Arts
    This module will introduce you to the practical tools needed to set yourself up in business in the creative arts, as a company, a partnership or a freelancer. You'll explore a sector of the creative industries, identifying potential opportunities within it and producing a basic business plan. Your emphasis will be on self-reflection, innovative thinking and communication skills, while the subjects that you'll cover include: the creative industries; developing and analysing a business idea; types of business model; assessing your market; ideas behind marketing; basic accounts; tax and legal issues; and planning for start-up. You'll be asked to translate these into practice by applying them to your own ideas, which will then become part of your own business plan. The module will be delivered through lectures, seminars, student presentations, critiques and workshops. Your formative assessment will involve presentations, while the summative assessment will be based on your critical evaluation of employment opportunities in a sector of the creative industries and your portfolio of work, including a business plan or employment strategy and supporting documents.
  • Moving Illustration
    New platforms and methods of delivery and dissemination mean that more and more content is being delivered via screens. The potential liberation of image-making from the static printed page offers new possibilities and challenges for the creative image maker. On this module you’ll develop your awareness of the potential for digital, moving illustration and imagery, preparing you to enter the rapidly evolving and changing professional environment. Digital means of production need to work hand in hand with ideas' generation, so when you are introduced to industry standard software, the "concept" and its communication will be at the core of the set briefs. This module is not animation-based, but shares some of the characteristics of animation, including narrative, sequence, pace, the "reveal" and closure. You'll also be introduced to the intellectual discourse around current technological developments and how they might impact on future employment and employability.
  • Writing for Sequential Images
    This module will give you an insight into common and alternative story structures and will enable you to build and create stories for sequential media, in particular picture books, graphic novels, animation and games. Central to this understanding and creation of a picture-based story is the combination of the handmade image and other modes of expression such as written text, sound, movement and interaction. You will gain insight into story structures and story development, character development, plotting and story-worlds. You will learn skills such as story development, adaptation, scripting, creative writing, dialogue and you will learn how to translate and adapt original material and existing texts into story treatments, scripts and storyboards for a range of visual media. The insight into story structures and story development and the linked creative and practical processes are addressed in a series of classes and seminars, where both traditional and alternative forms of visual narration and image-text relationships are explored. In workshops, exercises and set briefs you will be challenged to apply this knowledge and create story texts, scripts and storyboards. This will include the creation of work based on your own ideas. Ongoing critiques will formatively assess, analyse and evaluate your development; including the narrative quality, technical competency and appropriateness for purpose, within the given briefs requirements. Summative assessment will be based on your coursework, including research, analysis and development work, and the exercise and project outcomes.
  • Narrative Printmaking
    This module encourages you to explore printmaking materials and processes as a creative means of developing visual narrative or sequential imagery. You’ll treat printmaking processes experimentally rather than reproductively, to develop a suite of images which explores sequential composition, the use of a coherent visual language, the relationship between printed text and image, the physical qualities of the materials used and the means by which the viewer interacts with the finished work.
  • Text and Image
    This module is specifically designed to encourage you to explore interactions between text and images, alongside the development of a range of creative outcomes. Harnessing writing as a purposeful act relevant to your own practice, the indicative content is addressed through a series of seminars and workshops. As well as developing a specific visual project, you will have the opportunity to engage in experimental writing approaches, which are intended to provide you with starting points for your creative practice. In the contemporary world of art and design, the practitioner is often called upon to accompany creative outcomes with a variety of textual elements, and this module will help you enhance these creative and critical writing skills. Assessment involves the development of a visual project combining text and image, which may be relevant to your studio specialism. In addition to this, you will write of a critical rationale, relating to the text and image interactions evidenced in your visual project, as well as shorter pieces of experimental writing developed alongside the visual project.

Year three, core modules

  • Portfolio Development
    You’ll extend and deepen your personal creative practice, expanding the range and breadth of the visual work in your portfolio. You’ll engage with a mixture of group and individually negotiated illustration projects that aim to provide an appropriate balance between your continued creative experimentation and your ongoing skills in applied visual problem solving. You'll devise your projects in consultation with staff, through a review of your portfolio work to date. You might want to consolidate and/or expand on the strengths in your visual vocabulary. The group project briefs are designed to allow you maximum flexibility to interpret them. The module includes a Personal Development Planning element. You'll be assessed on the presentation of your portfolio outcomes.
  • Major Project
    The individual Major Project will allow you to undertake a substantial piece of individual research, focused on a topic relevant to your specific course. Your topic will be assessed for suitability to ensure sufficient academic challenge and satisfactory supervision by an academic member of staff. The project will require you to identify/formulate problems and issues, conduct research, evaluate information, process data, and critically appraise and present your findings/creative work. You should arrange and attend regular meetings with your project supervisor, to ensure that your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.

Year three, optional modules

  • Research Project
    The Research Project will foster your independent study with the guidance of a tutor. You'll devise your own project that will reflect on/co-ordinate with/enhance your own studio work and interests, encouraging your self-reflexivity and critical distance. Seminars will give you a forum to learn from each other's research. You will also be supported by individual tutorials with a member of staff. The Research Project may include a variety of relevant topics, including reporting on your own work experience. You can illustrate it with photographs, drawings or video, discussing your approach with your assigned tutor. (30 credits)
  • Research Assignment
    The Research Assignment module will foster your independent study with the guidance of a Supervisor. You will negotiate a topic with your supervisor, and devise your own project to reflect on / co-ordinate with / enhance your studio work and interests, relying on your self-reflexivity and critical distance. Classes will provide a forum for all students to learn from each other's research, but you will also have opportunities for individual tutorials with a member of staff. Your Research Assignment may be illustrated with photographs, drawings, and video. You will be assessed by way of a 3000-word written assignment. (15 credits)
  • Working in the Creative Industries
    Gaining work experience enhances your employability, and work based learning offers you the chance to gain industry knowledge, skills, contacts and networking opportunities. This module gives you the opportunity to explore a working environment relevant to the industry you hope to build a career in. The module will encourage your self-managed learning, and aims to develop your personal organisation, team-working, and networking skills, thereby increasing your self-reliance and confidence. You can use the experience as a basis for directing and focussing your career plans, as well as inspiration for your final year projects. In association with your module tutor, you will identify, negotiate and agree with an employer (or employers) the terms of your placement, ensuring that the module learning outcomes can be achieved. You will also create a reflective report on your work experience, including: the application procedure you have conducted (CV, letter and portfolio); market and background information on the employer; your role(s) on the placement(s); an academic and vocational analysis; skills and experiences (opportunities, advantages, constraints, aptitudes and interests). You will also be asked to include a workplace diary that logs activity and supports an analysis of the learning achieved. On completion of the placement, the employer will be asked to complete a Student Feedback package. The work placement(s) may be carried out in a variety of settings depending upon your requirements, areas of interest and availability of opportunities. The minimum period of the placement will be 100 hours, and you can undertake more than one placement for the module.


For a full breakdown of module options and credits, please view the module structure (pdf).

Modules are subject to change and availability

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.

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

Study trips

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.

Study Abroad

You can apply to study abroad for one semester, and apply for funding to help you cover the cost.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2019/20 or 2020/21 (per year)


International students starting 2020/21 (per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages

Additional costs

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.

How do I pay my fees?

Tuition fee loan

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.

Loans and fee payments


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.

Explore ARU scholarships

International students

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

Funding for UK & EU students

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.

Funding for international students

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

Entry requirements

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Portfolio review

It is essential that you send us a digital portfolio for review.

For full information on how to prepare and submit your portfolio please visit our cambridge school of art portfolios page.

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 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.

International students

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

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.

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 onto a degree course.

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.

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UK and EU students

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UCAScode: W225

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International students

Applicants from outside the UK and EU, apply to ARU

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01245 68 68 68

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International applicants

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