Illustration and Animation BA (Hons)

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





Investigate the connections between illustration and Animation whilst studying our full-time Illustration and Animation degree at Cambridge School of Art, ARU. Choose to study abroad for one semester, go on European field trips, and get support to find work placements. Create narratives using traditional and cutting-edge techniques, and turn your creative ideas into a rewarding career as a visual artist or animator.

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.

The skills, knowledge and experience you gain on our BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation course will allow you to move into the creative industries as an illustrator, artist or animator, confident in the use of cutting-edge digital design technologies and with an understanding of traditional animation, illustration and communication.

Many of our graduates now work with leading product and animation studios and UK broadcasters such as The Mill, 12 Foot 6, Slurpy Studios, Filofax, BBC and Channel 4. Our recent students have found success in many competitions, such as Marc Moynihan, who won the Red Bull Canimation Prize, and Jean-Louis Pecheur, who was the winner of the Animation Libation Global Animation Contest.

They’ve also produced short films for BBC Radio 4's The Listening Project, and had their work screened at international festivals: Daisy, by Charlie Taylor, was shown at the Encounters Film Festival, the Fête de l'anim Animation Festival in Lille and the London Short Film Festival; Hold on Me by Georgia Yorke was shown at the Suffolk Film Festival, the Festival International du Court Métrage de Lille, and the Framed Film Festival at the Barbican, London.

You’ll also be able to take advantage of our industry relationships, and the networks we’ve built with local and international animators, illustrators and production studios. Our staff regularly go to animation festivals and seek out collaborations with creative partners, such as Les Rencontres Audiovisuelles, Breda University and St Joost Akademie.

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 and Animation Practice
    This module introduces and examines approaches, media and processes specific to illustrative image making. Drawing is the fundamental language of the animator and the illustrator. You will 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, numerous location based drawing trips take place in a variety of destinations, such as museums, markets and town centres. The module will include life-drawing classes in the drawing studio. From a basis in observational drawing, you will begin to explore imaginative drawing, sequential and interpretative drawing through a range of project briefs. Processes of graphic reproduction are introduced including printmaking and letterpress. Assessment will be both formative, and summative, based on a portfolio of visual studies exercises and short illustration projects. The sessions will explore and address all the above topics through set briefs, group and peer discussion, workshops, guest lectures, and ongoing formative assessments through which you can analyse and evaluate your development. Summative assessment will be based on your coursework, including research, investigation and developmental work, as well as the final outcomes.
  • Illustration in the Round
    On this module, you'll look at how the illusion of a 3D environment can be created through sequential movement on a flat screen. Through practice, you'll gain insights into the various practices in animation from traditional hand-drawn cell animation, rotoscoping, stop frame animation, through to the practice and concepts that drive 3D animation. You'll learn about parallax, illusions of camera-eye movement, keyframing, cell animation, layouts, storyboarding, overlays and loops, before examining the possibilities of building an imaginative 3D environment in an illustrative sense, engaging with tools that allow the illustrator the new freedom of working sequentially and in the round with digital technologies. You'll also receive a grounding in the historical antecedents, with references to illustrators and artists who have immersed aspects of their practice into 2D, virtual and sculptural 3D space. You'll explore this practice through an experimental 'mark-making' environment, establishing illustration-focused ways of image creation, and will be be encouraged to experiment and incorporate aspects of design and fine art into your practical work.
  • 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.
  • Sequential Practice
    In this module you will explore the nature of sequential images as it is found within the practices of illustration and animation. Through practical investigations, analysis and experimentation you will examine the broad range of expressive possibilities that lie within sequential visual storytelling. The range of tasks and briefs will ask you to engage with a diversity of approaches, media and processes that will encourage you to query fixed notions of what sequential image and animation is and can be. You will gain a practical understanding of core principles of time-based narrative, such as sequence, duration, movement, the interplay of sound and image, presentation platforms and audience interaction. With a focus on personal development and expression, these briefs enable you to develop your concept and narrative development skills as well as encourage imaginative creative interpretation. You will work with traditional, high tech and low-tech digital and experimental methods and materials through studio and location based projects, using techniques such as stop motion, direct animation, puppetry, animated GIF, but also sequential book forms page lay-out, projection and interaction. You will create work that emphasises a balance between personal creative language and applied practice. Assessment will be both formative, and at the end of the module, summative, based on a portfolio of animation artefacts. The module will include a Personal Development Planning element.
  • 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.
  • Digital Animation
    Digital technologies are fundamental to contemporary animation, influencing all aspects of production from concept to delivery and expanding the creative potential and scope of animation practice. New platforms and methods of delivery and dissemination make this a growing field and it is essential that you are prepared to enter this rapidly evolving professional environment. You’ll develop your awareness of the potential of digital animation while gaining a broad knowledge of relevant industry standard technologies, software and pipelines. Digital means of production need to work hand-in-hand with idea generation, so while you are introduced to these technologies, the "idea" and its communication will at the core of the set briefs. This module is based upon the traditional principles of animation including narrative, sequence, pace, the "reveal" and closure, and you'll study these within a digital context, gaining competencies within a technical environment while developing your creative animation practice. You'll be assessed through a portfolio of digital animation artefacts, which should contain both developmental work and finished pieces.

Year two, core modules

  • Animation Practice
    This module looks to build on your earlier practice in the creation of animated sequences. This module spanning the length of the academic year will help with your development in creating a body of animated work (not necessarily all narrative-based) which you'll create in response to a series of briefs which emphasise the communication of ideas and translation of sketchbooks into moving image rather than character development.
  • 3D Computer Generated Imagery
    This module will give you the skills and knowledge needed to devise and construct 3d models and objects using Industry standard software. You will also consider how these modules might be used and applied in a range of situations and outcomes; games, animations, motion graphics, architecture and interior design. Practical workshops, inclusive lectures and critique sessions will present, examine and address the contextualisation of 3D modelling and you will be researching and analysing current trends and developments. You will also be introduced to some of the most important concepts in 3d modelling such as interpretations of space, composition, lighting, texture and colour and will explore traditional drawing to plan and enhance your work. Sessions will explore and address: conceiving of, planning, making and reflecting upon a range of 3D models and you will be challenged to meet a series of project briefs that will help develop both your creative and technical skills. Ongoing critiques will formatively assess, analyse and evaluate your development; the emotive quality, technical competency and appropriateness for purpose-within the given briefs requirements. Your coursework, including all ongoing research, analysis and development work and the design solutions/outcomes to the short tasks and projects, will be summatively assessed at the close of the semester.
  • 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.

Year two, optional modules

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Emerging Media and Platforms
    This module will give you the opportunity to consider, and experiment with, means of creating and disseminating digital content across a variety of platforms. You'll explore the growing diversity of digital means by which audiences are reached in the 21st century, and consider and produce working examples of content best suited to new and evolving (online) digital channels. You'll also be encouraged to explore cultural, technical or commercial changes in the media industries and engage with current debates about digital media. As well as creative practice based on a range of digital media methods, which includes current professional software packages, you'll examine, analyse and evaluate possibilities offered to the producer by the online environment, online-archives and multi-platform developments. In discussions, you'll cover emerging media formats such as memes, interactive documentary, podcasting, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, as well as distribution over multiple platforms. Further, you will explore distribution and reception methods offered by and within Social Media, the opportunities and limitations of these platforms, and the connections and relationships formed with online audiences, as well as improving your technical competency. You'll work following a brief, using mixed learning methods and shared skills and expertise, including teamwork and collaboration. For summative assessment, you will produce linear content, or non-linear footage designed for digital delivery, or content that can be distributed over a range of channels, as well as supporting materials.

Year three, core modules

  • Professional Development in Animation
    This module will give you the insights and tools that will enable you to start a professional practice within the field of Animation and Illustration after you leave university. You are asked to explore the wide range of current professional practices, their production structures and creative and professional requirements. Next to this you will analyse your personal professional identity, abilities, creative output and transferable skills. Together these will form the knowledge and understanding upon which you will build the tools and evidence needed to embark on a career within a chosen field. You will be asked to create a presentation platform, such as a website, a public profile, such as in social media, and an animation showreel. You will engage with current methods of gaining employment and maintaining a freelance practice, and you will embark on creative projects that can further highlight and showcase the identified personal strengths as well as address areas of necessary development. This module includes a Personal Development Planning element. The sessions will explore and address all the above topics through set briefs, group and peer discussion, workshops, guest lectures, and ongoing formative assessments through which you can analyse and evaluate your development. Your course work will include all research, investigation and developmental work as well as the final outcomes, and this will be summatively assessed at the close of the module.
  • 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 developing knowledge and skills through a number of methods.

Your ongoing (formative) assessment will include group and individual critiques and class discussions.

Meanwhile, at the end of each module you’ll demonstrate your overall progress through a combination of written and practical work. This will include sketchbooks, concept development, project proposals and work-in-progress, as well as final outcomes such as animated sequences, series of prints, websites or text-based research as required.

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 abroad

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

Field trips

You'll have the chance to take part in field trips to experience drawing in different locations. Past trips have taken place in Lisbon, Portugal and Lille, France.

Work experience

Throughout the course you’ll have opportunities to take part in work placements, live projects and industry collaborations. Our students’ recent placements and projects have included Voicing the Garden at Cambridge Botanic Gardens, Digital Stories Residency at West Flanders University, Brussels and Fête de l'anim' Animation Marathon in Lille.

Specialist facilities

Throughout the course you’ll work in the original Edwardian studios of the Cambridge School of Art, with easy access to etching, screen printing, lithography and relief presses, letterpress studios, a 3D workshop and a full range of digital image-making facilities.

You’ll have all the tools you need for traditional hand drawn and stop-motion animation, as well as high-end 3D CGI. We have a full range of professional digital imaging, compositing and animation tools including the full Adobe Creative Suite, TVPaint, Maya and Dragonframe Stop Motion. There are also dedicated animation production suites and life drawing studios, as well as a comprehensive equipment store for all the camera, lighting and sound recording kit you might need.

You can also get full training in any of our other industry-standard facilities from a dedicated team of technical officers.

Find out more about Cambridge School of Art's facilities

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 £220-£250.

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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