Children's Book Illustration MA

Postgraduate taught ( full-time, part-time)


September 2017

Intermediate awards: PG Cert, PG Dip

Course duration: 18 months (full-time); 2.5 years or 5 semesters (part-time)
Teaching times:

Full-time students attend for two full days of studio teaching each week, currently either Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays.

Part-time students attend all day Wednesdays (9am - 5pm) and must find a minimum of a further day a week in their own time to give to the project work.

All students attend shared lectures and presentations on Wednesdays at 3.00 pm.


Follow in the footsteps of acclaimed children’s artists. Work with a dedicated support team of internationally-recognised illustrators to develop your own personal visual vocabulary and make connections in the children’s publishing industry.

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Full description


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Our partnership with Walker Books and its American counterpart Candlewick Press will give you the chance to go on a work experience visit to their London offices. They also sponsor our annual Sebastian Walker Award for Most Promising Student.

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.

Modules & assessment

Core modules

  • Observation and Experiment
    This module constitutes a foundation for the course. Focusing on drawing, you'll propose and execute a thematic drawing project exploring a subject through observation and imagination. Your visual work will not need to be consciously aimed at an audience of a particular age group. This reflects the course ethos of the importance of developing a visual language as an artist rather than pursuing preconceived notions of stylistic appropriateness. You will also attend a supporting lecture programme.
  • The Sequential Image
    This module invites you to make sequential visual statements around individually proposed themes. You are encouraged to experiment with media and approaches, and to make use of relevant resources, both digital and traditional. You will pursue studio practice within an ongoing dialogue around the nature of sequential visual communication. This takes place through individual tutorial discussions, presentations, seminars/critiques and contextual lectures. You will present a written proposal for a 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. Issues of visual pace in sequence will be introduced and discussed in a dialogue around your and other students' developing work. A series of contextual lectures will support this studio dialogue. Your assessment will be based primarily on the visual outcomes along with a short essay.
  • The Diploma Project
    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.
  • The Diploma Review
    As the major written element of this course, you will propose and negotiate a 6,000-8,000 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.
  • Master's Project: Art and Design
    The Masters Project represents the culmination of your learning on the programme, and 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.


In your first three studio modules, you’ll show your progress through project work, worth 80% of your module grade, and an essay relating to the contextual study lectures, which is worth 20%.

Your Diploma Review thesis will be assessed 100% on your 6,000-8,000 word essay, while the Master’s Stage Project will be assessed 90% on your project work and 10% on your written report.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

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Cambridge School of Art has been inspiring creativity since 1858 when it was opened by John Ruskin.

Engaging with current debates surrounding contemporary practice and with the state-of-the-art facilities, Cambridge School of Art houses light, bright studios, industry-standard film and photographic facilities, and 150-year-old printing presses alongside dedicated Apple Mac suites. Our digital art gallery, the Ruskin Gallery, exhibits both traditional shows and multimedia presentations, from national and international touring exhibitions and our own students.

We are the only university in Cambridge offering art and design courses at higher education level. A tight-knit community of artists, academics and over 900 students, we collaborate across our University, the creative industries, and other sectors. Cambridge is a centre for employment in the creative industries and there are rich opportunities for collaboration with the city’s entertainment, technological, scientific, arts and heritage industries.

Our graduates have a history of winning national and international awards and an excellent employment record. They include Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour, Spitting Image creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law, and illustrator Ronald Searle, the creator of St Trinian's.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

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

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At our annual London graduation exhibition you’ll show your work to leading publishing companies and literary agencies. We also organise a stand at Bologna Children's Book Fair each year, where you’ll have more opportunities to secure a publishing deal with industry reps. As a direct result, our past students have signed contracts with publishers including Macmillan, Random House, Nosy Crow, Sarbacane (Fr), Donizelli (It), Child's Play, Walker Books, HarperCollins (NY), Doubleday (NY), Penguin (NY), Faber & Faber and Hodder. Advances against royalties have ranged from €2,000 with an independent publisher, to $50,000 for a three-book deal.

Work experience

Our partnership with Walker Books and its American counterpart Candlewick Press will give you the chance to go on a work experience visit to their London offices. They also sponsor our annual Sebastian Walker Award for Most Promising Student.

Specialist facilities

You’ll work in dedicated illustration studios right next door to our Ruskin Gallery, with access to a fully-equipped printmaking studio.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2017/18 (total cost)


UK & EU students, 2017/18 (part time total course cost)


International students, 2017/18 (total cost)


Additional costs

Optional field trip to Bologna

Optional field trip to Antwerp - 2 nights

How do I pay my fees?

Paying upfront

You won't need to pay fees until you've accepted an offer to attend, but you must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments.

How to pay your fees directly

International students

You must pay your fees up-front, in full or in instalments. You will also be asked for a deposit or sponsorship letter/financial guarantee. Details will be in your offer letter.

Paying your fees
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Funding for UK & EU students

It’s important to decide how to fund your course before applying. Use our funding guide for postgraduate students to learn more about the following:

  • The Government’s new £10k Masters loan
  • Applying for our scholarships
  • Additional funding options and support
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Funding for international students

We've a number of scholarships, as well as some fee discounts for early payment.

Entry requirements

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Portfolio requirements

Your portfolio should include a maximum of 20-30 images with some examples of preparatory/sketchbook work as well as more finished samples.

If you are an international applicant, please host your portfolio online if possible and let us know the URL, or email it to us as a PDF. We’ll also accept CDs or hardcopy sent by post to our International Admissions Office, but please note that these will not be returned to you.

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International students

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

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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.

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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.

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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

Enquire online

International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

Enquire online