Illustration BA (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (3 years)




Discover and develop your own visual language at the renowned Cambridge School of Art. Follow in the footsteps of award-winning, nationally and internationally recognised graduates, on your way to a career as a professional illustrator.

Full description


Find out more about working with the creative industries or our placements and work experience.

Our past students have found success in many different creative industries, often as a direct result of 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, The Mill (post-production company), Wilkinson (for work on a luggage range), Hallmark cards, Tigerprint and Tesco.

Our students’ work has been reviewed in trade journals and design magazines including Blue Print and Creative Review. They’ve also received recognition in competitions like the YCN Awards (Max Machen, Winner of Royal Court Brief, 2013; Dominic McKenzie, Student of the Year 2011), the Penguin Design Awards (Tim Parker, Winner, Puffin Children's Prize 2013; Angharad Burnard, Highly Commended, Random House Design Award 2014) and the Macmillan Prize for Children’s Book Illustration (Bethan Woollvin, Winner 2014).

We retain annual membership of The AOI (Association of Illustrators), giving you access to a crucial industry network.

Modules & assessment

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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
    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. You'll also receive guidance about independent learning using the wide range of resources available in our University Library and Language Centre. These two modules are worth 15 credits each.

Year two, core modules

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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 Images
    This module will allow you to explore the relationships between texts and images through your own creative practice. In the contemporary world of art and design, the practitioner is often called upon to accompany images with texts written in a variety of voices. This module will prepare you for these professional expectations, as well as informing and complementing your work in studio specialisms, such as illustration, photographic and digital media, video, animation and fine art. The process of writing for images will be addressed in a series of seminars and writing workshops led by a professional author. You will also have the opportunity to combine your writing with moving image, and to use short films - both live action and animation - as a starting point for your writing. Your assessment will centre on a project that combines text and image, as well as a selection from the pieces of written work produced during the module. Please note that this module is intended to develop your skills in creative writing, not a study skills module to improve basic written and spoken English.
  • 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.
  • Anglia Language Programme
    The Anglia Language Programme allows you to study a foreign language as part of your course. You'll take one language module in the second semester of your first year in order to experience the learning of a new language. You must select a language you've never learnt before from the following: Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

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.
  • 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)
  • 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.


You’ll demonstrate your progress through a combination of written and practical work.

As well as verbal feedback given in taught sessions and tutorials you will be given thorough, personal written feedback, highlighting successes and indicating areas of improvement for future submissions.

Where you'll study

Your department and faculty

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

Additional study information

You’ll work in our beautiful dedicated Illustration studios right next door to the Ruskin Gallery. You’ll also have access to our other industry-standard art facilities, like printmaking, digital, animation and life drawing studios.

Across all three years there will be relevant volunteering opportunities, competitions and ability to participate in live industry briefs.

At the start of the second year, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in a one week intensive overseas drawing trip. Previous trip have been run to Porto and Seville.

At the end of your course you will have the opportunity to display your work to the public and professional commissioners at the Cambridge School of Art Degree Show and optionally at New Designers in London.

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students starting 2018/19 or 2019/20 (per year)


International students, 2018/19 (per year)


International students starting 2019/20 (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

Most English undergraduates take out a tuition fee loan with Student Finance England. The fees are then paid directly to us. The amount you repay each month is linked to your salary and repayments start in April after you graduate.

How to apply for a tuition fee loan

Paying upfront

If you choose not to take out a loan you can pay your fees directly to us. There are two ways to do this: either pay in full, or through a three- or six-month instalment plan starting at registration.

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 for undergraduate courses. 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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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 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 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 undergraduate 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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Get more information

UK & EU applicants

01245 68 68 68

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International applicants

+44 1245 68 68 68

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