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Undergraduate Course

Illustration BA (Hons)

Immerse yourself in the world of illustration. Develop your ability to express narratives through images. Start your career as an illustrator.

Hand drawing

We believe in the transformative power of storytelling and visual narratives. On our course you will explore illustration through a focus on drawing, image making and narrative construction. Your study of theory will also inform your illustration practice and help you understand the wider contexts of illustration. We will teach you traditional and digital illustration techniques, using industry standard software and equipment.

94% Fine Art, Illustration and Photography students responded with a 94% positivity score for how free they felt to express their ideas, opinions and beliefs during their studies. (National Student Survey 2023)

York campus

  • UCAS code – W2W3
  • Duration – 3 years full time, 6 years part time
  • Start date – September 2024, September 2025
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum entry requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Tuition fees

    UK 2024 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2024 entry £11,500 per year full time

Discover Fine Art, Illustration and Photography

Hear from the Associate Head

Hear from our students

Course overview

Develop your ability to illustrate with confidence. Your time will focus on drawing, making images and constructing narratives. We will encourage you to experiment with different techniques, covering both traditional and digital creative processes. This will help you extend your practice and discover your specialism. While on the course you will illustrate across different genres, including:

  • Comic art
  • Book illustration
  • Editorial illustration
  • Children's illustration
  • Social engagement illustration

Alongside your practical work, you will carry out contextual studies to develop your practical work. This means carrying out research that helps you understand and explain where, how and why your ideas fit in terms of contemporary illustration practice. You will also examine the social and political events that inspire the work you do. It's also a chance for you to research and explore different perspectives in illustration.

As you work on briefs in the studio, you will be offered the opportunity to:

  • Work with students from other courses
  • Illustrate a story by a creative writer
  • Work alongside photographers and artists
  • Bring your illustrations to life through moving image
  • Work on illustration briefs with industry clients
  • Visit cities around the world to enrich your cultural courses and references
  • Take part in work placement opportunities and internships
  • Showcase your work at our annual degree show and national graduate exhibitions

Our team of illustrators and specialist technicians are here to support you. Your tutors will really get to know you, your practice and your ambitions.

View student work

Course structure

Year 1

In your first year, if you are a full time student, you will study: 

  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 1 
  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 2

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.


Credits: 40

Compulsory module

This module is your introduction to key conceptual, technical and material contexts that have informed drawing practices. Working with both traditional and digital tools you will develop your technical skills and apply them in your exploration of image creation. At the same time, you will begin assembling your portfolio of work and evaluate your emerging strengths through annotation, reflection and conversations with tutors and peers.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

This module is your introduction to the historical, social, political and material contexts that have informed historical and contemporary creative practices. Your journey begins during the Renaissance, continuing onto the formation of Academies and the increasing dominance of painting. You will then learn how the radical transformation of art in the 19th and 20th century broke down the barriers of craft and high art.

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

Develop your emerging voice as an illustrator and continue to build on your technical skills gained in semester one. Led by your emerging interests, you will begin to form your own visual language. You'll then consider how your work engages with different genres, audiences and forms of publishing, such as comics and zines. Throughout the module you'll document your processes, engage with peers and tutors, and use this as a tool to help you edit and develop your work further.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Artistic practice is presented in a variety of forms and contexts. You will explore the materials, technologies and cultural influences that have shaped the transformation of art, illustration and related practices. Topics you will cover in this exploration include equality, equity and diversity with a strong focus on how ethnicities, sexualities and abilities are represented within the subject.

Year 2

In your second year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 1 compulsory module across semesters 1 and 2
  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 1 
  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 2

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.


Credits: 30

Compulsory module

On this module you will build on the skills you learnt in your first year and start to make creative choices in line with your specific interests in the field of illustration. At the beginning of the module you will be presented with a project that asks you to collaborate with students who are studying different creative disciplines, such as Fine Art and Photography, to develop work for a specific audience. Collaboration is a key aspect of any creative and professional practice. You will reflect on how collaborative working impacts your creative decision making. Throughout this module you will explore your strengths and identify areas for development as an Illustration practitioner.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

As you develop your knowledge, ways of thinking and research skills, you will start to define your identity as a practitioner. You will develop your artistic practice through the philosophy of aesthetics and explore the ideas and concepts of thinkers such as:

  • Hélène Cixous
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Edmund Burke
  • Martin Heidegger
  • Gilles Deleuze
  • Jacques Derrida

Through exploring both historical and modern ideas, you will learn to form judgements based on research as well as enhancing your practice led vocabulary. Academic staff will set questions for you to investigate as groups by engaging with key works, concepts and methods.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Apply your practice and work on live projects within the arts sector, and start to form professional relationships with external organisations and clients. You will focus on your individual ambitions and gain confidence in communication within professional creative sectors. Networking may also help you to gain other opportunities for independent work-related learning or through a short placement. You will review your practice to find out what transferable skills you have beyond your subject specific skills.

Credits: 30

Compulsory module

This module will encourage you to refine your ideas and artistic interests which you have identified in other modules. Through this, you will continue to develop your specialism. You can choose whether to work with traditional techniques or digital software, whilst you also consider the audience and context for the work you create. By the end of this module, you will have developed your understanding of the realities of working in the illustration industry, started to build a professional network and created a professional online presence for your work.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

On this module you will develop your knowledge, ways of thinking and research skills that will be vital in your third year. Throughout the module you'll engage with issues that impact the sector and learn how to situate your studio work in the diverse world of creative practice. Issue and topics you may cover include:

  • The role of art and artists in the representation of mental health
  • The impact of the internet at its power to spread images and ideas
  • Contemporary culture and politics
  • Art in the age of the Anthropocene
  • Climate change

Credits: 10

Compulsory module*

This module is your opportunity to work on live projects within the creative industries. You will form professional relationships with external organisations or individuals and lays the foundations for the Professional Futures module in your 3rd year. As part of your professional experience, you will develop and build your CV and web presence, creating meaningful networks with fellow artists. By the end of the module you will be expected to have developed and completed a live project with an external stakeholder.

*This module is only offered to students who are studying abroad for one semester. Students will take this module during the semester they are not abroad and instead of the Professional Networks 20 credit module. 

Year 3

In your third year, if you are a full time student, you will study:

  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 1
  • 2 compulsory modules in semester 2

If you are a part time student, the modules above will be split over 2 years.

You can find out which modules are available in each semester on the Course Specifications.


Credits: 30

Compulsory module

Through experimentation, critique and reflection you will find your personal voice as a practitioner on this module. This module requires you to develop your portfolio and exhibit your work in at least one public exhibition. Engagement in the curation, marketing and discussion of your piece is essential so that you can demonstrate the purpose of your work. You will also consider how you communicate to the public audience and test out ideas in preparation for your Degree Show module.

Credits: 30

Compulsory module

Your Dissertation is a written analytical piece that will support your understanding of your studio practice. Your area of enquiry may come from fine art, illustration, photography, film, television, curating or arts education. You are encouraged to pursue a topic that is relevant to your work or career path, as this will help you to develop your degree show and life beyond graduation. The research process will also include a presentation of your work in progress. This will help you to develop clear and concise public speaking skills which will enhance your employability.

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

During this module you will develop your independent body of work and build on your strengths identified in the Advanced Studio module. You will learn how to place your work within the contemporary art world. This module is exhibition focused and you will have the opportunity to try out new ideas. By experimenting using practice-led research you will receive constructive feedback to help you develop toward your final major exhibition.

Credits: 20

Compulsory module

Apply your skills, knowledge and experience to a professional direction and get ready for your graduate professional practice. During this module you will choose areas of interest to develop your knowledge to help you plan a future direction for your practice. Areas of development may include:

  • Curatorial practice
  • Editorial practice
  • Publishing
  • Socially and politically engaged practice
  • Working in education
  • Entrepreneurial working

Teaching and assessment

Teaching and learning

We deliver your modules through:

  • Tutorials
  • Practical workshops
  • Group critiques
  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Studio demonstrations

Each module has 3 to 6 of contact time a week. We schedule our taught sessions between 9.00am and 8.00pm, Monday to Friday.

You will need to conduct independent study outside of this time. This might include creative exploration, reading, writing tasks and research. You can also arrange individual tutorials with your module tutors throughout the semester to receive feedback on your work and discuss the course content.

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.


There are no exams on this course. Assessment types vary from module to module. Some of your assessments might include:

  • Portfolios of work
  • Sketchbooks and developmental work
  • Exhibitions
  • Research reports
  • Essays
  • Personal critiques and reflections
  • Presentations

On each module you will receive ongoing feedback on your work from staff and fellow students. This will help you reflect and refine your work before your final submission or exhibition at the end of the module. Each assessment will be marked and returned with feedback so you can improve your work.

Career outcomes

Your future with a degree in Illustration

On this course you will gain the specialist creative and practical skills you need to pursue a career in illustration. You will also build skills in communication, independent working and collaboration that can lead to a range of other creative roles.

This degree could be the first step toward your career as a:

  • Illustrator
  • Storyboard artist
  • Editor
  • Artist
  • Printmaker
  • Graphic designer

Discover more career options on Prospects careers advice pages.

You could also progress onto a postgraduate degree and take your learning even further.

Postgraduate degrees at York St John University

Illustration MFA

MA by Research

PGCE at York St John University

Further your education and work towards a rewarding career in teaching by studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) after you graduate. For over 180 years, we have worked with enthusiastic individuals who want to shape the future of young people across both primary and secondary school settings. You'll spend a lot of time in schools, developing your practice by teaching. You will graduate with Qualified Teacher Status and become part of the well respected alumni of York St John educators.

Discover more about PGCE

Whatever your ambitions, we can help you get there.

Our careers service, LaunchPad provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice

This support doesn't end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain experience and confidence to succeed.

Entry requirements


Minimum entry requirements

    104 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language.

Calculate your UCAS Tariff points

International students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Portfolio Day

If your application is successful, you will be invited to a portfolio day. On the day, you will show your work to our tutors and discuss your work and the ideas behind it. You should prepare your portfolio with a range of work that may include finished projects, sketch books, digital work, paintings, photographs, drawings, 3D work, storyboards, short films or animations.

Mature Learners Entry Scheme

If you have been out of education for 3 years or more and have a grade C GCSE in English Language or equivalent, you are eligible for our entry scheme for mature learners. It's a scheme that recognises non-traditional entry qualifications and experience for entry onto this course. Information on how to apply can be found on our dedicated page.

Mature entry offer scheme

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK, or internationally (outside the UK). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry onto this course is:

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time

These prices apply to all UK, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page:

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

Tuition fees

    UK 2024 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2024 entry £11,500 per year full time

International 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry to this course is £11,500 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a Student Visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your degree:

International fees and funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

Course-related costs

While studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

For detailed information on accommodation and living costs, visit our Accommodation pages.

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

For advice on everything from applying for scholarships to finding additional financial support email

Course highlights

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