Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Illustration MA

Awards: MA

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Illustration

Postgraduate study in illustration reflects the diversity of the subject and the opportunities that exist in areas such as:

  • publishing
  • advertising
  • graphic and web design
  • theatre
  • television
  • art galleries
  • museums

Who is this for?

We welcome applicants with a variety of approaches to Illustration, from both academic and professional backgrounds.

You will be encouraged to explore various forms of practice, with support from accomplished and respected staff.

All staff have understanding, professional experience and skills in this field of art & design.


You will have access to:

  • excellent individual working spaces
  • a drawing studio
  • extensive printmaking resources
  • other workshops on the ECA campus and wider University
  • life drawing classes
  • book-arts workshops
  • field trips


The programme also includes working with writers, designers and publishers in collaboration and on live briefs.

Many of our postgraduates have their work published and our set projects evolve from year to year. These reflect contemporary developments in illustration and the graphic arts. For example, students have made work for:

  • the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh Filmhouse
  • the ECA Bookmarks symposium

In the studios, your work will be concerned with:

  • storytelling
  • documenting current events
  • fiction and non-fiction
  • visual complements to literature
  • authorial illustration

You will be encouraged to take part in national and international competitions, to join the ranks of those who have exhibited and won prizes in events such as:

  • the V&A Student Illustration Awards
  • AOI
  • Image Nation
  • Folio Society
  • Penguin Book Awards
  • 3x3
  • Batsford
  • D&AD briefs

Illustration offers an excellent opportunity for independent, focused study.

This is a fertile field of the creative arts, with many facets in contemporary print media and digital communications.

You will:

  • produce a body of practical and written work on an agreed topic
  • carry out self-directed projects which are connected to set projects, workshops and collaborations throughout the year
  • combine practical studio work with theory and written studies, including professional practice, in preparation for industry employment
  • engage with the wider context of your studies through lectures and seminars presented by contemporary artists, illustrators and designers
  • work to a brief and develop an individual portfolio
  • be provided with individual workspace in a shared studio
  • work alongside an international group of illustrators at a level that reflects a global sense of identity and ambition

Each course presents a set of three learning outcomes, to which students may gauge their progress.

Oral and written feedback gives direction and academic guidance for a variety of approaches to Illustration. 

Graduates explore an exciting and diverse range of careers. Many go on to work in a leading agency, or as:

  • picture book illustrators
  • designers
  • freelance illustrators
  • artists
  • craftsmen

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

Normally a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in illustration or a related subject that gives appropriate grounding for postgraduate study.

You should demonstrate knowledge of the subject and its contemporary practice.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. Your portfolio should contain examples of work that show an understanding and level of skill appropriate to the postgraduate study of illustration, including:

  • observational drawing

  • colour, line, composition

  • idea development

  • awareness of narrative image-making and sequential image-making

  • awareness of print and applications of digital media

  • awareness of the professional practice and the cultural context of historical and contemporary illustration

Applicants from a wide range of academic backgrounds have successfully studied MA and MFA Illustration. If you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we may still consider your application on the basis of your portfolio and/or relevant professional experience.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

There may be small additional costs that are required throughout the year for things such as print materials and gallery entrance.

Field trips are designed with as low a budget as possible. These are optional but encouraged, and are always hugely rewarding.

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Director, Fionnuala Doran
  • Phone: +44 (0)131
  • Contact:
  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please be aware that applications must be submitted and be complete, i.e. all required documents uploaded, by the relevant application deadline in order to be considered in that round. Your application will still be considered if you have not yet met the English language requirement for the programme.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 06 November 2023 14 December 2023
2 08 January 2024 29 February 2024
3 20 March 2024 10 May 2024
4 14 June 2024 24 July 2024

(Revised 18 October 2023 to add in the staged admissions deadlines for the 2024/25 academic year)

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. You won't be able to submit your portfolio immediately, but you'll receive an email prompt within a few days of submitting your application that will explain how to upload your portfolio.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Programme Director, Fionnuala Doran
  • Phone: +44 (0)131
  • Contact:
  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU