Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BA Graphic Design

UCAS code: W210

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Graphic Design

Graphic design at Edinburgh involves:

  • balancing project guidelines with personal expression
  • the interchange of traditional and contemporary technologies

Our approach

Graphic design must:

  • challenge the status quo
  • cross boundaries
  • think backwards from the future
  • develop powerful and novel solutions

Designers should be:

  • observant
  • culturally, ethically and historically aware
  • open
  • understanding
  • receptive

At Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) we encourage bold, lateral thinking and understanding of process, technique and business.

Through intense, sustained involvement with the design process, we support you in producing a design that is:

  • innovative
  • emotive
  • enduring
  • aesthetic

Design and Screen Cultures

Design and Screen Cultures courses will be integrated with your practical studio work. These give you a contextual and theoretical understanding of contemporary design.

Year 1

Compulsory courses

Compulsory courses in graphic design and typography and our course Design Agency Intern will:

  • cover the theoretical and practical concepts of design
  • introduce the concept of the graphic designer as an observer, thinker and visual translator
  • allow you to apply basic design principles
  • build your practical and technical knowledge of the discipline

In Design and Screen Cultures you will address the key histories and theories of design.

Optional courses

You will be able to take up to 40 credits of optional courses from ECA or across the wider University.

You should select a combination of courses that:

  • reflect your interests
  • enhance your main study


In Year 1 you will study:

  • 80 credits of compulsory courses in your chosen subject area
  • 40 credits of optional courses

Optional courses normally have 20 credits each.

Your course choices are subject to availability and discussion with your student adviser and relevant course organisers.

Year 2

Compulsory courses

This year you will study compulsory courses including:

  • Design Agency Junior
  • Applied Graphic Design
  • Applied Typography 2
  • Design and Screen Cultures

Through these courses, you will explore graphic design principles, theories and working practices.

In graphic design, typography and Design Agency Junior you will:

  • explore the creative potential of design
  • apply new methods of seeing and thinking to find alternative design solutions
  • cover digital and analogue methods through teaching, projects and exercises

Our Applied Typography course reinforces the terminology, rules and guidelines, philosophies and theories of typography through historical and contemporary perspectives.

Optional courses

You will also have the opportunity to other courses from across the wider University.

Year 3

Year 3 is a professional practice year with an external focus. You will have a range of opportunities through compulsory courses, such as:

  • Design Agency Senior
  • 48 Hour Survival Guide
  • Research and Practice
  • Externality

Optional courses

Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you can also choose an optional course from across the wider University, depending on availability.

Externally-facing activities

Externally-facing activities may include:

  • periods of exchange
  • internships
  • live projects/competitions
  • exhibitions

Year 4

In your Year 4 compulsory courses you will work on set and self-initiated projects, as well as theoretical underpinning. These will include:

  • Research and Practice
  • Design Agency Creative Director
  • Design and Screen Cultures 4
  • Exposition

This all leads to an end-of-year show of your body of work.

You will also complete a written dissertation.

You will explore the process of design in greater depth, addressing the cycle of:

  • analysis
  • interpretation
  • trial solution
  • resolution

This final honours year allows for focused exploration and consolidation. It encourages you to identify and plan your direction with which to seamlessly enter the professional world upon graduation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

Design students benefit from:

  • studio-based learning at our Lauriston Place campus
  • exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college

Some design and screen cultures teaching takes place in the University's Central Area, depending on room availability.

Optional courses are usually taught outside the school across the wider University campus. You will also have access to the University's:

  • extensive libraries
  • computing facilities
  • technical facilities, such as the print workshop

Investing in our learning environment

The University is investing in the Edinburgh College of Art estate and facilities. This will further develop our supportive, stimulating and sustainable learning and research environment.

You can find out more on the ECA website.

Facilities and resources at ECA


We support and encourage you to explore internships during your holiday period.

In Year 3 we also offer a work-based learning course with credits that count towards your study. The course is open to anyone in the School of Design.

Study abroad

Study abroad is optional in Year 3.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most design teaching and learning is through involvement in a range of experiential courses situated in a studio environment.

Conceptual, material and technical issues are explored through:

  • seminars
  • workshops
  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • critiques

Your development is influenced by research and critical thinking, as well as the following contexts that shape creative design practice:

  • visual
  • intellectual
  • social
  • professional

These elements involve participation in:

  • exhibitions
  • competitions
  • collaborations
  • live industry projects

How will I be assessed?

We use continuous formative assessment throughout your study. This helps us give meaningful feedback and encourages experimentation in the studio and beyond.

Formative assessment for compulsory courses can include:

  • portfolio
  • presentations
  • essays against course learning outcomes

There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any course you study.

Summative assessment at the end of all courses is informed by your:

  • academic progress
  • creative progress
  • performance throughout

Your course grades are calculated through this summative assessment plus a moderation process.

Graphic design graduates work in a wide range of creative careers. The variety of skills and approaches you learn on our programme can be applied to many disciplines.

Typically graduates become valuable members of a graphic design community locally, nationally and internationally.

We produce graduates who are aware of career possibilities in graphic design and related fields. Our programme enables students to build extensive links with the professional world through:

  • industry-led projects
  • staff research
  • staff contacts
  • visiting lecturers and mentors

Career paths

Career paths include:

  • digital design
  • retail design or packaging
  • interaction, exhibition or experiential design
  • advertising and marketing
  • design for print
  • design research
  • multimedia
  • design management
  • education

Most graduates seek employment within a design studio.

Others choose to:

  • set up as freelancers
  • start their own business
  • study at postgraduate level

Design Agency project

The Design Agency project is specific to our undergraduate programme. In 2013, the scheme won a Guardian University Award for Employability.

This flagship initiative enables our students to:

  • graduate with an honours degree
  • gain three years of work experience, which is important for this industry

How the project works

Each year, senior students have the opportunity to form their design agencies. They create their own brand for the agency and advertise vacancies at all levels, from interns to senior designers. Students in junior years are interviewed and appointed to these roles.

The project offers a rare opportunity for students across all year groups, from a University programme, to work together. This peer feedback is invaluable.

Within Design Agency, students work collectively towards a common objective based on ability, regardless of age or experience.

Edinburgh-based design agencies act as 'mentor partners' to the student agencies and support them with the many client-led live briefs they work on.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements


Applicants will be asked to submit a digital portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

For more information about the portfolio, visit the Edinburgh College of Art website at the link below and scroll to the section titled ‘Application Process’.

Graphic Design application process

Portfolio technical support and specification

Important dates

  • 1 December 2024: portfolio submission site opens.
  • 29 January 2025: deadline for all applicants (including international applicants).
  • 4 February 2025 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: portfolio submission deadline.

BTEC/UAL Diplomas

Applicants studying Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Art and Design will be considered for entry with the following:

  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma with DMM.
  • Pearson BTEC Diploma with MM plus one A Level at A (or DM plus B at A Level).
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at B (or M plus AB at A Level).

Applicants studying the University of the Arts London Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design will be considered with Merit.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants with a Foundation Diploma will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the first year entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB, relevant HNC, etc). In some of our less competitive degrees it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These must have been achieved in one set of exams, at first attempt.

A list of accepted HNDs, along with further information for adult returners, can be found on our adult returner page:

Adult returner applicants

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 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 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BA Graphic Design

Additional costs

The costs shown here are estimated. Your costs will depend on how you decide to complete your projects.

Materials, printing and project costs

Additional costs for the programme include:

  • pens, pencils, cutting tools, sketchbooks and other materials
  • printing and workshops
  • project or course trip in Years 3 and 4

For these, we estimate you will spend around:

  • £100 in Year 1
  • £100 in Year 2
  • £200 in Year 3
  • £250 in Year 4

For optional study trips or field-based projects, you will normally need to pay for accommodation, subsistence and travel costs.

The actual amount you will pay depends on:

  • the projects or courses you choose to complete
  • the nature and location of each trip

Graduate Show and awards show costs

In the final year, your Graduate Show will include extra production costs. These will depend on your individual needs.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding