Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

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 has a continuously expanding visual vocabulary. It sorts and differentiates, it informs and promotes.

The process is purposeful and offers huge potential for a variety of creative endeavours.

Balancing pre-determined project parameters alongside personal expression is the exciting mix of this subject, as is 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 and culturally, ethically and historically aware. They should also show openness, understanding and receptivity.

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 to produce 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 the holistic nature of contemporary design.

Year 1

Compulsory courses

Compulsory courses in graphic design and typography 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.

Option courses

You will be able to take up to 60 credits of option courses from ECA or across the wider university.

These offer you the flexibility to construct a suite of courses that:

  • reflects your interests
  • enhances your main study


In Year 1 on most programmes you will study:

  • 60 credits of compulsory courses in your chosen subject area
  • 60 credits of option courses, 20 credits of which must be taken from outside Design

Option course choices are normally made up of three 20 credit courses. Your course choices are subject to availability and discussion with your Personal Tutor and relevant course organisers.

Year 2

Compulsory courses

This year you will study compulsory courses in:

  • applied graphic design
  • typography
  • Design and Screen Cultures

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

In graphic design and typography you will:

  • explore the creative potential of design
  • explore 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.

Option courses

You will also have opportunities to choose option courses from across the wider university.

Year 3

Year 3 is an externally facing professional practice year. You will have a range of opportunities through compulsory courses in:

  • research and practice
  • externality
  • design agency

Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses you can also choose an option course from across the wider university, subject to availability.

Externally-facing activities may include:

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

Year 4

In your Year 4 compulsory courses you work on:

  • set and self-initiated projects
  • design agency
  • theoretical underpinning

This all leads to an end of year show of your body of work. You will also produce a written dissertation.

You will explore the process of design in greater depth, addressing the cycle of analysis, interpretation, trial solution and resolution.

This final honours year allows for focused exploration and consolidation. It encourages you to identify and plan your own personal 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 (2021/22)

Our facilities

Design students benefit from:

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

Some Design and Screen Cultures teaching takes place in the University Central Area, depending on room availability.

Option courses are usually taught outside the School across the wider university campus. You will also have access to the University's extensive libraries, computing and 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.

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

We see research, critical thinking, and study of the visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative design practice as essential to your development.

These elements are taught through Design and Screen Cultures courses. This also involves participation in exhibitions, competitions, collaborations and live industry projects.

How will I be assessed?

We use continuous formative assessment throughout your study. This helps 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 and creative progress and 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 leave to become valuable members of a graphic design community locally, nationally and internationally.

Our programme's industry-led projects, staff research and contacts help you build extensive links with the professional world. This, coupled with a range of visiting lecturers and mentors, means graduates are aware of career possibilities in graphic design and related fields.

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 own 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 of 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 mini-portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

Portfolio guidance

Important dates

Dates for the opening of the mini-portfolio submission site, and deadlines for submission, will be posted in March 2021.

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

(Revised 25/05/2021 to provide more accurate information and link to further details.)

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


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
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade 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 module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

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

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

English language requirements

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 indicated costs here are approximate and largely dependent on project outcomes as determined by students themselves.

Materials, printing and project costs

Additional costs for the programme include:

  • spend on pens, pencils, cutting tools, sketchbooks and other materials
  • printing and workshop costs
  • project or course trip costs in Year 3 and 4

For these, we estimate a spend of 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 cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs.

Your actual contribution will depend on:

  • the projects or courses undertaken
  • the nature and location of each trip

Degree Show and awards show costs

In the final year you will have:

  • your Degree Show
  • the opportunity to showcase work at the Design & Art Direction (D&AD) New Blood awards in London

Your Degree Show will entail extra production costs. Again these will depend on your individual needs.

If you want to showcase your work at D&AD New Blood in London, the minimum cost is £250 (plus travel, accommodation and subsistence).


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