Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

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.

Graphic design must challenge the status quo, cross boundaries, think backwards from the future and develop powerful and novel solutions. Designers should be observant and culturally, ethically and historically aware to show openness, understanding and receptivity.

At Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) we encourage bold, lateral thinking and understanding of process, technique and business, to produce innovative, emotive, enduring and aesthetic design through intense, sustained involvement with the design process.

Integrated with the practical studio work, Design and Screen Cultures courses provide a contextual and theoretical understanding of the holistic nature of contemporary design.

Year 1

You will be introduced to the theoretical and practical concepts of design through compulsory courses in graphic design, and typography. In Design and Screen Cultures you will address the key histories and theories of design.

The graphic design and typography courses will introduce you to the concept of the graphic designer as an observer, thinker and visual translator. These courses will allow you to apply basic design principles and acquire practical and technical knowledge of the discipline.

You will be able to take up to 60 credits of option courses, either within ECA, or across the wider College, offering you the flexibility to construct a suite of courses that reflects your interests and enhances your main study.

In Year 1, 20 credits of these must be taken out with Design. The remaining 40 credits can be taken from within ECA, the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, or from the wider University, subject to availability and discussion with your Personal Tutor and relevant course organisers.

Year 2

You will explore graphic design principles, theories and working practices through compulsory courses in applied graphic design, typography and Design and Screen Cultures. There will also be opportunities to choose option courses from across the University.

Within graphic design and typography the creative potential of design is covered. These courses encourage you to explore new methods of seeing and thinking in order to stimulate the creation of alternative solutions to the discipline. Digital and analogue instruction will be covered in set projects and exercises.

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

Again, alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose option courses from across the wider University, subject to availability.

Year 3

Year 3 is an externally facing professional practice year where there is a range of opportunities through compulsory courses in research and practice, externality, and design agency.

Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses there will also be opportunities to choose an option course from across the wider University, subject to availability.

Externally-facing activities may typically include periods of exchange, internships, live projects/competitions, and exhibitions.

Year 4

Within the Year 4 compulsory courses you will work on set and self-initiated projects, design agency and theoretical underpinning, finally leading to an end of year exposition 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 and will enable 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 (2020/21)

Our facilities

Design students benefit from studio-based learning at our Lauriston Place campus, along with the exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college.

Some Design and Screen Cultures teaching takes place off the Lauriston campus, across the Central Area of the University, 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.

The University is investing in the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) estate and facilities to further develop our flexible, stimulating, supportive and sustainable learning and research environment for students and staff.

Further information is available on the ECA website.

Facilities and resources at ECA


Students are supported and encouraged to explore internships during their holiday period.

As part of our programme, we offer students a credit bearing Work Based Learning course as an option in Year 3. This is open for 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?

The majority of 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 and critiques.

Research, critical thinking and study of the visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative design practice are regarded as essential to your development, elements of which 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?

Formative assessment is continuous throughout the year, aiming to give you meaningful feedback against learning outcomes, and to encourage experimentation in the studio and beyond.

Formative assessment for compulsory courses is through a mix of verbal and written modes such as portfolio, presentations and essays against course learning outcomes. There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any given course you study.

Summative assessment at the end of all the courses you take is informed by your academic and creative progress and performance throughout. Your course grades are calculated through this summative assessment plus a moderation process.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from 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 details (2020/21)

Graphic Design graduates work in a wide range of creative career paths. The variety of projects, approaches and opportunities on the programme enable graduates to apply their knowledge and experience of the design process and their considerable skills to many disciplines.

Typically graduates leave to become valuable members of a graphic design community locally, nationally and internationally. There are extensive links with the professional world built through industry-led projects, staff research and contacts. This coupled with a range of visiting lecturers and mentors ensures graduates are aware of career possibilities within and around the field.

Previous career paths have included experiential design, packaging, advertising, digital design, design for print, interaction design, exhibition design, design research, marketing, retail design, multimedia, design management, and education.

Most graduates seek employment within a design studio, some freelance, others establish their own business and to a lesser degree some students continue their studies at postgraduate level.

Design Agency project

A specific scheme within the undergraduate programme is the Design Agency project which, in 2013, won a Guardian University Award for Employability.

Design Agency is a flagship initiative that enables graphic design students to graduate with an honours degree and, more importantly for this industry, three years of work experience.

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, for which students in junior years are interviewed and appointed.

It is rare that students work across all different year groups of a university programme and the rewards that are gained from peer feedback are undoubted. 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*

  • 1 December 2020: mini-portfolio submission site opens
  • 29 January 2021: UCAS has extended their application deadline to 6pm UK time on Friday 29 January. We have therefore moved our deadline for all UK applicants to the 29 January as well.
  • 9 February 2021 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: mini-portfolio submission deadline. This deadline has been extended in line with the UCAS date.
  • 30 June 2021: final deadline for UCAS applications from applicants from outside the UK and Ireland.

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.

*(Revised 25 September 2020 to add mini-portfolio deadlines. Revised 12 January 2021 to extend application and mini-portfolio deadlines.)

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 will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB 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.

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

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

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

Year 1: approximately £100 for basic graphic materials such as pens, pencils, cutting tools, paper, ruler, sketchbooks, portable USB stick, printing and print workshop costs.

Year 2: approximately £100 for basic graphic materials such as pens, pencils, cutting tools, paper, ruler, sketchbooks, portable USB stick, printing and print workshop costs.

Year 3: approximately £200 for materials, printing, print workshop costs and trips pertaining to projects/courses undertaken.

Year 4: approximately £250 for materials, printing, print workshop costs and trips pertaining to projects undertaken.

Your Degree Show will entail extra production costs and again this will vary dependent on your individual needs.

Final year students are given the opportunity to showcase their work at D&AD New Blood in London; and costs to participate are a minimum of £250 (plus travel, accommodation and subsistence).

In addition, for all students, we have optional study trips and individual field-based projects/trips. You will usually be required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs. Your actual contribution will depend on the project/courses undertaken and on the nature and location of each trip.


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