Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

BA Illustration

UCAS code: W220

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Illustration

"To make clear, to explain or elucidate by means of pictures, to cast light upon..."

These words seek to define illustration, which is an element within the architecture of the page. Illustration encompasses form, colour, line, composition and pictorial space. The idea of the page embraces a variety of actual and virtual formats, and it reflects the evolving nature of the contemporary art, design and publishing industries.

Illustrations are seen in many settings, illuminating a range of printed material, advertising, graphic and web design, packaging, periodicals, books and more. Contemporary practice includes the theatre, music, television, museum-related work and exhibitions. We teach drawing and image-making from a broad methodology including observation, perception and literary interpretation.

You will be guided through a range of themes and briefs, to visualise your ideas and texts towards individual ways of seeing. An Illustration philosophy includes intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities, allied to practical methods within evolving disciplines of the graphic arts. As such, this builds upon the energy and application of those who study, teach, and those who instruct students in reaching their full potential.

As a part of this process, we collaborate with publishers, designers and writers. There are both academic and live briefs. Illustration provides an education as well as a preparation for professional life. Our studio environment is vital and creative as a space in which to explore perception, imagination, and the visual interpretation of texts.

Our illustration students study a challenging academic programme which encapsulates contemporary practice, its historical contexts, and aspects of professional applications.

A series of projects will enhance your awareness of these elements, and will introduce collaborative working and interdisciplinary connections. Integrated with the practical studio work, Design & 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, initially through a series of shared projects, leading to more focused, subject-specific outcomes. In Design & Screen Cultures you will address the key histories and theories of design.

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 ECA. The remaining 40 credits can be taken from within ECA, the College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, or from the wider University, subject to availability and discussion with your Personal Tutor and relevant course organisers.

Year 2

Basic principles, theories, working practices and technical instruction will be covered in set projects and practical exercises.

A range of themes will be covered in varying scales, formats and complexities. This work demands imaginative solutions, research skills and technical facility. You will begin to assemble a portfolio of work made for set briefs and self-initiated work in various media.

Alongside Design & Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose option courses from across the University, subject to availability.

Year 3

An externally facing professional practice year where there are various opportunities for exchange, competitions and live projects.

Projects will encapsulate pictorial narrative, documentary work, observational drawing, web design and artist's books. A creative approach is strongly supported by emphasis of the importance of drawing as a method of expression, analysis and explanation. You will have opportunities to work on commercially focused projects, produce print work and take part in industry visits.

Alongside Design & Screen Cultures courses, option courses are available from within the wider College and opportunities for study abroad will help broaden your understanding of the discipline.

Year 4

This gives opportunity for self-initiated projects as well as set briefs. You will feel confident about your ability to express ideas, opinions and concerns in your work. In addition, you will produce a written dissertation.

Projects allow for greater exploration and you will identify direction and stylistic approaches towards a completed body of final-year work. Competitions and live projects will enhance your awareness of professional practice as well as the illustrator's role in the field of contemporary art & design.

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 (2019/20)

Our facilities

You will be allocated a work-space within open-plan studios. Briefings, small group seminars, critiques and tutorials also take place in the studios.

Life Drawing, Book-binding, Book Arts and Printmaking utilise various other studios and workshops.


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

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 & 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 arrived at through this summative assessment plus a moderation process.

Our programmes have strong industrial pathways to ensure the most successful and meaningful careers for graduates. We boast a vibrant alumni network and strong links with the cultural and creative sector across Scotland and beyond. The University Careers Service offers exceptional support throughout your time with us.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5. If you haven’t achieved this by the end of S5 we may consider your application based on a strong performance in S6. A minimum of BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points (grades 655 at HL).

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6, with a minimum of BBB achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points (grades 655 at HL).

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5: English at grade C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at grade C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at grade 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. The deadline for mini-portfolio submission is 12 pm midday GMT on 28 January 2020 and late mini-portfolio submissions will not be accepted.

Portfolio guidance

Important dates

  • 2 December 2019: mini-portfolio submissions site opens

  • 15 January 2020: UCAS deadline for Home/EU applicants

  • 28 January 2020 at 12 pm (midday): mini-portfolio submission deadline

  • 30 June 2020: final deadline for UCAS applications from applicants from outside the EU.

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 grade A (or DM plus B at A Level).

  • Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at grade 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 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 programmes it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These grades must have been achieved in 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 Grade C

  • SQA Standard Grade 3

  • SQA Intermediate 1 Grade A

  • SQA Intermediate 2 Grade C

  • GCSE Grade C or 4

  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C

  • IB Standard Level Grade 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 92 or above with 20 in each section

  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component

  • PTE Academic: Total 61 with at least 51 in each "Communicative Skills" section

  • 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 programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

(Revised 05/06/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

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 Illustration

Additional costs

There are likely to be additional costs for materials. The Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) shop provides most materials needed for the academic year. An indicative budget for studio expenses is £200 for the year.

Additionally, there are printing costs, for digital reproduction and the visualisation of projects, this is estimated at £100 over two semesters. In addition, some programmes offer study trips and individual field-based projects. You will usually be required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs.

Your actual contribution will depend on the programme and courses you select and on the nature 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