Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

BA Product Design

UCAS code: W240

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Product Design

Product design is about understanding people, questioning existing ways of doing things and seeing opportunities for innovative products that will enrich quality of life. You will explore cutting-edge research, design and practical methods used at the forefront of the discipline.

Our mission is to ensure that you develop your own approach to design and that you gain the necessary creative, technical, thinking and interpersonal skills to become a highly employable graduate, entrepreneur or thought leader. We believe in cultivating empathic, experimental and provocative designers with strong interpersonal and communication skills; flexible design thinkers, able to explore social, economic and environmental contexts and opportunities for the design of original, useful and thought-provoking products.

Across a suite of courses you will explore making, thinking and designing through a variety of materials and technologies, informed by thought-provoking briefs.

Themes engage with contemporary issues such as the circular economy and sustainability, as well as near future challenges including synthetic biology and the internet of things.

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

Our lecturers and technicians are highly skilled as makers and researchers, and together we support students to develop new ways of manipulating materials while understanding the needs of people and the environment.

The professional skills and abilities developed on the programme prepare our graduates for a rewarding career in the creative industries, in which many of our alumni are leading practitioners.

Year 1

Through a combination of compulsory courses from product design and Design and Screen Cultures you will be introduced to fundamental skills required to develop successful designs.

You will be able to take up to 60 credits of option courses, either within ECA, or across the wider College, subject to availability and discussion with your Personal Tutor and relevant course organisers.

This offers you the flexibility to construct a suite of courses that reflects your interests and enhances your main study.

Compulsory courses further extend knowledge and expertise in product design. Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose option courses from across the wider University, subject to availability.

Through group projects you will develop team-working skills and have the opportunity to meet and learn from students in other year groups in product design and across the wider School.

Through Design and Screen Cultures lectures, seminars and critical debate you will learn about design history, visual and cultural theory and contemporary design practice, developing your understanding of design in a wider context.

Year 2

Compulsory courses further extend knowledge and expertise in product design. Alongside Design and Screen Cultures courses, you will be able to choose option courses from across the wider University, subject to availability.

Project briefs will introduce more complex knowledge and skills including advanced workshop prototyping and making, computer-aided design and rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, materials and manufacturing processes, product assembly, methods of design ethnography, sustainability, brand awareness, and critical thinking.

A series of design projects enable you to practice and develop your skills, introducing a variety of approaches to product design and associated commercial considerations.

Further Design and Screen Cultures lectures, seminars and critical debates will enable you to learn more about visual and cultural theory and contemporary design research and design practice. Your understanding of design in a wider context and the ability to plan and structure design writing will be further developed.

Year 3

This year's courses extend the sophistication of the project briefs, with courses beginning to expect you to develop your identity as a designer. Projects delve deeper into smart products and how software and hardware is changing what we know about the internet of things, while subjects such as synthetic biology offer a rich context to explore moral and ethical questions for designing with living organisms.

Options for elective courses are more limited but still available from within design and the wider University.

You will also have the opportunity to apply for optional study abroad to one of our exchange partner design programmes in universities in Europe and North America. Study abroad can help you to learn about new cultures, meet new people, develop international networks, and develop an understanding of design from a new perspective. Support with applying for either industry internships or exchange study is provided by the School.

Whether on exchange study or undertaking industry-led design projects at ECA, you will continue to build your design portfolio and are provided with guidance and support from staff to help refine your portfolio and CV, prepare for interviews and make applications for a summer internship.

Year 4

Aligned with a thorough understanding of product design, you will define your approaches to develop major projects.

Projects will enable you to demonstrate to potential employers an ability to use research to recognise unique design opportunities, an ability to define a design brief and a design specification, to plan and manage concurrent projects, and to employ critical thinking skills and essential knowledge of the product design process.

A written dissertation enables you to undertake research into a topic of personal interest, to learn more about planning and structuring design writing and to further enhance written communication skills.

To help you achieve your goals, you will receive teaching, guidance, support and advice from experienced and dedicated practicing product designers and researchers.

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 teaching takes place off the Lauriston campus, across the Central Area of the University, depending on room availability. Students have access to workshops ranging from electronics and digital fabrication to traditional crafts and glass blowing facilities.

Elective 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.

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.

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 arrived at 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)

We are committed to providing you with enhanced career prospects and the ability to achieve at the highest level. Graduates are professionally vital and well-informed, and are able to enter the design industry with a fresh approach and the flexibility and adaptability necessary to respond to changes in the job market. A range of career opportunities enable graduates to apply their knowledge and experience of the design process and their considerable skills.

Graduates typically join a design consultancy or a product development team within a company, however the wide range of skills developed on the programme enable graduates to work in diverse careers such as user interface design, user experience design, interaction design, service design, design research, design ethnography, design management, model making, packaging design, marketing, retail design, exhibition design, multimedia, 3D printing, computer-aided design. Graduates with a particular interest in designing and making often establish their own practice.

Through project work students will build the project planning, project management and design development skills needed to work independently in the industry. Our strong industry links mean that you will have the opportunity, especially in Year 3, to gain valuable experience working as part of a team on a collaborative, industry-led, 'live' project brief.

You are encouraged to undertake industry placements, which further build upon knowledge and understanding of the professional practice of design. Through these industry project and placement experiences you will develop the professional and collaborative skills required to gain positions in industry.

Our graduates have a strong track record of employment in design jobs within six months of completing their studies. Some graduates choose to expand their knowledge and application of design research through postgraduate study.

Our contacts within industry, built through industry-linked projects and staff research, and our range of visiting speakers, ensure that graduates are aware of the full range of career possibilities and are provided with a strong footing from which to develop their chosen career.

Graduates of the programme can be found working in a wide range of companies including Microsoft, SusTrans, NCR, Philips, RBS, NMS, Herman Miller, Habitat, Zara Home, Viaduct, Isu, Blue Marmalade, MOO, Bodo Sperlein, Optoplast Actman Eyewear, SGS International, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, In the Design Lab, Peebles CAN, 4S Technologies, Martha Stewart Living, Sirona Event and Promotions, Tayburn, HSBC, Unilever, 1508 London, Lakeland, OB Sports, Me:Mo Interactive, IKEA, Mike Stoane Lighting, and many more.

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 Product Design

Additional costs

There are likely to be additional costs for materials.

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 selected 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