Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: Design

Why choose Design at the University of Edinburgh?

  • You’ll benefit from talks and workshops from visiting professional practitioners and will take part in exhibitions, industry competitions and live projects that will help you to prepare for professional practice.

  • Our studio and workshop spaces range from the historic to the contemporary, with specialist spaces for making work at all scales and across all media.

  • Our graduates qualify ready for industry, with the confidence to establish themselves as independent designers, creatives or makers.

  • Our staff are highly respected designers and researchers, and leaders in their field.

  • The Edinburgh University Students’ Association Award for Best Course 2016/17 was awarded to Edinburgh College of Art for our innovative course ‘Music, Style, Identity and Image’.

  • Our exciting new curriculum means you’ll have the opportunity to select option courses in Years 1 and 2 of your programme.

Study abroad

The freedom you’re given with projects to interpret briefs and tailor them to your own style, concept and imagination is one of the things I’ve enjoyed most.

Callum Miller 3rd year BA (Hons) Performance Costume
Callum Miller 3rd year BA (Hons) Performance Costume

We aim to develop cross-disciplinary methods and approaches to people and culture that equip you to design excellence into people's lives. This is about both designing artefacts and understanding the world around us. Our design vision and ideas lie within a global framework of design and how people wish to live their lives.

We encourage you to articulate innovative and sustainable creative visions and identities. We educate problem-solvers and opportunity-seekers. Our graduates will become designers, thinkers and makers who will positively shape the world.

A distinctive aspect of your study here is the flexibility of choice of pathway which you can choose in Years 1 and 2. We believe innovation within design practice will not solely originate within discipline specific study but instead design will develop through its relationship to other fields of study and inquiry.

Our curriculum allows for flexibility of choice in Years 1 and 2 with specific in- depth study in design practice in subsequent years.

Year 1

You will be introduced to the theoretical and fundamental practical methods of design, following a balanced programme that includes compulsory courses in your chosen subject and within Design & Screen Cultures.

On the majority of programmes you will study 60 credits of compulsory courses within your chosen area and 60 credits will be open to your choice of options, nominally made up of three 20-credit courses. These can be taken from within ECA, or from the wider College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, subject to availability.

There are many permutations available to you but we imagine your choices would include a mix of design and other university courses.

Year 2

Through a combination of compulsory courses in your specialist subject, Design & Screen Cultures and option courses (taken from within ECA or across the wider College, subject to availability), you will focus on the development of your work through appropriate materials, media and technical processes.

Year 3

In your compulsory courses you will undertake a series of externally focused projects including competitions, exhibitions and industry collaborations. We also offer opportunities for students to undertake exchange programmes, depending on your subject of study.

Year 4

You will undertake a major, self-initiated studio project and theoretical work in the form of a written dissertation that may be informed by personal research interests. This may be preceded by set projects, depending on your programme.

You will participate in the Degree Show or Fashion Show near the end of the academic year.

Are there additional costs?

Materials costs vary depending on your programme. Some programmes offer study trips and individual field-based projects.

You will usually be required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs.

Your contribution will vary based on your chosen programme and courses, and on the nature of each trip.

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.

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


Industry experience is embedded in our programmes through project work, workshops and mentor schemes. Work placements are not compulsory but may be available. Typically, these are secured by students and occur outside of semester time.

Study abroad

We maintain a broad, and diverse and expanding portfolio of exchange agreements with a range of prestigious academic partner institutions located around the globe. This enables our students to apply to spend one semester of their Year 3 undergraduate curriculum studying at one of our partners in Australasia, Europe or North and South America.

Specific exchange destinations vary by individual subject areas; some of our current partner institutions include:

  • Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design (Vancouver)
  • Massachusetts College of Art and Design (Boston)
  • Rhode Island School of Design (Providence)
  • Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) (Melbourne)

In addition to our exchange study partnerships, ECA Design students also benefit from a wide range of overseas volunteering and work placement opportunities and schemes overseen by Edinburgh Global.

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 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. 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.

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.

Our programmes have strong industrial pathways to ensure the most successful and meaningful careers for graduates. You are encouraged to participate in national and international showcase events appropriate to your programme.