Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Design

Why choose Design at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We produce exciting, award-winning graduates who are ready for industry and who have the confidence to establish themselves as independent designers, creatives or makers.

  • Our design programmes are regularly ranked among the best in the UK.

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

  • You'll work on live industry projects and draw on the expertise of visiting practitioners to prepare for professional practice.

Study abroad

I really enjoyed the studio work – being in such a social environment; working together with various year groups to produce work, and I really enjoyed the collaboration with peers, tutors and other departments.

Allie Hutcheson BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate
Allie Hutcheson BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate

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.


Due to ongoing curriculum development, we are making changes to our Fashion, Film & TV, Illustration and Performance Costume programmes. We are yet to confirm these changes, however we expect these programmes will follow a similar structure to our other Design programmes.

We will update information on these programmes as soon as detail is available.

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, as well as option courses.

You will study 60 credits of compulsory courses within your chosen area and 60 credits is 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, 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 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.

You may have the opportunity to participate in interdisciplinary collaborations and design projects that will develop your design methods for your chosen subject.

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 and internship, 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 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 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 are available. Typically, these are secured by students and occur outside of semester time. However, Year 3 offers you an opportunity to complete credit-bearing internships within the curriculum.

Study abroad

We maintain a broad and diverse 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)
  • 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 the University's International Office.

How will I learn?

The majority of design teaching and learning is through involvement in a range of experiential projects 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. This often 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.

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.