Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

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

Illustration provides an education as well as a preparation for professional life.

In this challenging academic programme you will study many aspects of illustration, including:

  • contemporary practice
  • historical contexts
  • aspects of professional applications

A series of projects will:

  • enhance your awareness of the above elements
  • introduce collaborative working and interdisciplinary connections

Illustration and the page

Illustration is an element within the architecture of the page. It encompasses:

  • form
  • colour
  • line
  • composition
  • pictorial space

The idea of the page embraces a variety of actual and virtual formats. It also reflects the evolving nature of the contemporary art, design and publishing industries.

Areas of practice

Illustrations are seen in many settings, including:

  • advertising
  • graphic and web design
  • packaging
  • periodicals
  • books

Contemporary practice includes:

  • the theatre
  • music
  • television
  • museum-related work and exhibitions

How we teach

We teach drawing and image-making from a broad methodology, including:

  • observation
  • perception
  • 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. This builds on the energy and application of those who study, teach, and instruct students in reaching their full potential.

Studio work

As a part of this process, we collaborate with publishers, designers and writers. You will experience both academic and live briefs. Our studio environment is a vital and creative space in which to explore:

  • perception
  • imagination
  • the visual interpretation of texts

Design and Screen Cultures

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

Year 1

You will be introduced to the theoretical and practical concepts of design.

This will initially be through a series of shared projects, leading to more focused, subject-specific outcomes.

In Design and Screen Cultures, you will address the key histories and theories of design.

Option courses

You will be able to take at least two option courses, either within ECA, or across the wider University. These are subject to availability and discussion with relevant course organisers.

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

Year 2

Through set projects and practical exercise, you will cover basic:

  • principles
  • theories
  • working practices
  • technical instruction

A range of themes will be covered in varying scales, formats and complexities. This work demands:

  • imaginative solutions
  • research skills
  • technical facility

You will begin to assemble a portfolio of work made for set briefs and self-initiated work in various media.

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

Year 3

In this externally facing professional practice year, you will have opportunities for:

  • exchange
  • competitions
  • live projects


Projects will cover:

  • pictorial narrative
  • documentary work
  • observational drawing
  • web design
  • artists' books

We strongly support a creative approach by emphasising the importance of drawing as a method of:

  • expression
  • analysis
  • explanation

In Year 3, you will work in illustration collectives developing business plans for self-initiated projects.

You will also have the opportunity to:

  • work on commercially focused projects, produce print work, and take part in industry visits
  • take a range of Design and Screen Culture courses that explore theories of design and help you contextualise your work in cultural, social and political issues and ideas
  • study abroad, which will help broaden your understanding of the discipline

Year 4

This year gives the opportunity for self-initiated projects as well as set briefs. You will feel confident about your ability to express:

  • ideas
  • opinions
  • concerns in your work

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 and design.

You will also produce a written dissertation.

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 (2022/23)

Our facilities

You will be allocated a work-space within open-plan studios.

These studios will also host:

  • briefings
  • small group seminars
  • critiques
  • tutorials

Other workshops and studios are used for courses in:

  • life drawing
  • book-binding
  • book arts
  • printmaking


We encourage and support you to explore internships during your holiday period.

Study abroad

Study abroad is optional in Year 3.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most 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
  • critiques

Your development is influenced by research and critical thinking, as well as the following contexts that shape creative design practice:

  • visual
  • intellectual
  • social
  • professional

These elements are taught through Design and Screen Cultures courses and involve participation in:

  • exhibitions
  • competitions
  • collaborations
  • live industry projects

How will I be assessed?

We use continuous formative assessment throughout your study. This helps give meaningful feedback and encourages experimentation in the studio and beyond.

Formative assessment for compulsory courses can include:

  • portfolio
  • presentations
  • essays against course learning outcomes

There is a mid-session review, usually at the mid-point of any course you study.

Summative assessment at the end of all courses is informed by your:

  • your academic progress
  • creative progress
  • performance throughout

Your course grades are calculated 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 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 2022: mini-portfolio submission site opens.
  • 25 January 2023: Deadline for all applicants (including international applicants).
  • 7 February 2023 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: mini-portfolio submission deadline.

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.

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 with a Foundation Diploma will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the first year entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB, relevant HNC, 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.

A list of accepted HNDs, along with further information for adult returners, can be found on our adult returner page:

Adult returner applicants

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
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

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, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

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

Materials and printing 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 annual studio expenses is £200.

There are also printing costs for digital reproduction and the visualisation of projects, estimated at £100 over two semesters.

Study trips

Some programmes offer study trips and individual field-based projects. You will usually be required to cover the cost of:

  • accommodation
  • subsistence
  • travel

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