Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BA Animation

UCAS code: W615

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad
Placements

Introducing BA Animation

Edinburgh College of Art’s Animation programme is Scotland’s oldest established degree-level programme in the subject area.

We typically have between 15 and 20 students in each year group.

We cover the full range of animation methods:

  • drawn
  • 2D digital
  • 3D digital
  • stop-frame

We also have a sustainably resourced render farm, running Pixar’s Renderman, which will support parallel processing of projects using Maya, 3DS Max, or Adobe After Effects.

The method you use for each project is up to you, and is driven by conversation with staff to determine which method will best suit your idea and your preferred way of working.

You have a choice of working on projects in a team or on your own.

Awards

Our students have gone on to win, among many others, awards at:

  • the BAFTAs
  • Emmys
  • British Animation Awards
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival
  • Adobe Design Achievement Awards
  • Royal Television Society

Aardman Academy

ECA’s Animation programme has become one of the first partners in the Aardman Academy. This gives our students the opportunity for studio visits to Aardman, and workshops and courses, in person and online with professional animators, writers, directors and producers from one of the UK’s most respected animation studios.

How this programme works

This is a full-time programme. To successfully complete your studies, you are expected to be on campus from 9am until 5pm, five days per week. Contact time generally takes up 20% of that time (this is common at most universities). The remainder is spent putting what you have learned or discussed with tutors into practice in the studio. During this time you are supported in the studios by technical and academic staff, above and beyond lectures and timetabled contact hours.

We expect you to supplement your own learning by working alongside your fellow students across the year groups, benefiting from the diverse range of interests and experiences present in our studios. This is vital to achieve your full potential as an art student in any area, particularly in animation.

Year 1

Your first year is focused upon making things move.

You will study:

  • six 20 credit courses; four are core animation courses and one is a compulsory context course
  • one 20 credit optional course (you choose a course to study that is the appropriate level, fits your timetable, and has space for visiting students)

Semester 1

You will study:

  • Animation 1A Introduction
  • What's Up Doc? Introducing Animation Studies
  • an optional course

Semester 2

You will study:

  • Animation 1B Principles
  • Language of Animation
  • Modernism and After (Context)

This year is driven by:

  • location drawing, on and off campus
  • life drawing, on and off campus
  • storyboarding
  • cinematic grammar
  • basic animation exercises
  • bouncing balls and walk cycles
  • getting to grips with combining assets on a timeline
  • creating various formats of video output
  • drawn 2D Animation
  • digital 2D
  • stop-frame animation with vertical multiplane set ups, and horizontal set ups for shooting into a set

Year 2

Year 2 concentrates on making things move with meaning and character.

You will study:

  • one 40-credit course (Animation 2A)
  • two 20-credit animation courses
  • a choice between three Context courses for 20 credits
  • one 20-credit optional course (you choose a course to study that is the appropriate level, fits your timetable, and has space for visiting students)

If you are joining us as a direct entry student in Year 2, you will not have Context course choices available. You must complete the course Modernism and After.

Semester 1

You will study:

  • Animation 2A: Character
  • an optional course

Semester 2

You will study:

  • Animation 2B: Narrative
  • Animation 2C: Documentary

You will also select one of the following Context courses:

  • Contemporary Cinema
  • Narratives in Design and Screen Cultures
  • Design and Society

By the end of Year 2, you will be animating more expressively, and exploring the movement of characters and the construction of narrative.

This year maintains drawing as an integral part of your animation courses. Visual research, development and testing of ideas become more important. While building upon technical skills developed in Year 1, you will explore more physical animation with puppets and physical materials and look at more advanced digital techniques. You should be starting to get an idea of what sort of animator you want to be, and the sort of projects you want to work on.

You may have the option to go on site visits to Aardman during Year 2, but places are prioritised for more senior students.

Year 3

In Year 3 you will be making things move for other people, particularly clients.

You will take five 20 credit animation courses. You will also have a choice between four Context courses for 20 credits.

Semester 1

You will study:

  • Animation 3A: Animation For Clients
  • Animating Stories

You will also select one of the following Context courses:

  • Environmental Design: Materials, Ecologies, Futures
  • Design for Ageing
  • Multi-Sensory Cultures
  • Design, Play and Games

Semester 2

You will study:

  • Animation 3B: Experimental Animation
  • Animation 3C: Disseminated Animation
  • Animation 3: Issues of Representation

This year begins with working on live briefs for clients. It helps you to understand what it is like to work on providing a service for others.

As the year progresses, you will move more into equipping you for your final year. You will work on:

  • exploring working analytically and systematically with experimental animation
  • producing films about real-world issues
  • mounting a public exhibition and screening

During this year, you really start to pay attention to your identity as an animator. The technical skills that you will learn are very much dictated by how you choose to respond to this year's project briefs.

You may have the option to go on site visits to Aardman, but places are prioritised for Year 4 senior students.

Year 3 also has the potential for a semester’s exchange abroad with one of our partner institutions.

Year 4

In Year 4, we hope that you will move the masses with your films and screenings.

You will take only four courses in your final year:

  • three animation courses (worth 40, 40 and 20 credits)
  • one Context course for the remaining 20 credits; this will also involve writing your dissertation

Semester 1

You will study:

  • Design and Screen Cultures 4 (Context course)
  • Animation Elective 4A: Research and Pre-Production

Semester 2

You will study:

  • Animation 4C: Production and Post Production
  • Animation 4D: Promotion and Distribution

This final year is intensive and studio-focused. You will be concentrating on a major project consisting of at least one film.

The three animation courses are designed to support you through the three phases of the production pipeline for animation. These courses will involve:

  • presenting film pitches to a panel of invited industry guests
  • collaborating with sound designers and composers
  • ultimately contributing to a degree exhibition at ECA and a public screening at a cinema in Edinburgh

As a part of your studies, you will develop a showreel and a short/mid/long-term career plan for when you leave us, supplemented with an annually updated database of careers and support contacts in the animation and games sectors of the creative industries.

You will have the option to go on site visits to Aardman. Site visits are prioritised for Year 4 students.

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 (2024/25)

Our facilities

All of your animation learning will take place on the Lauriston Campus in Edinburgh, primarily in the dedicated animation studios and production spaces in the North East Studio Building, with a good view of Edinburgh Castle.

Larger lectures will generally take place in the ECA Main Building, which is also on the Lauriston Campus.

The animation studios themselves offer a permanent base of operations for our students and are generally sorted by year. You will get a space that is yours.

These studios have specialist cameras, and computer and display equipment to allow full production capabilities in each studio. This is supplemented with a dedicated space for larger or more ambitious shoots and projects. This space contains:

  • four stop-frame bays
  • multiplane setups
  • rostrum cameras
  • post-production workstations
  • our independent animation server
  • our render farm

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at Edinburgh College of Art and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Take a virtual tour of the Edinburgh College of Art

Placements

Across all years, there are opportunities for summer placements in commercial animation studios.

We do everything possible to alert students to these opportunities as they arise, and to support them while on their placements. Creative industry placements are unfortunately impossible to guarantee, due to the rapid turnaround and short notice of availability.

Study abroad

Opportunities to study abroad help broaden your understanding of the discipline.

There are opportunities in Year 3 to study abroad with partner institutions in Canada, the USA and Australia. These opportunities are competitive and highly sought after, and therefore cannot be guaranteed.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

As an animation student, you cannot be educated or trained with the sole use of a lecture and seminar-based educational model.

You will need to:

  • develop your visual, conceptual, critical and intellectual abilities
  • acquire the necessary skills to make your ideas and concepts visually and tangibly explicit in a variety of different media
  • be articulate in both written and oral forms and confident with the technical competencies in your discipline

Your student journey is characterised by sequential, experiential and iterative learning. It follows a constructivist model, subscribing to the view that knowledge and understanding are not acquired passively, but in an active manner through personal experience and experiential activities. Your learning will be based on problem-solving and/or an exploration of a particular line of enquiry and an active engagement with ideas.

Your learning is also driven largely by a project-based approach. We will set project briefs, with a clear communication of:

  • learning outcomes (the things we want you to learn)
  • assessment criteria (the things we will be measuring to determine how well you have learned)

There will be weekly timetabled contact points where concepts, principles, context and methods will be introduced. These sessions will be followed up in the studios with one-to-one or small group tutorials. A key part of this process is the presentation of your work to fellow students and staff.

Beyond contact hours you are expected to be in the studios, applying what you have learned to your projects.

All of our courses require independent visual and text-based research, while some courses have an essay component.

ECA occasionally hosts lectures with important guest speakers that will be open across animation years, subject areas at ECA, and the wider University.

*[ECA}: Edinburgh College of Art

How will I be assessed?

We predominantly take a portfolio-based approach to submissions. This means that the processes you go through to arrive at your final artefact (usually a film or films) are an equally important part of your assessment.

Group critiques, presentations and discussions are essential to your learning and will be a part of the formative (midway) assessment of all of your courses. The group format allows you to present to and learn from your fellow students. Formative grades and feedback are indicative only, designed to give you information on how to improve your submission for summative (final) assessment.

Summative assessment is usually based on an electronic submission of work. Grades and written feedback are communicated privately to each individual student.

Our graduates have gone on to work with directors such as Wes Anderson and Tim Burton. They work at animation studios such as:

  • Aardman
  • Laika
  • Cartoon Saloon
  • Nexus Productions
  • Red Kite Studios

Some graduates have set up their own animation studios, including:

  • Wild Child
  • Ko-Lik
  • White Robot

Other graduates have gone on to work at games companies such as Rockstar North and Media Molecule.

Animation was one of the few sectors in the creative industries to experience growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. This growth appears to be consistent since the end of the lockdowns. Currently, there is a shortage within the film, VFX and animation sectors of skills in storyboarding, pre-visualisation, production and project management, all of which comprise a part of your studies in Animation at ECA.

Beyond those sectors, animators are in high demand in the video games industry, and among emergent virtual/augmented reality businesses.

There are some unexpected areas of opportunity as well. Insurance companies and police forces use animators to forensically reconstruct accident or crime scenes. Architectural and interior design companies regularly use animators to create pre-visualisations of their projects for clients.

Any product that has a user interface will use animation. Your mobile phone, for example, does not have many completely static buttons.

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

Portfolio

Applicants will be asked to submit a digital portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

For more information about the portfolio, visit the Edinburgh College of Art website at the link below and scroll to the section titled ‘Application Process’.

Animation application process

Portfolio technical support and specification

Important dates

  • 1 December 2024: portfolio submission site opens.
  • 29 January 2025: deadline for all applicants (including international applicants).
  • 4 February 2025 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: 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

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

SQA, GCSE and IB

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
  • 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.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 Animation

Additional costs

Field-based projects

In the case of proposed study trips and individual field-based projects, you will be required to pay the costs of:

  • accommodation
  • subsistence
  • travel costs

These activities are optional and usually restricted to the UK and Europe, which helps to keep costs low. Students who do not take part are not disadvantaged in their studies.

Materials and equipment

You will be expected to provide your own materials for drawing. Your material costs will vary depending on your choice of materials and how you choose to complete the project briefs you are given.

The programme has access to all the equipment necessary for you to deliver your film projects. However, for convenience, independence, and your future career we would advise you to consider buying each of the following:

  • laptop (see our advice below)
  • pegbar (vital for consistent registration of your frames)
  • portable USB 3 HDD (for saving and rendering work)
  • decent 3-button mouse (most apps work best with these)
  • Wacom tablet
  • lightbox

Choosing a laptop

Although there are desktop computers widely and freely available at ECA, you will need a laptop if you want to continue working when you are not in the studio. You should consider one of the following:

  • a high-end Mac, dual booted to run both a Windows or Mac operating system, enabling you to work with your preferred software
  • a PC with good RAM and CPU speed, as well as hard drive space (to which you can always add)

We have no operating system preference within the programme.

Funding

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