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Postgraduate course

Illustration MA

Develop as a unique visual storyteller through a combination of studio practice and academic study.

student illustration

Our Illustration MA invites you to expand your illustration practice and expertise through research and an exploration of your individual creative processes. The course will cover a range of contemporary illustration practices. You will examine and develop your visual interests and approach to image making to become a confident visual artist.

York campus

  • Duration – 1 year full-time | 2 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of the Arts

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 full time

    International 2020-21 £12,750 full time

Course Overview

This Illustration MA course encourages sustained engagement with illustration practice within a supportive and dynamic creative community. You can develop your personal interests and explore specialisms including book illustration, comics, community art practice, and narrative drawing. You will be supported to professionalise your artistic practice and develop critical thinking skills.

The course offers opportunities to develop live projects alongside your regular studio practice. A diverse range of academic staff with a range of specialisms will work with visiting professionals to enrich your experience of the course. 

The structure of this degree involves studio practice interwoven with critical academic studies. You will develop into a versatile and thoughtful, professional illustrator.

Your illustration practice is supported through critical and contextual studies which are integrated into the degree. This will provide a valuable philosophical framework that address concepts and histories of image making and narrative work. This academic understanding will enable you to underpin your individual approach as an illustrator.

Course structure

Level 1 


Material intelligence (30 credits - compulsory)

This module will help you to develop the self-direction, specialisation and originality required for master's level study. You will build on your prior experience and knowledge of creative practices. You will also be introduced to philosophical frameworks and receive research methods training which will be essential for subsequent modules and independent study. In the process you will develop employable skills including written and verbal communication and project management.

Specialist Expansive Studio Practice (30 credits - compulsory)

Critically informed discussions about the interplay of aesthetics, curiosity, knowledge production, materiality and practice-led research will inform this extended period of experimentation. This module’s synthesis of theory and practice therefore asks you to think through making, rather than simply execute predetermined ideas. We embrace the fact that negotiating feelings of doubt, uncertainty and ambiguity is an essential part of the development of an innovative studio practice.

Navigating and Locating Practice (30 credits - compulsory) 

This module draws on debates and practices from Material Intelligence and expanding these through practice. It shares themes from Specialist Expansive Studio Practice and is underpinned by dialogues between practice and theory. You will develop your creative practice by focusing on its positioning through historical, theoretical, social and cultural contexts

Specialist Professional Practice (30 credits - compulsory)

This module will help you to develop a focused and critical awareness of the medium within a research context. You will research and engage with organisations, individuals or networks beyond the university, building on a sustainable research topic developed in the previous semester. This introduces you to the range of potential contexts your practice might be situated within, which will feed into your independent research project.

Masters Project (60 credits - compulsory for award)

This is your final project on the MA programme and an opportunity to develop your own independent practice-based research project, developing on from the taught content of the programme. You will be expected to synthesise the practical, reflective and conceptual developments in their work over the course of the programme.

This can take the form of either:

  • A significant body of practice based work, incorporating reflective and contextual analysis (written work must be a minimum of 3000 words)
  • A written dissertation (12000 words)

Teaching and assessment

Teaching is informed by our academics' in-depth knowledge of the subject and the application of best practice.

You will develop both studio-based and experience-based learning, aimed at challenging the boundaries of your practice. You will have access to industry standard facilities, teaching spaces, technologies and we encourage inter-disciplinary exchanges between analogue and digital cultures. 

A range of teaching and learning strategies are used across the modules including:

  • workshop
  • studio sessions
  • seminar discussions
  • supervised projects 
  • critical review 
  • professional experiences 
  • project work 

Through an ongoing process of action, reflection and evaluation, and a collaborative approach to problem-solving you will develop your creative insight and confidence.

Formative assessment will be employed across the course through a range of tasks, projects and presentations. Summative assessment will take a variety of forms including presentations, portfolios, exhibitions and written work.

Entry requirements

For entry onto this course we usually ask that applicants have a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate honours degree. We also ask for a portfolio of visual work to be submitted in support of the application. This can be done digitally.

If you are an international student you will need to demonstrate experience, or qualifications equivalent to those above.

If your first language is not English, you must show evidence of English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 or equivalent (with no skill below 5.5)

Applicants who do not have traditional qualifications may be eligible for entry on the basis of Accredited Prior (Experiential) Learning (APL/APEL). We also consider applications for entry with advanced standing. Please contact our Admissions Team for more details.

Interview: Applicants are also invited for interview.

Fees and funding

UK & EU 2020 - 21

The tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £6,500 for full-time UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

For UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students studying part time, the tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £3,250 per year.

Postgraduate loans are available to help you pay for your master’s course. Find out more about postgraduate funding opportunities.

International (non-EU) 2020 - 21

The tuition fee for 2020 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

Due to immigration laws, international students on a Student Visa must be studying full-time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

More information about funding your studies is available on our International Fees and Funding page.

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2020-21 £6,500 full time

    International 2020-21 £12,750 full time

Alumni Scholarships

If you are an alumni of York St John University we have scholarships available to help you continue your studies.

Scholarships for Alumni

Additional costs and financial support


Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing personal equipment and stationery, books and optional field trips.


View our accommodation pages for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.


Apply for this course

You can apply directly to the course via our Apply Now links. Please select the variant of the course that you intend to undertake (e.g. full-time or part-time) as the link will take you to a customised form for the specific course. You will need to create a login and password and complete the online form. Please contact two referees in advance of submitting your application as an automated request will go out as soon as you submit, and your application will not be reviewed until both references are in place.

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