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Postgraduate course

Illustration MFA

Develop as an illustrator and refine your creative practice. Experiment, explore and enable your professional practice to emerge.

Illustration of butterfly

Our Illustration MFA enables you to enrich your existing practice and develop as a professional artist in a creative community. You will produce a mature body of work, coëxisting with debates at the forefront of your discipline. The course focuses on making, informed by technical knowledge. You will research, develop and refine your ideas. Your practice and your academic understanding will become inseparable.

York campus

  • Duration – 2 years full time
  • Start date – October 2021
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:1 in a relevant undergraduate degree

    Interview You'll be invited to interview to discuss your portfolio

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021-22 £4,400 per year full time

    International 2021-22 £12,750 per year full time

Course overview

Do you have an existing Illustration practice ready to be taken to the next level? Do you want to join a community of creative practitioners to debate and challenge your work?

Whether you have recently finished an undergraduate degree, or are returning to learning, this could be the postgraduate course for you. As a student on our Illustration MFA you will develop a deeper knowledge of your creative practice. Experiment, explore and enable a personal practice to develop, as well as professionalising your approach.

Identify and explore the qualities that this stage of your career requires. Expand your material intelligence through lectures, seminars, tutorials, critiques, briefs and live projects, field trips and participatory events. Explore your own potential as a citizen of the world who understands their creative work both in terms of ethics and social justice.


Build on your knowledge of illustration through creative thinking and critical theory. Our lecturers and technicians will support your independent work. Your experience in professional and scholarly fields will become integral to your studio practice.

Special features of this course include:

  • Guest speakers and masterclasses
  • Access to specialist studios and workshop spaces
  • National and international field trips
  • Group exhibitions
  • Networking opportunities
  • Opportunities to engage with staff research
  • Opportunities to present your work at student symposiums.

Course Structure

Year 1

In your first year you will study 3 compulsory modules across both semesters.


Credits: 40

Compulsory module

This module is a playful circuit breaker to prepare you for MFA level study. It provides an ‘experimental space’ to explore the boundaries of your current practice by finding creative solutions to a research question stimulated by ‘new’ modes of thinking. You will develop confidence and experimental strategies so that you are well-prepared to explore a personal practice flexible enough for the contemporary cultural environment.

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

This module demands a slower, more rational and considered process of thinking through practice. You will begin to properly explore various avenues prompted by aspects of the Experiment module, but without the pressure that these explorations have to culminate in anything more than test studies. At this stage the scope of your practice of will remain expansive.

Credits: 40

Compulsory module

This module will help you to develop the self direction, specialisation and originality required for postgraduate level study. You will grow in your understanding, evaluation and use of philosophical frameworks as they relate to your studio practice. You will also gain the confidence to recognise and enact the inseparability of theory-driven and studio-based approaches to research. The module will provide crucial training in artistic research methods.

Year 2

In your second year you will study 1 compulsory module in each semester.


Credits: 60

Compulsory module

This module represents a personal research trajectory, focusing your practice. Through it you will find workable solution to the problems your creative practice exploration generates. You will research through making, within a relevant critical context and in a focused manner. You will strengthen, extend and apply your advance knowledge, skills and critical awareness.

Credits: 60

Compulsory module

This module is the culmination to of your MFA study. It is designed to bring your explorations and personal illustration practice into focus. This will give you the confidence to produce a coherent project to a standard that is appropriate for professional publication or exhibition.

Teaching and assessment

The teaching and learning environment includes workshop facilities, teaching spaces, technologies and exchanges between analogue and digital cultures.

You will take part in lectures, workshops and studio sessions, seminar discussions, supervised projects, critiques, professional experiences and project work.

Your creative development will progress through ongoing action, reflection and evaluation, supported by research and expanded through different modes of reflective practice. You will gain an in-depth understanding of the different methods of artistic production and will be able to situate your creative practice within the wider visual arts landscape.


Formative assessment will be employed throughout 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.

Feedback is delivered in written or recorded verbal form within three weeks of the assessment.

Entry Requirements


Minimum Entry Requirements

    2:1 in a relevant undergraduate degree

    Interview You'll be invited to interview to discuss your portfolio


Entry onto this postgraduate course requires a minimum of a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a related subject.

If your undergraduate degree is not in Fine Art or a related discipline but you can provide a strong portfolio of visual work, your application will be considered.

International Students

If you're an international student, you'll 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 will be invited to an interview.

  • Before the interview, you will need to provide an artist's statement that explores your studio practice as a research activity. This must indicate how your work relates to comparable practices, as well as theoretical and contextual ideas relevant to their discipline. The statement should specify what kind of questions your practice deals with and identify the processes of rigorous exploration and experimentation you will employ to answer them. (max 750 words)
  • Your artist’s statement should be accompanied by a digital portfolio of work. The portfolio should contain examples of resolved work and documentation of works in progress with a focus on recent practice. Provide captions with titles, dates and information about materials and dimensions (durations). Where necessary, give very brief descriptions that may help explain aspects of the work.
  • At your interview, you will be asked to give a short presentation about your work, showing a selection of your portfolio and exploring your work’s ideas. Physical work can be seen if strictly necessary.
  • We are happy to arrange interviews via Microsoft Teams for overseas students, and for UK student on request.

APEL policy

If you can't meet these minimum requirements it may be possible to take into account evidence of Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) as an alternative method of meeting the programme’s entry requirements. In such a case, appropriate references and records of employment might be presented to support the applicant’s case for admission. 

Fees and Funding


The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this postgraduate course is £4,400 per year for UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

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

International (non-EU)

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this postgraduate course is £12,750 for international students.

Due to immigration laws, international students on a Tier 4 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 2021-22 £4,400 per year full time

    International 2021-22 £12,750 per year 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 the link below. 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.

MFA Illustration Full Time

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