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Postgraduate Course

Illustration MFA

Develop as an illustrator and refine your creative practice as you advance your skills. Experiment with your art and explore new ways of thinking.

Student illustration of campus building

This MFA focuses on progressing your practice. The aim is for you to produce a body of rigorous creative practice that is underpinned by a theoretical understanding. You will develop as a independent professional artist in a creative community, as you explore your own potential. This will enable you to focus on practices that are directly relevant to your interests. You will be expected to think about international communities and produce work of high quality as you develop your professional networks.

York campus

  • Duration – 2 years full time
  • Start date – September 2024, September 2025
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 degree in a related subject

    Interview artist statement and portfolio

Tuition fees

    UK 2024-25 £4,400 per year full time

    International 2024-25 £11,300 per year full time

Discover Fine Art, Illustration and Photography

Helen Turner and Nathan Walker introduce us to Fine Art, Illustration and Photography at York St John University.

Course overview

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.You will be challenged to transcend barriers in both your thinking and your making. This will enable you to position your work in response to current issues such as de-colonisation, digital art and environmental concerns. Explore your own potential as a citizen of the world, understanding your creative work in terms of both ethics and social justice.

Throughout this course, you will be supported to build on your knowledge of practice through both material thinking and critical theory. This will underpin your studio practice and situate your work in the professional and scholarly field. As part of a supportive community of artists, you will be exposed to the opportunities of networking and working on live projects. 

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, technique classes and networking opportunities
  • Access to specialist studios and workshop spaces
  • Field trips and the opportunity to study abroad
  • Group exhibitions and networking opportunities
  • Opportunities to engage with staff research
  • Opportunities to present your work at student symposiums

Course structure

How you will study

This postgraduate course must be studied full time for 2 years.

You will study:

  • 3 compulsory modules in year 1
  • 2 compulsory modules in year 2

You can find out which modules are available in each term in the Course Specifications.


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. Through this 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 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 you with crucial training in artistic research methods.

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: 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 way. This will enable you to 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 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

Teaching and learning

Our focus on professional experiences and project work means you will be a co-creator of your learning. We keep our group sizes small so we can get to know your creative personality and support your aspirations.

We recognise your status as a graduate student, and place a significant emphasis on independent learning, encouraging you to take responsibility for managing your own learning and its outcomes. Our Academic Support team can help with written English, study, research, and technology skills if needed.

We deliver your modules through:

  • Workshops
  • Studio sessions
  • Group discussions
  • Supervised projects
  • Group crits
  • Project work

Our teaching draws on both our research and professional experience. This means your learning is informed by the most current thinking in the subject area. You can find out more about our research and backgrounds by visiting our staff pages.


You will be assessed through live events and coursework, which will include:

  • Portfolio work
  • Exhibitions
  • Presentation of visual works
  • Written work

You will receive continuous informal feedback on works in progress through a combination of group crits, tutorials and peer to peer discussions.

Entry requirements


Minimum entry requirements

    2:1 degree in a related subject

    Interview artist statement and portfolio

If your degree is in an unrelated subject, but you can provide a strong portfolio, your application may still be considered.

International students

If you are an international student you will need to show that your qualifications match our entry requirements.

Information about international qualifications and entry requirements can be found on our International pages.

If English is not your first language you will need to show that you have English Language competence at IELTS level 6.0 (with no skill below 5.5) or equivalent.

International entry requirements

Artist's statement

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 theories, contexts and ideas relevant to your practice. The statement should specify what kind of questions your practice will work to answer. A successful submission will also identify the experimental and rigorous processes you will use to answer them (max 750 words).

Your artist’s statement should be accompanied by a digital portfolio of work. With a focus on your recent practice, the portfolio should contain examples of finished work and document projects still in progress.

Please provide captions with titles, dates and information about materials and dimensions or durations. Where necessary, give very brief descriptions that may help explain aspects of the work. You can include a link to your website along with the submitted portfolio. Please note that the work on your site cannot be considered as a replacement for the submission.


Entry onto this postgraduate course is subject to attending an interview.

At 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.

We are happy to arrange interviews through Microsoft Teams for international students.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

If you do not have traditional qualifications, you might be able to provide evidence of professional experience in the subject as an alternative way to meet the entry requirements. This is called Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). Appropriate references and records of employment would need to be presented to support your case for admission.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. You can read them on our Admissions page.

Fees and funding

UK 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry to this postgraduate course is:

  • £4,400 per year for full time study

This cost applies to all UK, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

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

Funding opportunities

International 2024 entry

The tuition fee for 2024 entry to this postgraduate course is:

  • £11,300 per year for full time study

This cost applies to all students living outside the UK.

Due to immigration laws, if you are an international student on a student visa, you must study full time. For more information about visa requirements and short-term study visas, please visit the International Visa and Immigration pages.

Find out more about funding your postgraduate studies.

International Fees and Funding

Tuition fees

    UK 2024-25 £4,400 per year full time

    International 2024-25 £11,300 per year full time

Alumni Scholarships

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

Scholarships for alumni

Additional costs and financial support

Course-related costs

While 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.

Accommodation and living costs

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

Career outcomes

Where could Illustration MFA take you?

This course is designed to give you significant industry exposure to increase your opportunities for employment once you graduate. You will study specialist modules that require you to work with external partners in publishing, exhibitions, agencies and education. This will help you to establish networks and gain relevant experience with industry professionals. You will gain transferrable skills in creative problem solving as well as critical thinking, writing and presenting.

This will give you an advantage in careers such as:

  • Illustrator
  • Animator
  • Storyboard artist
  • Concept artist
  • Graphic designer
  • Visual and digital editor

Stand out from the crowd with postgraduate study.

Far fewer people have postgraduate degrees than undergraduate qualifications. This gives you something extra to set yourself apart in a competitive graduate job market. Those with a postgraduate qualification will earn an average of £6,500 a year more than those with only an undergraduate degree. (Department For Education Graduate Labour Market Report 2022)

Our careers service, LaunchPad, provides career support tailored to your ambitions. Through this service you can access:

  • Employer events
  • LinkedIn, CV and cover letter sessions
  • Workshops on application writing and interview skills
  • Work experience and volunteering opportunities
  • Personalised career advice

This support does not end when you graduate. You can access our expert career advice for the rest of your life. We will help you gain the experience and confidence you need to succeed.

Apply for this course

For postgraduate degrees you must apply directly to York St John University using the links below. This will take you to the application form you need to fill out for this specific course. 

To complete the online application form you will need to create login details. 


Fees and key information

Apply now

Course highlights

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