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Undergraduate course

Illustration BA (Hons)

Focusing on studio practice, develop your ability to interpret and express a text uniquely and visually.

student illustration

At York St John University we believe in the transformative power of storytelling and visual narratives. Create your unique story by becoming immersed in a world of creative writing, animation and drawing through studying Illustration.

91% of Illustration students said they were able to contact staff when they needed to. (National Student Survey 2020)

York campus

  • UCAS Code – W2W3
  • Duration – 3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
  • Start date – September 2021
  • School – School of the Arts

Minimum Entry Requirements

    96 UCAS Tariff points

    3 GCSEs at grade C/4 (or equivalent) including English Language

Tuition Fees

    UK and EU 2021 entry £9,250 per year full time

    International 2021 entry £12,750 per year full time

Discover why York St John is The One

Course overview

Studying Illustration will provide you with a foundation in illustration practice, centred on drawing, image-making and narrative construction. Engaging in the genres of comics, animation, book illustration, editorial illustration and fashion illustration, you will become well versed in both analogue and digital technologies.


We help you evolve your specialist practice through studio-based and live projects with industry partners, and guide you through self-initiated projects, which respond directly to your personal interests and motivations for the future. With opportunities to engage in professional work we will encourage you to become entrepreneurial, finding and creating opportunities for your future as a practitioner. Alongside studio practice you will build skills in research through a focus on critical enquiry, increasing your ability to learn diverse approaches to your practice, as well as developing your own voice as a researcher.

Undertaking this course in York offers numerous opportunities to engage with illustration and art practice within the local community. York Open Studios is an annual community arts event which celebrates the best artists and makers living within the city by providing an opportunity for the public to visit a selection of artists’ studios and exhibitions. This course will help you to build the connections that put you on that list.

Course structure

Level 1

Your first year of studying Illustration BA (Hons) aims to provide you with an induction to the processes, materials and practices of Illustration. 


Modules include:

  • Critical Contexts 1: This module introduces you to the historical, social, political and material contexts that have informed the production and reception of creative practice. In so doing it draws attention to the different materials, technologies and cultural circumstances that have shaped the radical transformation of art, illustration and related practices. This material and historical foundation will enable you to grasp the complex array of forms that artistic practice can take, and the range of contexts in which it can be situated and applied. (20 credits)
  • Illustration Fundamentals: This module provides the key induction into the conceptual, technical and material practices for Narrative Illustration at York St John University.You will experiment with drawing for illustration and related processes, and learn and apply technical skills that constitute fundamental principles and practices in your subject. This will centre on drawing, creating visual and textual narratives and sequential image creation using both traditional and digital tools. (40 credits)
  • Critical Contexts 2: This module introduces the conceptual ideas and cultural politics that have informed the production and reception of creative practice. In so doing it draws attention to the different materials, technologies and cultural circumstances that have shaped the radical transformation of art, illustration and related practices. (20 credits)
  • Illustration Explorations: Illustration Exploration introduces you to a deeper understanding of the diverse techniques and approaches to illustration and its related forms. The exploratory process takes the technical foundations established in the illustration fundamentals module and applies them within more focused projects engaging with concepts, genres, audiences and forms of publishing narrative visual work in contexts such as comics and zines, graphic narratives, children’s book illustration, animation & storyboarding, editorial work & political cartooning and fashion illustration. (40 credits)

Level 2

In your second year, you will develop more detailed knowledge and understanding of Illustration through theory and practice, building upon the work you have undertaken in Level 1. You will refine your practice in both still and sequential image making and apply your skills in constructing compelling narratives in a variety of professional contexts and genres.


Modules include:

  • Critical Enquiry 1 & 2: Critical Enquiry1 & 2 are transitional modules that develops knowledge, modes of thinking and research skills that will be vital to your research and practice in your final year. It builds on your first year Critical Contexts module to unite their contextual study and practice in Fine Art and Illustration. In so doing the module gives you the critical tools with which to situate your work in the complex and diverse discourses that have informed creative practice up until the 21st century. (20 credits each)
  • Illustration Practice & Development: Illustration Practice and Development takes the learning and practice established in first year modules and begins the process of orientating and situating this practice in a wider professional context. A programme of projects will be offered which enable you to deepen and apply your illustration practice in specialised contexts. Project possibilities include live projects with external partners and tutor led projects, all of which are intended to enable you to develop a deeper understanding of your practice through a cycle of action and reflection, which will be documented in your portfolios. (40 credits)
  • Illustration Exposition: Illustration Exposition aims to position your practice as an illustrator through an extended engagement with the emergent specialised focus you have identified through previous studio modules. This sense of specialisation is set in an emerging professional context which enables you to test out applications of your practice through engaging an audience. Through this engagement you will achieve a greater refinement of your practice and an enhanced focus for the direction that you wish to pursue. (40 credits)

Level 3

At Level 3 you will be operating as an independent and autonomous thinking Illustration practitioner, demonstrating increasing sophistication and critical judgements through practice, critique and reflection.


Modules include:

  • Independent Research Project:  The independent research project enables you to devise, direct, develop and conclude a piece of sustained and rigorous research.  The beginnings of this investigation are to be found in the encounters with both practice and/or theory that have shaped your studies so far. Your research ‘question’ will emerge through a prolonged and nuanced engagement with the practices and discursive debates that surround their chosen area of enquiry. (30 credits)
  • Advanced Studio Practice: This module enables and requires you to operate as an autonomous practitioner to direct a body of work that builds on your skills, knowledge and expertise.  Through experimentation, critique and reflection, you will develop your own personal voice as a practitioner in your chosen specialism. Crucially this work will be developed into a portfolio of work and at least one public exhibition. (60 credits)
  • Situated Propfessional Practice: This Professional Orientation Module enables you to apply your skills, knowledge and experience to a professional direction. Crucially this module requires you to form professional relationships with external practitioners to research within the specific professional situations. (30 credits)

Teaching & assessment


Your practice based learning will take place within the University, in studios and workshops (both practical and critical); externally through live projects, work based learning placements, internships; and virtually through digital engagement on the web, in online archives, social media and through University digital platforms such as Moodle (Virtual Learning Environment) and forms which you will author such as your online portfolio. All these sites of learning integrate to stimulate and support your development as a reflective Illustration practitioner.

Teaching methods

Teaching activities are focused on an interactive engagement with you and your work. You will have regular informal tutorials in studio as well as regular formal portfolio review tutorials. Seminars and reading groups will engage you in critical debates, and workshops will engage you in skills development. Skilled technicians and technical tutors will also support your work through workshops and informal tutoring. A programme of visiting speakers, including international speakers through remote link up will connect you to current thinking, research and practice in Illustration and related disciplines.


A key interactive mode of learning is the critique or “crit” where a group of peers, tutors or professionals will engage in a collective discussion about your work. You will participate in many crits of others works and also experience others critiquing your work. This is an important focus for development as it allows multiple voices to give a rounded view of your practice.

Portfolio & assessment

One of the crucial ways that you develop as an independent practitioner is through assessment and evaluation. During the programme you will experience a range of approaches to assessment. You will experience assessment of your work by tutors, peers and also your own self assessments which ultimately are the most important as they demonstrate your own understanding of your practice. Assessment should be an ongoing dialogue which is centred on your work whether practical or theoretical; this dialogue is captured in your reflective portfolio.

Formative assessment is always focused on identifying your strengths and areas for development in order to focus your personal, academic and professional development. You will initiate and maintain a reflective portfolio which captures all your learning and enables you to make connections on your work within the curriculum and also externally to give a holistic perspective on your practice and direction. You will have regular one-to-one or small group tutorials centred on your portfolio with your academic tutor; this will collate formative assessment responses from all projects and activities happening in the review period as well as your self-evaluations of these activities in order to discuss and agree feedforward actions for you to develop your practice. Assessments will use the University assessment matrix which accounts for a range of assessment criteria in order to make it clear where your strengths and areas for development are.

Summative assessments usually take place at the end of the module and reflect the cumulative body of work that you have undertaken during the module and which is reflected in a numerical mark. This cumulative approach is intended to enable you to respond to feedback and develop your work.. It is also intended to encourage you to take risks with your work in the knowledge that you can reflect, refine and redirect your practice following formative feedback. For this reason, modules will formally end with some form of collection, exhibition or portfolio review which enables the work to be summarised and assessed. This will usually provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify your work to an audience of tutors and/or peers.

Entry Requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this course are:

96 UCAS Tariff points

3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above (or equivalent) including English Language

Calculate your tariff points.

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

International entry requirements

Personal statement

Essential criteria

As well as a strong standard of written English, we also look for the ability to demonstrate knowledge and commitment to the subject. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example, through previous study or wider reading.

Valued criteria

Candidates can demonstrate a real enthusiasm for the subject that goes beyond achieving good grades in exams. Examples of this include further study, career plans and transferrable skills such as time management.

Terms and conditions

Our terms and conditions, policies and procedures contain important information about studying at York St John University. These can be accessed through our Admissions webpages.

Fees and funding

To study for an undergraduate degree with us, you will need to pay tuition fees for your course. How much you pay depends on whether you live inside the UK or EU, or internationally (outside the UK/EU). Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

UK and EU 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 202 entry onto this course is

  • £9,250 per year for full time study
  • £6,935 per year for the first 4 years if you study part time.

These prices apply to all UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

You can find out more about funding your degree by visiting our funding opportunities page.

Funding Opportunities

Placement year funding

If you choose to take a placement year, and your course offers it, you can apply for the Tuition Fee and Maintenance Loan for your placement year. How much you are awarded is based on the type of placement being undertaken and whether it is a paid or unpaid placement. The tuition fee for your placement year will be reduced.

International 2021 entry

The tuition fee for 2021 entry to this course is £12,750 per year for full time study.

This price applies to all students living outside the UK/EU.

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 degree.

International Fees and Funding

Additional costs and financial support

There may also be some additional costs to take into account throughout your studies, including the cost of accommodation.

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.

Study Abroad

For more information on tuition fee reductions and additional costs for studying abroad, please visit our study abroad pages.

Accommodation and living costs

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

Financial help and support

Our Funding Advice team are here to help you with your finances throughout your degree. They offer a personal service that can help you with funding your studies and budgeting for living expenses. 

All undergraduates receive financial support through the York St John Aspire card. Find out more about the Aspire scheme and how it can be used to help you purchase equipment you need for your course. 

Aspire Card

Why study Illustration at York St John

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