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Illustration BA (Hons)

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.

UCAS course code
York St John University
Course fees
2019 - 2020: Home & EU students: £9,250 per annum, International (non EU) students: £12,750 per annum
3 years full-time | 6 years part-time
Study Abroad
Yes - see our study abroad web pages for more information
Start date
September 2019
Art, Design & Computer Science

Course Overview

By studying Illustration at York St John University you will learn both analogue and digital technologies to extend your practice. From this foundation you will evolve your own specialist practice through studio based and live projects leading to a professionally directed third year where you will focus your practice towards your personal, academic and professional ambitions. 

A critical strand provides a framework for thinking about the future of your practice and the future of illustration, drawing on historical, contemporary and theoretical perspectives. This will enable you to situate and focus your practice clearly and be able to ask research questions which lead you into research investigations and make reasoned conclusions.

Illustration is articulated as an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practice and throughout the programme you will have opportunities to collaborate with students on other programmes as well as external professionals. Through this you will also learn the value of your skills and knowledge and ways that you can exploit these for your future. 

Check out some videos on what it's like to study Art at York St John University.  

100% of Graduates from our Fine Art courses were in employment or further study within six months.

DLHE 2017

Course structure

You will learn to experiment and develop a range of approaches to drawing and creating narratives. You’ll use traditional and digital techniques, explore approaches to representation of existing narratives, as well as creating your own stories.

You will apply your skills and expertise to specific genres of illustration and develop your abilities through live projects with industry partners and specific projects working in collaboration with students on other programmes. You’ll also have the opportunity for self-initiated projects, which respond directly to your personal interests and career direction and undertake work experience in industry.

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. This will centre on drawing and narrative, beginning with experimental approaches to drawing and image making using analogue and digital techniques of creating still and sequential images, and creating narratives through these approaches. Teaching will then progress to look at genres of illustration, such as children’s book illustration, comic art, animation and fashion illustration, giving you the opportunity to apply and understand your practice within these contexts.

Throughout this process you will contextualise and critique your own work, the work of your peers and the work of professionals. You will understand the difference between representative approaches to illustration, working with found or provided narratives, and imaginative approaches. Through this progressive development you will have an emerging sense of your personal “voice” as an illustrator.

Alongside the studio modules, the Critical Contexts module provides a foundational knowledge in the key theories and histories of Illustration alongside other art forms. You will investigate topics and create essays and research projects which illuminate your understanding of these practices and contexts. Also within Critical Contexts, you will begin to construct a personal reflective portfolio in which you will consider all your work, both practical and theoretical, and the connections, meanings and implications of this work for your future practice. This portfolio will be regularly reviewed with your academic tutor and tutor group and you will start to make judgements about the future direction of your studies.

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

Level 2 is intended to 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. These will be developed through tutor led projects, live projects with external partners and the opportunity to initiate and develop your own projects. Alongside the studio modules you will continue to build your skills and research and enquiry through the Critical Enquiry module which will enable you to learn diverse approaches to research and develop your own voice as a researcher. You will also continue to develop and review your reflective portfolio, making connections between theory, and practice as well as external professional practice, considering the impact of work related learning opportunities undertaken through the year. Students who wish to study away for a semester during Level 2 will undertake (at York St John University, in the semester preceding or following their time away) 20 credits of Critical Enquiry (1 or 2) which still provides a holistic overview of the learning through the level, including the experience of studying away, but appropriately adjusts the submission requirements accordingly. Students studying away will also normally only undertake either Illustration Practice & Development or Illustration Exposition.

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. You will also encounter ideas and debates at the leading edge of research which situate Illustration as an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary practice. You will further develop your skills and knowledge through undertaking an independent piece of research to explore innovative ideas through a variety of both practical and theoretical based methods of your choice. You will refine your Illustration practice in an interdisciplinary context through advanced studio practice. The Situated Professional Practice module will enable you to situate and direct your ambitions into a professional future after graduation.

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)

Programme specification

Further information on this course is available in the programme specification. Please note that the programme specification relates to course content that is currently being studied by students at the University. For new programmes, the programme specification will be made available online prior to the start of the course.

Disability Advice

York St John University works hard to create an inclusive environment for all our students. We offer a range of disability advice services to assist students throughout their studies.

Teaching & Assessment

Teaching, learning and assessment in Illustration is centred on a progressive acquisition of skills, knowledge and experience through studio, critical and external projects which build your knowledge of your subject and your own practice within that subject. This form of practice based learning is aimed at introducing you to the core practices of Illustration, (drawing, still and sequential image making, narrative construction) and the range of genres and possibilities within Illustration practice as it intersects with other disciplines such as art, media, advertising and publishing, or social agendas such as sustainability, social justice, economics etc. From this foundation you will evolve a personal practice based on your interests and strengths through experimentation, reflection, critical engagement and realising work of focus and resolution.


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 - 112 UCAS Tariff points

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

Calculate your tariff points.

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.

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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 will depend on whether you're a UK & EU student or an international (non-EU) student. Tuition fees are charged for each year of your course.

Find out more about funding for Foundation Year and/or Placement Year by visiting the Funding Advice pages of our website.

York St John offer special reductions to students graduating from York St John University Undergraduate degrees in 2019 and continuing directly onto Postgraduate study. Find out more about discounts and scholarships.

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


Tuition fees

UK & EU 2019 / 20

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE Primary and Secondary and UG Health Programme degrees is £9,250 per year for UK/EU, Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

Fees & Funding

Overseas 2019 / 20

The York St John University tuition fee for the 2019 entry to Foundation Degree, BA and BSc, PGCE degrees is £12,750 per year for international students.

Tuition fees may be subject to inflation in future years.

International Fees & Funding

Additional costs and financial support

Course-related costs

Whilst studying for your degree, there may be additional costs related to your course. This may include purchasing course materials and funding for optional trips, however these are heavily subsidised by the School. 

Accommodation and living costs

View our for detailed information on accommodation and living costs.

Study abroad

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

Financial help and support

Help and advice on funding your studies at York St John is available through our . 

International students

We welcome international students from all over the world at York St John University and have a vibrant international community. You can find out more on our International Pages about how you can study with us and what it’s like to live and learn in York, one of the UK’s most historic cities.

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