BA (Hons) Illustration
  • BA (Hons) Illustration

    Institution code: N39
    Course 3 Year UCAS code: W220
    Course 4 Year UCAS code: W221
    Course length: 3 or 4 year options
    Work-based learning opportunities: Creative Professional Development Year (Level 5 diploma) available between years 2 & 3

    Building your creative and professional skills in a variety of techniques and approaches to illustration is at the heart of our well-regarded course at NUA.

    Our BA (Hons) Illustration degree course has a reputation for challenging conventional thinking. We will help you to develop your personal style as your expertise grows in drawing, print, collage and multi-media.

    You will explore visual storytelling and both digital and analogue image-making: from the page to the screen, to installations and interactive experiences.

    Step towards an illustration career

    Live projects, competitions and collaborations will offer work opportunities to prepare you for a successful career in illustration.

    You will develop your own way of thinking about illustration, storytelling and the connection of images to text or the spoken word.

    We will help with advice about working in the creative industries, including freelance careers, employment and entrepreneurship, and practical tips on handling commissions and negotiating with clients.

    Awards and accolades

    Student accolades include the Penguin Books Student Design Awards, the RSA Student Design Awards, and selection for Masters of Art International.

    Graduates work in a broad range of careers including

    • Freelance Illustrator
    • Self-Publisher
    • Printmaker
    • Designer Picture Book Designer Public Artist
    • Artist in Residence
    • Book Publisher
    • Animator
    • Filmmaker
    • Curator
    • Director
    • Editorial Publisher
    • Gallery Assistant
    • Illustration Agent

    You’ll also get specialist creative careers advice from our team in the Ideas FactoryNUA to help support you as you plan your career.

    All courses run as a blend of on-campus and digital teaching and learning, and follow current UK government safety advice. Applicants and students will be notified directly if any changes need to be made.

    Course content

    • Year 1
    • Develop and explore methods of researching
    • Examine storytelling through visual narrative and sequential design
    • Explore analogue and digital image making
    • Develop an understanding of visual communication, informed by design principles and cultural ideas
    • Understand drawing languages, observational drawing, mark-making, print, collage and multi-media processes
    • Year 2
    • Develop and apply experimental approaches to Factual and Fictional ideas
    • Initiate and manage illustration projects in collaboration with students from other courses and external partners from outside of the University
    • Apply research and creative skills across a range of commercial and experimental narrative illustration applications
    • Take the opportunity to enter a variety of competitions, stage exhibitions and present work to peers and industry panels to broaden your professional profile
    • Illustrate Fictional and Factual stories (written and un-written)
    • Identify research and practice subject matter and illustration specialism for final year study.
    • Year 3
    • Apply specialist skills and employ advanced research methodologies (e.g. field trips, site visits, archived-based research)
    • Complete a Research Report that provides a broad contextualisation of your illustration practice
    • Focus on your promoting your individual creative direction to target appropriate professional roles and opportunities
    • Engage in professional practice and 'live' experiences, and channel your specialist illustration knowledge towards the creation of final degree show and graduate portfolio.
    Visit the Degree Show website

    Typical UK offers

    A / AS Levels – GCE
    GCE A/AS Levels 3 A-level qualifications at grades BBB. Where candidates are not taking 3 A-levels, NUA will consider combinations of A-level/AS-level and other Level 3 qualifications.

    BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF or RQF)
    Distinction, Merit, Merit in an art, design or media related subject

    BTEC Diploma (QCF or RQF)
    Distinction*, Distinction* in an art, design or media related subject

    UAL Extended Diploma

    UAL Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design

    UAL Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design

    Foundation Diploma in Art and Design

    Access to Higher Education Diploma (Art and Design)

    International Baccalaureate Diploma
    A minimum of 27 points

    NUA welcomes applicants of all ages from all backgrounds. Your application will be primarily assessed through your portfolio, responses to questions asked and personal statement, so even if you have no formal qualifications or do not meet our typical offers it can still be worth applying.

    If you are studying at the time of your application and your application is successful it is likely that you will receive a conditional offer.

    If the qualification that you are studying is not shown, do not worry as we are able to accept other pre-entry qualifications as well as combinations of different qualifications. Please do contact our Student Recruitment Team if you have any queries.

    International applications

    We accept qualifications from all over the world. To find our entry requirements from a specific country, please check our dedicated international pages.

    Most international students are required to hold an English language qualification. Applicants are required to have a minimum UKVI approved IELTS exam score of 6.0 overall, with a minimum of 5.5 in each section. Equivalent English language qualifications are acceptable such as, IB English language syllabus A or B/English Literature (Grade 4).

    We also accept some alternative English qualifications. Learn more about our English entry requirements.

    You can email us on if you’d like to discuss your application individually.

    BA (Hons) Illustration degree portfolio guidance

    Your portfolio should be relevant to this course, but you can include a wide range of work that shows your creativity, technical competence and understanding of storytelling.

    You may wish to include some of the following:

    • Drawings, painting or illustrations that demonstrate your skills, including life drawings, still life and images drawn from observing people and landscapes or from your imagination
    • Collages and mixed media
    • Experimental workbooks
    • Animations
    • Work created using Adobe Creative Suite or other appropriate design software package
    • Photography and photo-montage
    • Sequential art including graphic novels/comic strips and story boards
    • Examples of experiments with print making processes
    • Illustrated stories or comics

    Further portfolio advice and tips

    Get more advice on presentation formats, layouts and when to submit your portfolio in the application process.

    2022/23 University fees for new entrants

    NUA will assess students’ tuition fee status using the guidance provided by the UK Council for International Student Affairs

    Students from the UK or Ireland and EU students with ‘Settled’ or ‘Pre-Settled’ status will be charged ‘Home’ fees if they meet the relevant residency requirements.  They will usually be eligible for a tuition fee loan from the UK government, meaning that they won’t have to pay NUA’s tuition fees up front.

    Students who do not meet the necessary residency requirements will usually be charged ‘Overseas’ fees and will not be eligible for the UK government tuition fee loan. Since 2021/22, this includes new entrants from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland who do not have ‘Settled’ or ‘Pre-Settled’ status, because the UK has now formally left the EU.

    Fee status Course Fee
    Home Undergraduate degree (full-time three and four year degree) £9,250
    Overseas Undergraduate degree (full-time three and four year degree) £17,500

    In subsequent years inflation may be applied to the fees of those who started in 2022/23, at no more than the Office for Students’ recommended measure based on forecast RPI-X.

    Financial support for UK students in 2022

    Tuition fee loans and loans for living costs are usually available to UK and some EU students, as well as non-repayable NUA bursaries based on family income. Find out more about applying for funding.

    Creative Professional Development (1 year, Level 5 Diploma)

    The Diploma in Creative Professional Development has been developed to offer undergraduate students the chance to spend a year, between the second and third year of their course, exploring their employability options through a structured programme of input sessions and work-based learning.

    Not just an ‘industry sandwich year’ —

    The Level 5 Diploma in Creative Professional Development is:

    • Designed around your needs as a creative student, particularly if your personal network does not currently reach creative industry.
    • Based on our award-winning Profile skills framework.
    • Co-delivered with industry partners who share our approach.
    • Supporting you with carefully planned interventions and activities before and after their placements, so that you are ready to undertake placement learning and then equipped to derive the maximum insight from the experience afterwards.
    • Opening a wide range of creative roles that you may not imagine you would be able to apply for after your study at NUA.

    It has been designed for:

    • Students who want to work in creative industry but have not yet decided the sort of role they would like.
    • Students who do have a clear sense of career direction but need to develop a structured plan to achieve it.
    • Students who do not have relevant work experience, and want to graduate with a fuller CV.
    • Students who think that business start-up or freelancing may be their preferred option and want to explore it further.

    Find out more about the Level 5 Diploma in Creative Professional Development

    Four year degree

    Our innovative four year degrees are exactly the same as our three year degrees but include an extra year of study at the beginning – Year 0.

    Year 0 is all about developing the skills and knowledge you need to successfully complete your degree course. Building on your experience from A Level or equivalent courses, the Year 0 curriculum allows extra time to develop the practical, technical and creative skills that are critical to successfully completing an undergraduate degree at NUA.

    While studying Year 0 BA (Hons) Illustration you’ll develop visual research strategies through studio-based workshops, considering narrative, and illustration as a mode of communication.

    Within the first project you will explore the potential for ‘story-telling’ and sequence. You’ll explore a range approaches to image making, building upon this as you move through the second project, which is focused on specific environments; their past and their present.

    As you negotiate the unit you will begin to develop you own visual language, and greater degrees of independence. Projects will be led by course tutors and as part of the Illustration course you will join all years for guest lectures and course events.

    Typical UK offers and entry requirements for Year 0 entry

    GCE A/AS Levels
    2 A-level qualifications at grades CC or higher.

    BTEC Extended Diploma (QCF or RQF)
    Merit, Merit, Pass in an art, design or media related subject

    BTEC Diploma (QCF or RQF)
    Distinction, Merit in an art, design or media related subject

    UAL Extended Diploma
    An overall Pass

    UAL Level 3 Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
    An overall Pass

    Foundation Diploma in Art and Design 

    Access to Higher Education Diploma (Art and Design)

    International Baccalaureate Diploma
    A minimum of 24 points

    NUA welcomes applicants of all ages from all backgrounds. Your application will be primarily assessed through your portfolio, responses to questions asked and personal statement, so even if you have no formal qualifications or do not meet our typical offers it can still be worth applying.

    If you are studying at the time of your application and your application is successful it is likely that you will receive a conditional offer.

    Tom Abbiss Smith, Illustrator on a bridge

    Tom Abbiss Smith

    "What I always find exciting about NUA’s Illustration Degree Shows is the variation of work and how the students push the boundaries of what Illustration can be."

    BA (Hons) Illustration

    photo of alum Kaelin O Hare sitting on wooden bench in grassy park and holding sketchbook while smiling at camera with long brown hair and a knitted scarf and a medium length green coat

    Kaelin O’Hare

    "I have the freedom to explore and develop my practice, with the University’s resources, guidance from course staff, and a creative community to support me and to learn from."

    BA (Hons) Illustration

    Image of alumni Adam Avery sat in a bar working on his laptop

    Adam Avery

    "University is a vital incubation period, but it was on the job that my practice evolved and streamlined into the process I use today"

    BA (Hons) Illustration

    portrait photo of alum Karla Alcazar Martinez smiling and looking off screen with medium length hair in loose floral top

    Karla Alcazar-Martinez

    "The tutors always encourage me to be a bit more confident. They do see the potential in each and every one of us. And that’s really cool."

    BA (Hons) Illustration


    • Bee Willey

    • Adam Avery

    • Toby Morison

    • Adam Larkum

    • Stef Murphy

    Need help? Chat to our friendly recruitment team

    Book a place on an Open Day, or to find out more about how to apply for a course at NUA, please give us a call.


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    by the Times and Sunday Times 2022

    Top Two UK
    Creative Arts

    by The Complete University Guide 2023

    Uni of
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    for Student Retention -
    The Times and Sunday Times 2020

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