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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

Our BA (Hons) Illustration degree course has developed a well-deserved reputation for challenging conventional thinking.

Follow in the illustrious footsteps of graduates from our undergraduate illustration course, who have achieved success in diverse fields, including adult and children’s book illustration and comics; documentary illustration (reportage) for editorial publications; narrative illustration for advertising and a range of contemporary craft and design publications; as well as film, screen and theatrical-based work.

Your illustration skills

Take an experimental and innovative approach to narrative and sequential illustration to develop your own way of thinking about how to link image, narrative, message and meaning through your work.

Use a range of drawing, printmaking, digital and 3D sculpture facilities, and work on projects that will see you applying your ideas to produce 2D work (print, drawing and graphics) and 3D objects (books, models and sculptural forms).

Your illustration future

Throughout your degree you’ll develop advanced professional practice skills, covering areas such as freelance careers and employment, entrepreneurship, negotiating, briefs and commissions. Live projects, competitions and collaborations provide extensive work opportunities to prepare you for a successful career after you graduate.

You’ll have the chance to exhibit publicly and promote your work through exhibitions as you progress through the course. Pop-up shops and educational events will enable you to graduate with a rich, varied and commercially-attractive portfolio of work that will be notable for its depth of research and technical ambition.

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 Careers Team in the Ideas FactoryNUA to help support you as you plan your career.

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 #Disrupt

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 interview and portfolio review 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 interview 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 international@nua.ac.uk 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
  • Fashion garment designs
  • 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.

Your interview

After you apply to study BA Illustration at NUA we’ll invite you to an interview on campus or by skype or telephone, depending on your circumstance.

If you apply by the UCAS deadline of 15 January your interview will usually take place in February. We’ll ask you to prepare your portfolio ready to bring with you or submit online ahead of your interview.

Read our tips for interviews at NUA

Fees and Funding

The cost of your course is determined by your status as either ‘UK/EU’ or ‘International’, so it’s important to check your fee status. If you’re unsure, the UKCISA website will help you determine whether you’re eligible to pay a UK/EU fee (also called a ‘home’ fee). If you’d prefer to speak to NUA directly, please contact student.finance@nua.ac.uk

UK/EU students are eligible for a tuition fee loan from the UK government, meaning you won’t have to pay your fees up front. Further details about tuition fee loans are provided below. International students are not eligible for the UK government tuition fee loan.

2019/20 Tuition Fees For New Entrants

Citizen status



UK/EU nationality

Undergraduate degree (full-time three and four year degree)


International (non-EU)

Undergraduate degree (full-time three and four year degree)


Fees will remain the same for each year of your course. 

International students

Find out more about 2019 fees for international students and the support available.

Financial support for UK/EU students

Tuition fee loans and loans for living costs are available, as well as non-repayable NUA bursaries that take into account family income. Find out how to apply for funding.

Tuition Fee Loan for Undergraduate study

Tuition fee loans are available for UK and EU students.

  • Available to cover the full cost of your tuition
  • You don’t have to pay for your course up front yourself
  • Only start paying back when you are earning over £25,000 per year

Maintenance Loan for Undergraduate study – 2018/19

Student Maintenance Loans are available for UK and eligible EU students to help with living costs such as accommodation, food, clothes, travel and course expenses. The amount students receive is dependent on household income and any maintenance grant received.

  • A loan of up to £8,700 may be available if you live away from home.
  • A loan of up to £7,324 may be available if you live with your parents.

How can you find out more?

To learn more about loans, repayment calculations and other financial support, visit Student Finance. If you have any questions about fees, please email student.finance@nua.ac.uk


Find out about scholarship programmes available to NUA applicants.


For new entrants whose household income is assessed as £25,000 or less, the university will offer a contribution towards the costs of studying at NUA (such as equipment, materials and other course-related costs). This will be £200 for new entrants to Year 0 and Year 1, rising to £300 in Year 2, followed by £500 in Year 3. Find out more about bursaries at NUA

NUA alumni, staff and feeder staff discount

All NUA alumni are eligible for a £1,000 discount on NUA postgraduate degree fees. All NUA staff and staff from feeder institutions are eligible for a £500 discount on NUA postgraduate degree fees.

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


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

portrait photo of alum Alex Nicholson looking off screen with short spiky hair wearing glasses in a large print floral shirt

Alex Nicholson

"All the students work differently so it was really beneficial to bounce ideas off my friends in the studio. NUA has the perfect creative atmosphere."

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

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


  • Matthew Richardson

  • Christopher Gibbs

  • Alice Lee

  • Peter Knock

  • Catrin Morgan

  • Toby Morison

  • Bee Willey

  • George Mellor

  • Sinead Evans

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 contact Lynne, Sam, Tom, or Tori:

Call: +44 (0) 1603 610561

Email: studentrecruitment@nua.ac.uk

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