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Course details

Study options

Full-time: 4 years, Part-time: 6 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year* (2020/21)

International fee

£14,045 per year (2020/21)

UCAS points

120 (September 2020 entry)

UCAS code


Course level




Start date



Markeaton Street, Derby Campus

If you do not achieve the typical entry points required, you may want to consider studying this course with foundation year.

View with foundation year optionView with foundation year option

Course description

What is an MDes?

This is a four-year studio practice based course, incorporating undergraduate study and leading to a Masters qualification.

The first 2.5 years are taught alongside the BA undergraduates in your specialist discipline of Graphic Design and then for the final 1.5 years you will study Masters level modules in your subject discipline. This is a good opportunity to achieve a postgraduate qualification making you one-step ahead in the graduate jobs market. On successful completion of the undergraduate modules of the programme you will be guaranteed progression to study at Masters level, as one learning journey, rather than having to apply. If you change your mind during the first three years of the programme you can transfer back to the relevant BA and complete with a BA qualification.

Masters depth of study provides more focused specialist knowledge, which is highly respected by employers. The later stages of the four-year course include professional engagement opportunities, helping you to establish your graduate career whilst you are still a student. You will be eligible for an undergraduate student loan for fees and maintenance for all four years of study. 

The integrated learning journey through undergraduate to postgraduate encourages you to be committed from the early stages, identifying yourself as an ambitious deep thinker, risk taker and innovative practitioner. The four-year course will give you more time and opportunity for in-depth practice as well as academic research and study.

About the course

You will explore exciting and rapidly evolving areas of graphic design, including the latest developments in design, publishing, branding, advertising, the internet, screen based and moving images and contemporary practice in graphic design. We will encourage you to consider the ethical impact of your practice and individuality as a designer, by questioning and challenging what the subject can be and pushing the boundaries. You will produce in depth, challenging and original creative ideas through your graphic design projects.

During your final year you'll produce in depth, challenging and original creative ideas through a final major project. You will consider the ethical impact of your practice and individuality as a designer, by questioning and challenging what the subject can be and pushing boundaries.

Student Case study with work
Liam Tuckwood- MDes Graphic Design

'The BA taught me the fundamentals of graphic design and how to be a successful designer, but the MA pushes you more towards focusing on one thing and really thinking about the complex theories around things and being in depth with your work.' - Liam Tuckwood, MDes Graphic Design


All art and design courses are based at our Markeaton Street site where modern, purpose built studios and labs provide a modern creative space for our arts students. Markeaton Street encompasses Chandos Pole Street (home to our Fashion and Textiles courses) and Britannia Mill (home to Fine Arts and our print-making facilities). Students on any of our theatre related courses also get to study at Derby Theatre, and Dance students study at Deda.

Markeaton Street is a 15 minute walk from Kedleston Road, and is serviced by regular free site shuttle buses.

Explore our facilities through our Virtual Tour:

Markeaton Street

Art and Design creative spaces

What you will study

Year 1Year 1Year 2Year 2Year 3Year 3Year 4Year 4

Code: 4VC511

Discovering Graphic Design

This fact-finding and practical module asks students to explore the creative industries in relation to their subject discipline and introduces them to the external world of graphic design. Students will be asked to explore the field of graphic design via the University Learning Hub; to explore design journals; local exhibitions and external organisations, in order to discover the range of applications and potential pathways available in their subject.

Students will be encouraged to identify and discuss design disciplines such as branding, identity, packaging, information design, wayfinding, advertising and persuasive design across social media platforms.

Students will be asked to identify aspects of creative practice, and should begin to reflect on visual language and purpose, in relation to global audience.

This growing awareness of external graphic design trends and disciplines will help to contemporise their critical awareness and enhance their ability to evaluate their own work and that of their peers. Students will also be invited to reflect on their emerging practical portfolio. This reflective analysis will help students to express their personal identity and to define their future ambitions with the graphic design specialism.

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20 Credits

Code: 4VC512

Graphic Design: Culture and Curiosity

This module approaches the history of graphic design as a vast and extraordinary museum filled with exciting ideas which can be used to inspire and inform students’ own design practice. Students will be encouraged to be curious and discover the fantastic range of graphic art both in the past and present and use these creative ideas as impetus for their own making and thinking.

As such this module supports the development of design practice that takes place in other level 4 modules: Discovering Graphic Design; Exploring Visual Communication; and Graphic Design Process.

Graphic Design Culture and Curiosity will help broaden students’ knowledge of the evolution of graphic design as a creative discipline. Specific historical periods, themes and topics are identified and students are encouraged to think about the ways in which design practice is intimately related to the historical, social, political, technological, cultural and artistic contexts of its production. This will provide rich material for students to consider as developing practitioners. We will consider how contexts have influenced design but also how design itself has shaped culture and society both the past and present.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, gallery visits, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of individual examples of graphic design. Academic assignments will be set which will foster development of skills in researching, essay writing, visual analysis and historical and critical discussion of design.

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20 Credits

Code: 4VC513

Graphic Design Process

This module introduces you to the essentials of Graphic Design Process and connects thinking with making in relation to problem finding and solving. The module consists of a series of set graphic design projects offering a range of themes and issues requiring exploration and practical responses. An important aspect of the project work of this module is to encourage you to analyse, understand and respond to communication problems with an awareness of your developing ways of working, as a design process, and to generate successful communication outcomes with a focus on audience and purpose.

You will be encouraged to explore, experiment and take creative risks and start to develop an individual approach to the way you work.

Research into and investigation of themes and topics included in projects, form a major feature of the module. You are required to consider carefully the validity of your proposals and their appropriateness to a given audience and purpose.

Practical projects will be set encouraging personal experimentation and developing competence in digital software skills.

You will also be encouraged to establish an understanding of the historical and contemporary context of the work you are producing. This knowledge and understanding will be evidenced in the exploratory, developmental, process book and final outcomes of the projects set.

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40 Credits

Code: 4VC514

Exploring Visual Communication

This module introduces the student to the creation of visual ideas using words and images and develops this fundamental approach for the generation of effective visual communication within graphic design. An emphasis will be placed on how words communicate within this module and students will be invited to explore typography and to examine the creative potential of language, colour, composition, style, visual hierarchy and creative wordplay.

Students will be encouraged to experience letterforms through drawing, model-making, letterpress and screen-printing, as well as Adobe creative suite.

A further emphasis will be placed on how images communicate. All students will be invited to explore meaning through the use of icons, symbols, pictograms, semiotic theory, colour theory, culture and context, as practically through collage, photography and drawing.

Students will be introduced to digital software and encouraged to experiment with photo-manipulation, vector graphics and animation. Students will be encouraged to record their creative experimentation within a process book that is designed to be a visual laboratory where ideas, materials and techniques can be tested and visually discussed.

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40 Credits

Code: 5VC503

Directed Projects in Graphic Design

This double module offers you the opportunity to apply your developing working methods to a range of practical projects, within the specialist subject of Graphic Design.

The aim of the module is to increase your knowledge of the subject of Graphic Design and your individual creative potential within it. You will explore ways of working and the design process to identify and develop a personal methodology in solving visual communication problems through graphic design outcomes.

Emphasis will be placed on considerations of a given audience and purpose in resolving visual communication problems. The module will provide advanced workshop sessions and supported experimentation with forms of digital media. Enabling you to explore in greater depth processes and working methods relevant to the development of your approach to your practical work and developing personal direction.

Live projects may be undertaken and collaborative links explored. You will be encouraged to develop and refine your technical skills as appropriate to achieve increasingly professional outcomes in the form of a portfolio of projects.

Studio based project work will be supported by group work checks, seminars, workshops and visiting lecturers.

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40 Credits

Code: 5VC505

Professional Practice

This module explores and considers the many facets of each of the three Visual Communication programmes, Graphic Design, Illustration and Animation and introduces you to the professional external world of your practice specialism. You will learn more about the professional skills necessary to a career in your chosen subject and will begin to explore the main options open to you on graduation.

Your Personal Development Plan, begun in the module Graphic Design, Illustration or Animation Practice, you will be encouraged to be reflective and increasingly aware of your strengths, weaknesses and transferable skills, to define your personal identity as a designer.

Tutorials and group seminars will provide you with projects and workshops that challenge your promotional and networking skills in your subject area. This will prepare you for your future and increase your initiative, confidence and autonomy.

You will be encouraged to work on collaborative cross-disciplinary projects in order for you to begin networking and broadening your internal and external contacts. There will be study visits to exhibitions, visiting speakers, conferences and related events as appropriate.

Additionally, this module will provide you with the opportunity to relate your academic knowledge and vocational skills to the professional work environment.

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20 Credits

Code: 5VC507

Visual Culture: Theory

This module will further develop the ideas and knowledge introduced in the module “Visual Culture: History”. The module will introduce various theories that are commonly attached to the study of visual culture and the disciplines of art and design. We will consider how “critical theory” can help us to analyse visual material with a higher level of understanding, your understanding of visual culture will be extended by looking at the ways in which visual communication produces and reproduces ideologies of culture, society, politics and economics.

We will also study the ways in which visual communication challenges or resists dominant social and cultural values. We will work towards applying various theories in order to analyse works by visual practitioners, so as to better understand their work and what may be learned from it.

There will be an emphasis on undertaking scholarly research on critical theory alongside detailed research on specific visual practitioners. Working in this way will help you to explore the relationships between theory and practice.

Learning will take place in the contexts of slide-lectures, seminars and tutorials and we will focus on the close study of images. You will undertake written assignments as well as an oral seminar presentation.

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20 Credits

Code: 5VC500

Design Strategies

This double module focuses on design strategies for a broad range of formats and purposes. The module will explore print based design solutions, including; magazines, books and posters, literature and identity and new media formats and digital environments. You will be encouraged to experiment within this area to identify your strengths, interests and potential.

Module sessions will explore considerations of audience, including; readability, information hierarchy and usability, through effective typography, layout and control of aesthetic considerations in persuasive communication. Understanding of the context of outcomes and the forms they take will be established and you will be encouraged to challenge the norms of mass communication in your experiments and outcomes.

In response to given themes, you will also be challenged to self-author projects, taking control of the concept from the initial intended communication to the fully resolved outcome.

Critical evaluation of the communication value and historical and contemporary context of your work will form an important element of the learning in this module. This will be extended and supported by group work checks, seminars, workshops and visiting lecturers.

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40 Credits

Code: 5VC501

Digital Moving Image

This double module provides an opportunity for you to focus on making and manipulating digital moving images. The module sessions will be structured around the making of a short digital film. Throughout the process of making your film, module sessions will explore concept development, time planning, scripting, sound and film making techniques.

This substantial project will encourage you to experiment within digital film-making, to discover new ways of working, identify your strengths and further develop your personal voice. You will also be encouraged to discuss and develop your own concepts and themes to explore visually, take risks and try new approaches. 

Critical evaluation of the communication value and historical and contemporary context of the work will form an important element of the learning in this module. Your studies will be supported by group work checks, seminars, workshops and visiting lecturers. 

A digital portfolio of practical work, including all development work, will form the means of assessment, and your outcomes should evidence an increasing confidence in understanding the cultural context of the work.

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40 Credits

Code: 5VC506

Sequential Illustration

This double module focuses on creating sequential and narrative illustration. You will explore how sequences can be created and manipulated to communicate concepts effectively within the format of books, exhibitions, editorial, packaging, reportage and many other possibilities.

You will experiment with methods of controlling the experience of the viewer, holding the viewer’s attention, taking the viewer on a journey and communicating feelings and sensations through controlling atmosphere, timing and visual information.

You will explore the narrative form in depth and will have the opportunity to express your own ideas and concepts as appropriate to your developing personal direction, through a substantial sequential illustration project.

In response to given themes, you will also be challenged to self-author, taking control of the concept from the initial intended communication to the fully resolved outcome. Audience, purpose and your concept are the central defining factors and you are expected to explore, challenge and experiment with formats such as the book, graphic novel or other sequence, in response to the project theme.

Studio based project work will be supported by group work checks, seminars, workshops and visiting lecturers. A portfolio of practical work will be produced and your outcomes should evidence an increasing understanding of contemporary and historical trends.

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40 Credits

Code: 6VC502

Negotiated Study in Graphic Design

This double module will enable you to select from a range of graphic design projects, including competitions and live briefs. The selections you make will enable you to refine the focus of your practice, to build a portfolio that represents your strengths and to begin to direct your own learning in the areas that most interest you. You will be expected to challenge your abilities, processes and methodologies in addressing the projects selected and to refine your ways of working to achieve professional standards in preparation for employment and/or further study.

You will negotiate your project selections with your assigned Personal Tutor and with your Module Tutors, who will support and advice on identified strengths and the balance of the projects chosen. Your goal will be to express your personal voice and extend your individual direction within graphic design.

All of the projects offered will be challenging visual communication problems across a range of issues offering a wide choice of options to respond to in your own way, within your practice focus. Collaborative or joint projects may also be negotiated.

You will be required to produce a portfolio of your practical work responding to the projects set. You will also be required to evidence the application of a high level of research and understanding of historical and contemporary practice in the subject area in responding to and developing your selected projects.

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40 Credits

Code: 6VC507

Visual Culture: Extended Essay

In this module you will produce an extended essay on a topic determined by you with the support of your tutor. While the topic will be of your own choosing, it should relate to your own discipline and practice.

The topic selected should offer enough depth to allow you to identify issues for research, investigation and analysis. You will be encouraged to build on and apply the theories and historical knowledge explored in the modules “Visual Culture: History” and “Visual Culture; Theory.”

Your topic will be carefully selected and honed to ensure that it helps inform your understanding of your discipline and practice. For example, you may focus on a specific practitioner whose work successfully responds to a set of problems, which are pertinent to your own concerns.

There are indeed other approaches to identifying a topic focus and research question; for example, one method is to compare and contrast, while another may be to focus on a narrow historical period or a narrow genre of visual texts. Your tutor will help guide you in refining your approach and in establishing your title for the extended essay.  

You will identify, negotiate and assume responsibility for conducting your research and producing the extended essay.

You will work towards developing a coherent argument, informed by your research, which will drive the structure and logic of the extended essay. You will work towards producing coherent academic writing, which adopts the scholarly conventions of referencing according to Harvard procedures.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  1. Initiate, generate and research an individual topic relevant to your subject, with reference to cultural, theoretical and historical influences
  2. Articulate an analytical and critical written presentation on that topic establishing a considered argument
  3. Engage in critical discussion, articulating ideas effectively and contributing to current debate within your specialist subject

Module content

In consultation with tutors, you will define and research an area of study, which will reflect and complement your particular individual practice.

Tutorials will provide advice, direction and additional sources of research and visual material where appropriate. The tutorials will also provide a framework for ensuring coherence of the topic, and direction for the methods and planning of research, draft versions and final presentation issues.

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20 Credits

Code: 7VC500

Personal Practice & Methodologies

This module will focus on the exploration, critical review and development of your personal practice and methodologies. Your interests, philosophical concerns, and ethical stance as a designer will be explored and considered. You will consider your practice from a sociological, philosophical, commercial, professional, ecological and cultural perspective. Emphasis will be placed on developing a sophisticated knowledge of visual communication as a cultural entity and its significance to society.

You will be encouraged to employ critical judgement to analyse and evaluate your strengths and areas for development in your work and the module will challenge your approaches, use of media and techniques, knowledge and understanding to establish new ground and cement ownership of your personal voice.

Exploration of conceptual and visual research methodologies will accompany your development of personal voice and will challenge you to organise, synthesise and communicate your research and practice effectively. A high level of subject knowledge will underpin all aspects of the module through engagement with contemporary and historical practice, with particular reference to current debates and issues within design. This learning will be further enhanced and supported through seminars in the module ‘Visual Culture: Debates’, to achieve a sophisticated engagement with critical and theoretical debates within visual communication.

The module will culminate in the identification of an ‘Area of Focus’, which will form the basis of your Master’s Practice Project to be further developed in the modules, ‘Concept’ and ‘Realisation’. Your identified Area of Focus, potential external links relating to the Area of Focus, and an evaluation of your development and discoveries in this module will begin your Level 7 Personal Development Plan. This will be submitted with your practical work at the end of the module. Concept Panels mid module and at the end of the module will consist of members of your teaching team who will critique, question, debate and discuss your identified ‘Area of Focus’, to ensure rigorous thinking and critical judgment have been applied.

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40 Credits

Code: 7VC501

Visual Culture: Debates

This module aims to extend your knowledge and understanding of visual culture, through the exploration of critical and theoretical debates. It takes as its starting point selected academic texts, which will be the focus for initiating debate.

These texts will be the focus of critical scrutiny, and will provide a platform for developing a scholarly understanding of such concepts as ideology, identity, ethics, aesthetics and how these might be related to issues relating to gender, globalisation, sustainability, taste and consumer culture. Seminar debate will aim to cover a range of different and often contested positions relevant to visual communication and its socio-cultural, historical, artistic, technological and political contexts. 

Through the process of debate you will become able to demonstrate a sophisticated level of critical engagement with the literature and existing research relevant to your discipline and you will be able to apply the academic reading and learning methods practiced to your individual areas of specialist focus.

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20 Credits

Code: 7VC502


This module represents the ‘concept’ phase of the body of work that will form your Master’s Practice Project. The module provides a period of time in which to extensively research and explore your individual ‘Area of Focus’ in your practice, as identified in the previous module, ‘Personal Practice & Methodologies’.

Practice-based research produced will aim for originality and innovation, exploring and seeking to challenge the boundaries of your subject. You will be encouraged to apply structure and methodologies in your approach, to organise, rationalise and interpret ways of working, experiments and research gathered, in order to create a fully considered Practice Concept to be realised in the following module, ’Realisation’.

You will also make contact with external links in relation to your ‘Area of Focus’, testing ideas, gaining knowledge and identifying further external arenas and debates that your work may benefit from and contribute to.

The development of a well-conceived Practice Concept will require initiative, personal responsibility and independent scholarship. You will also identify the practical and logistical components and resources needed and explore the ethical and health and safety implications of the project. The Practice Concept will be critically evaluated, debated and supported by a Concept Panel mid module and also at the end of the module. Through discussion and debate the Concept Panels will challenge you on the feasibility of your concept, consider practicalities and provide a critical assessment of the project.

These discussions will inform your decision-making to ensure comprehensive consideration of all aspects of your practice concept, which will need to be agreed by the Concept Panel. The module will be significantly informed throughout by the development of your Dissertation in the module ‘Visual Culture: Dissertation’.

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40 Credits

Code: 7VC503

Visual Culture: Dissertation

You will plan a personal programme of research around a negotiated topic, relevant to your studio practice and identified Area of Focus. Your topic will be carefully selected and honed to ensure that it successfully informs your practice.

The module aims to extend your knowledge and understanding of visual culture to an advanced level, through the scholarly research and preparation of a dissertation. Your Master’s dissertation will display advanced scholarship and sophisticated engagement with your discipline. This module will support you in developing research methodologies and strategies of research gathering appropriate to this level of study. Building on the module, ‘Visual Culture: Debates’ you will extend scholarly research in relation to your practice focus.

Your writing will generate a body of original work, based around an independently conceived argument. You will work towards developing a coherent argument, informed by scholarly research, which will drive the structure and logic of the dissertation. You will work towards the coherent articulation of sophisticated material following accepted scholarly conventions.

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20 Credits

Code: 7VC504


This module is the culmination of your Master’s Practice Project and will enable you to undertake and realise the Practice Concept defined and researched in the module ‘Concept’. This triple module provides a significant period of time in which to create an extensive body of highly developed practice in response to the challenges you have set yourself.

You will be expected to work with independent scholarship, with an enquiring and questioning approach and to realise, analyse, test and critically evaluate your Practice Concept within your practice specialism. Concept Panels will support, challenge, advise and help you to evaluate your progress and the outcomes of the realisation of your project through peer learning and academic critique.

Within this module your Personal Development Plan will include: an account of the research and testing of the concept, evaluate the process of realising the concept and critique the effectiveness and future potential of the final outcomes with full bibliographic reference to the material used and influences. The completed PDP will help you to view this extensive project beyond graduation and to plan for the next stage of your career.

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60 Credits

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

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How you will learn

Real world learning is incorporated into this course, through ‘live’ projects, field trips and working with employers. We also have guest lectures throughout the programme.

How you are assessed

Assessment of all of your modules is by 100% coursework reflecting the practical nature of this creative, practice-based discipline. The coursework will focus on and around the range of projects and assignments you undertake throughout the programme, including studio work, industrial liaison, presentations, written and oral reports, seminar reports and your dissertation.

Personal academic tutoring

Your personal academic tutor will work with you to help you get the most out of your time at university. Having someone to talk to about your academic progress, your university experience and your professional aspirations is hugely valuable. We want you to feel challenged in your studies, stretched but confident to achieve your academic and professional goals.

Find out more about personal academic tutoring

Who will teach you

Tracy Tomlinson
Programme leader

Tracy is Assistant Subject Manager for Design.

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Entry requirements

September 2020 typical entry requirements

RequirementWhat we're looking for
UCAS points120 (up to 16 from AS-levels)
Specific requirements at A-level

No specific subject requirements

Specific requirements at GCSEGCSE Maths and English Grade C/Grade 4 (or above) or equivalent qualification
IELTS6.0 (with 5.5 in each skills area)
Interview / AuditionYes - see interview details

 Alternative entry qualifications:

We usually consider an A-level in General Studies as a supplementary qualification. A good application/performance will be taken into account if you do not meet the criteria/offer conditions.

Our entry requirements for this course should be read together with the University's general entry requirements, which details subjects we accept, alternative qualifications and what we're looking for at Derby.

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Academic Achievement Scholarship

We’re offering eligible students a £1,000 scholarship to celebrate your hard work and success.

Learn more about the Academic Achievement ScholarshipLearn more about the Academic Achievement Scholarship

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees


£9,250 per year*

£1,155 per module*


£14,045 per year


* The fees stated above are for the 2019/20 academic year; fees for 2020/21 have not yet been confirmed by the UK government. We will update this information as soon as it is available.

Further information about our fees and support you may be entitled to.

Additional costs and optional extras

How to apply

UK/EU students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Part-time students should apply directly to the University.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for EU students post-Brexit

International students

Full-time students applying to start in September should apply for this course through UCAS or you can apply directly to the University for an undergraduate course if you’re not applying to any other UK university in the same year.

Apply through UCASApply directly to the University

Guidance for international applicants applying for an undergraduate degree


After you've graduated from this distinctive course, you'll be one step ahead of others in the graduate jobs market. You will achieve a Masters award at the end of four years study without needing to change universities or find postgraduate funding. And you'll already have a highly professional and innovative portfolio of creative design work.

As a graduate you could work in a design studio, freelance, art direction, editorial design, typography, branding, advertising, corporate identity, interactive media, signage, design consultancy or online design. 

Employable Graduates – we’re ranked 15th highest amongst all UK universities and 12th for English institutions with 96% of graduates in work or further study within six months of completing their degree: HESA 2016.

Contact us

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

Download programme specification

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Additional costs and optional extras

We’re committed to providing you with an outstanding learning experience. Our expert teaching, excellent facilities and great employability prepare you for your future career. As part of our commitment to you we aim to keep any additional study costs to a minimum. However, there are occasions where students may incur some additional costs.

Included in your fees

Mandatory costs not included in your fees

Optional costs not included in your fees

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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