Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year* (2020/21)

International fee

£14,045 per year (2020/21)

UCAS points

112 (September 2020 entry)

UCAS code


Course level



BA (Hons)

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

Become an innovative, unique, diverse, and professionally distinctive illustrator.

Through a voyage of discovery and experimentation you will apply yourself to challenging projects and activities, become increasingly self-motivated and confident to strive beyond the constraints of delivering a brief. We aim to foster a confidence to discover, re-map, re-imagine and challenge traditional interpretations of the subject.

You will be encouraged to experiment and challenge what illustration is, with the opportunity to take part in live projects and high-profile competitions that will challenge you to explore problem solving, sequential image-making, characterisation, reportage and editorial illustration. 

Located in a dedicated and inspiring illustration studio you will network with your peers and forge lifelong connections. You will gain opportunities to specialise in a specific field or area of expertise in illustration and flexibility to discover and create self-authored projects.

You'll make use of our drawing room, printmaking studio and Digital Design Hub where you will be immersed in traditional and contemporary techniques such as drawing, screen-print, lino, mono-printing, drypoint, risograph, solar etching, photography, digital image making, 3D model making, painting and multi-media collage. 

An art-school experience will introduce you to exploration of craft and design skills, drawing, communicating ideas and visual concepts, developing a unique personal voice in producing illustrative outcomes for various outputs, such as, publishing, editorial, educational design, graphic novels, narrative, printmaking, moving image, children's books, and packaging.

Studio study will be complemented with history and theory modules which will enhance your intellectual development, graduate and academic skills, whilst providing an awareness of wider contexts pertinent to illustration.

A group of illustration students work on a large black and white drawing

You will be taught from a staff team of illustration practitioners who have expertise in the field, such as exhibiting artists, printmakers, and professional illustrators offering their expert advice and experience throughout your study. We also run a high-profile lecture series offering you the chance to meet exciting speakers such as Sam Arthur, founder of Nobrow Publishing and successful alumni such as Childrens book illustrator Pippa Curnick. We also offer trips to galleries and events; last year we visited the The House of Illustration, The Whitworth Art gallery in Manchester and students held a stand at “Pages” International artists bookfair in Leeds.

All students become members of The Association of Illustrators and network with influential illustrators at the forefront of the industry, gaining advice on how to set up as a freelancer, receive professional portfolio consultations, accessing resources such as legal and pricing advice.

This course allows you to have guaranteed progression to study at Masters Level on completion of the undergraduate course rather than having to apply. 

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Logo celebrating 21 years of Illustration at Derby
Artwork by 3rd year MDES students Richard Ivens.

21 Years in the Making

In January 2019, we proudly celebrated 21 years since the Illustration course was established at Derby with an exhibition titled "21 Years in the Making."

The exhibition tracked back through the 21 years and celebrated the successes of the programme alumni, staff, technicians, and current students while presenting the diverse and innovative approaches to Illustration that began at the University in 1997. 


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

You will study modules such as:

You will begin your illustration journey by receiving an introduction to the principles and potential of illustration, its history and its contexts. The focus will be on Experimentation, exploration and discussion of ideas, consideration of traditional and new media and ways of working, along with the ability to research and develop ideas for communication issues.

  • Creative Curiosity
  • Understanding Illustration
  • Illustration: Concepts
  • Illustration: History and Culture

You will be encouraged to develop a more refined understanding of the distinctive nature of illustration. You will explore and define a sense of your ‘personal voice’ as an illustrator, alongside identifying emerging strengths and preferred areas of practice. You’ll become increasingly confident with professional approaches and terminology and your studies will be enriched through links with illustration practitioners as well as the chance to take part in global and national competitions. 

  • Illustration: Art and Theory
  • Visual Narratives
  • Illustration: Voice
  • Illustration: Connections

The emphasis in the final year will be on establishing a refined application of personal voice through reflection and consolidation of your strengths. There is a final major project in which you will showcase your abilities and present your work at the University's Degree Show.   

  • Illustration: Extended Essay
  • The Autonomous Illustrator
  • The Applied Illustrator
  • The Distinctive Voice (Illustration)

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.

Smiling girl with scarf sitting in cafe with cup of coffee

Find out more about Illustration

The best way to find out if studying at Derby is right for you is to experience an Open Day. Get a feel for the city and campus, tour our first-class facilities and see where you could be living.

Book your Open DayBook your Open Day

How you will learn


The illustration studio provides you with an excellent environment to be curious, experimental and independently motivated. It is a location for both individual and group tuition, a creative space for the practice of sharing ideas and peer-learning, exercising creative skills, imagination, vision, innovation and ambition. This environment will be used to explore and undertake group work, peer evaluation, critiques and seminars as a means of complementing more individualistic and autonomous work. You will learn the importance of this creative space and utilise it to build networks, be open to new influences, and become part of a creative community, which encourages you to work both independently and cooperatively.

You will also benefit from using our dedicated drawing studio, printmaking studio and creative workshops spaces where you will create collographs, screenprint, drypoint, risograph, mono print, letterpress and lino cut.

Through drawing workshops, you’ll explore experimental and traditional observation and refine your visual skills. You will explore using software appropriate to your subject, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design, After Effects.

You’ll also develop your skills in the Digital Design Hub which provides a variety of print finishing processes such as laser cutting, and book binding giving you the opportunity to create editions of books which you can promote at bookfairs and events run by the programme team.

Teaching Methods

We use a variety of teaching and learning methods including project work, workshop practice, lectures, demonstrations, seminars, group critiques, work checks, individual tutorials, reports and assignments.  

Our students are expected to attend on a daily basis, with periods of time allocated to self-directed study. You’ll be assessed by 100% coursework relevant to each module, which may include artwork portfolios, exhibitions, sketchbooks, research, essays, reports and presentations.   

Degree Show

Every year students from the School of Arts celebrate their time at University by showcasing their work at an end of year Degree Show at Markeaton Street and across the City of Derby. The Show usually runs throughout June and is a fantastic opportunity for potential employers, friends, family, industry and members of the public to see exciting creations by the next generation of artists, designers, creators and makers from Derby. The Show takes the form of:

Take a look at highlights from the 2019 Degree Show.

Entry requirements

September 2020 typical entry requirements

RequirementWhat we're looking for
UCAS points112 (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.

Fees and funding

2020/21 Fees


£9,250 per year*



£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.

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


This course prepares you for an exciting career in illustration, with opportunities in newspaper and magazine editorial, education, publishing and book artschildren’s books, graphic novelsprint productionadvertising and the wider design industry. Some of our graduates also pursue careers as writers, educators and picture/research editors. With a large number of illustrators working on a freelance basis, the course also equips you with business skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.   

Whatever branch of illustration you aspire to, you’ll graduate with a professional portfolio that is personal and distinctive, alongside a wealth of promotional material to launch your career. Many of our students are talent-spotted through the hands-on work they undertake during live briefs for employers, or through the competitions and exhibitions which form an integral part of your studies.  

As part of the course, you’ll join the Association of Illustrators (AOI) which advances illustrators’ rights and encourages professional standards. You will have access to notable industry practitioners, workshops, support and professional advice, including one-to-one portfolio surgeries by the AOI for our final year students.  

For aspiring entrepreneurs, we also provide business support through our incubation unit – Banks Mill. Several of our graduates have taken advantage of its studio workspaces and business development activities, all within a vibrant and thriving community of artists, designers and makers. Others have developed collectives working in illustration for fashion, art direction and the music industry.   

You could also consider our MA Visual Communication if you would like to take your studies to postgraduate level.   

Richard Levesly at our Markeaton Street site.

Richard Levesley
Programme leader

Drawing is at the core of Richards practice. He is particularly interested in sketchbooks, gathering ideas exploring various drawing processes and illustrative outcomes. His research practice explores drawing, digital process and printed in relation to commercial Illustration and directly informs my teaching.

View full staff profileView full staff profile

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.

Contact us Contact us

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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