Course details

Study options

Full-time: 3 years

UK/EU fee

£9,250 per year (2019/20)

International fee

£13,250 per year (2019/20)

UCAS points

112 (September 2019 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.

You'll explore all aspects of Illustration from visual problem solving, sequential image-making, characterisation, reportage and editorial illustration to 3d image making and animated giffs, gaining the communication skills to thrive in the professional world of contemporary illustration.

Located in our Illustration studio you will be encouraged to challenge concepts, question, tell visual stories and produce innovative Illustration, responding to the ever changing trends and movements in literature, arts, culture and fashion. You will be introduced to the varied and evolving role of the illustrator as visual interpreter, storyteller, promoter, reporter, author, artist, director and entrepreneur.

Throughout this course you will be encouraged to develop a unique personal voice through a variety of image making techniques, with focus on communicating your ideas to a wider audience. By taking part in live projects and high-profile competitions you will question and challenge ideas, experiment with innovative working methods, and devise imaginative solutions to problems.  

A student drawing in her sketchpad

Our creative studio environment will provide you with the ideal setting for you to explore your ideas, share influences and network with a creative community of Graphic Designers and Animators. You can explore and experiment in our printmaking studios with screenprint, lino cut, dry point and mono printing. 

You will also have access to our Digital Print resource where you can explore innovative processes such as lasercutting, bookbinding and surface design.

We have close links with industry and you will develop live projects and deliver work to a high commercial standard. The staff team are Illustrators, exhibiting artists, printmakers, and Animators offering their expert advice and experience throughout your study.

A high profile lecture series also offers you the chance to meet exciting speakers such as Nobrow, Katherine Manolessou and Adam Hayes. We also offer trips to galleries and events; last year we visited the Visionaries Illustration conference in Birmingham and also attended illustration workshops at The House of Illustration.

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). 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 360 views:

Markeaton Street

Art and Design creative spaces

What you will study

You will study modules such as:

While featuring specialist Illustration modules, your first year is delivered alongside our Animation and Graphic Design programmes. Studio briefs and workshops will help you define your creativity and illustrative approach while building your software knowledge and skills in critical analysis. Your lectures and seminars will focus on the culture, history and context of your subject.   

  • Visual Culture: History
  • Visual Exploration
  • Visual Problem Solving
  • Illustration Practice

In a project-based environment, you’ll explore ways of thinking which will help you excel in illustration. 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. 

  • Directed Projects in Illustration
  • Professional Practice
  • Visual Culture Theory  

The emphasis in your final year will be on building original, distinctive illustrations based on strong ideas and technical skill.  There is a final major project in which you will showcase your abilities and present your work at the Universities ‘The Degree Show’.   

  • Negotiated Study in Illustration
  • Destinations
  • Specialist Practice in Illustration 
  • Visual Culture: Extended Essay
Students welcoming guests to a Buxton Open Day

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


We offer an Art School experience which involves mixed media approaches and a wide range of visual experiences and workshops. You’ll be taught in a dedicated professional studio environment for drawing, illustration and print, supported by the latest online teaching and learning facilities. With collaborative space for group work as well as ample personal working space, it is the ideal setting for you to experiment with drawing, photography, printmaking, digital image making, collage and 3D techniques.  

Our range of resources includes the printmaking studio where you will create collographs, screenprint, drypoint, mono print, letterpress and lino cut. Through drawing workshops, you’ll explore experimental and traditional observation and refine your visual skills. You’ll also develop your skills in 3D workshops where you can explore laser cutting, while our bookmaking equipment gives you the opportunity to create editions of books which you can promote at bookfairs and events run by the programme team. 

You’ll also hone your skills in using the latest versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, After Effects, Dreamweaver and Flash, developing a thorough understanding of how contemporary practitioners use industry-standard software.  Throughout all these experiences, you’ll experiment with your illustrative voice and develop illustration through traditional and contemporary processes. Working alongside graphic designers and animators, you’ll also be exposed to a cross-fertilisation of ideas which will serve you well in an industry where versatility and diverse approaches are highly valued. ‌

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:

For a glimpse of last year’s Degree Show take a look at our flickr photo album.

Entry requirements

September 2019 typical entry requirements

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

2019/20 Fees


£9,250 per year



£13,250 per year


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’ll also become part of the VaroomLab international research project network.  These give you 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 Levesley
Programme leader


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.

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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, state-of-the-art 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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