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.

You will be eligible for a UG student loan for fees and maintenance for all four years of study. 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.

The first 2.5 years are taught alongside the BA undergraduates in your specialist discipline of Illustration and then for the final 1.5 years you will study Masters level modules in your subject discipline.

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'll explore sequential and interactive image making, 2D and 3D animation, narrative, timing, creative storytelling, character design, the web, scripting, sound, and the historical and contemporary context of your work. You will gain professional knowledge and skills in the creative application of digital software for animation, experimenting with state of the art equipment and resources that are constantly updated.

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.

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.

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

A student drawing in her sketchpad

What you will study

You will study moudules such as:

Studio briefs and workshops will encourage you to define your creativity, illustration approach, knowledge and critical analysis, while your lectures and seminars will focus on the culture, history and context of your subject.

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

You’ll focus on your skills in a project-based environment, exploring ways of thinking to excel in illustration. You’ll become increasingly confident with professional approaches and terminology, engaging with illustration practitioners, global and national competitions and agencies.

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

From September until January, the focus of your third year will be on building original, distinctive illustration outcomes based on strong ideas and technical skills, through developing a range of projects and exploring the professional context of your work.

  • Illustration: Extended Essay
  • The Autonomous Illustrator
  • The Applied Illustrator

You’ll start the masters level modules in January with an exploration of contemporary debates and experimentation and an appraisal of your strengths and potential.

  • Personal Practice and Methodologies
  • Visual Culture: Debates

This final stage of the course is focused on the realisation, testing and evaluation of your Masters Practice project.

  • Final Project Phase One: Concept
  • Final Project Phase Two: Realisation
  • Visual Culture: Dissertation

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.

University of Derby student drinking coffee

How you will learn

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.

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.

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 job market. You’ll 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 illustration portfolio.

Programme leader

Tracy Tomlinson

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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