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Illustration MA

  • Level(s) of Study: Postgraduate taught
  • Start Date(s): September 2022
  • Duration: 1 year (45 weeks)
  • Study Mode(s): Full-time
  • Campus: City Campus
  • Entry Requirements:
    More information


Our Masters in Illustration is designed to create accomplished visual thinkers whose practice is shaped by current dialogue and innovative thinking in this exciting and progressive discipline.

Through the course, you will be given the opportunity to explore areas of illustration such as children’s books, graphic novels, editorial illustration, illustration for branding and experimental illustration. Whichever route you decide to take with your Masters project, you will be encouraged to take creative risks by pushing your work in new and exciting directions supported by a team of internationally-recognised illustrators.

Key features

  • Create a project tailored to your own personal illustrative interests and career aspirations
  • Work in our professional MA studio space alongside other creatives
  • Engage with industry through guest lectures from renowned illustrators and publishers and studio visits
  • Attend workshops covering: Visual Sequence in children's books, Graphic Novels and Storytelling, Visual Identity for Illustrators, Illustrative Ceramics, Watercolour for illustrators, Undigital digital, Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects.
  • Opt for an additional advanced research module if you’re thinking of progressing to PhD or Professional Doctorate study
  • We are proud to be in the top ten in England and Wales for Art and Design (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020)

Browse our student work...

What you’ll study

MA Illustration is designed to support you in developing an entrepreneurial approach to your practice and we hope that – like many before you – you will use the MA as a springboard for your illustrative career. You will do this by creating a professional journal that you will use to actively build your professional persona. In this journal you will critically reflect on the current thought and practice of illustration as a discipline.

You can opt to complete this module as either 180 credit points, or as 160 credit points with an additional module in Advanced Art and Design Research worth 20 credit points.


(180 credit points or 160 credit points)

This module is taught in three phases.

Phase One: Creative Research and Development

During this phase you’ll work on a self-negotiated Masters project proposal, and on short Illustration briefs. These short projects have been specifically designed to give you the knowledge and grounding with which to launch into your MA project. You’ll establish good practice in design and illustration research methods and you will engage with observation and visual experimentation with the aim of developing the conceptual underpinnings for your project.

Group tutorials with your appointed supervisor will give you an opportunity to present your work in progress and to receive feedback and advice to further develop your set projects and project proposal. You’ll also attend presentations, workshops and seminars on topics relevant to the theory and practice of illustration and design research. With support from your supervisor and fellow students, you’ll research and develop your Masters project, ready for review and presentation at the end of the phase.

To complement your project work, you’ll also set personal learning aims in a journal of professional practice. In this professional journal, you’ll record your research into current and future trends in the discipline. You will critically reflect on this research and discuss how you can apply this to your own practice as an illustrator.

Phase Two: Creative Development and Testing

In phase two you will build on initial research and fully engage with your MA project. You’ll take an experimental approach, stretching the boundaries of your existing thought and practice to explore illustration in new and original ways. This exploration will include visual experimentation, ideation, research of specific media relevant to your chosen audience, professional contextual research and evaluation of your work through primary research. These key areas are designed to help you develop the foundations of an innovative and fresh response to the project you set for yourself in phase one, and to start to build a professional network.

Group tutorials with your appointed supervisor will provide an opportunity for you to present your work in progress, receive feedback, and set goals. If you opt for the 180 credit point version of this module you’ll continue to keep a professional journal. You’ll use it to record your personal learning aims, and as a focus for learning across the broader context of your area of specialist study.

Also in this phase, you’ll be encouraged to enhance your employability profile by engaging in field and primary research, making connections with professionals, and arranging short internships or visits.

Phase Three: Design for Production and Media

In phase three you will realise your Masters project through the media that you have chosen to work with. You will craft your outcome using analogue and digital techniques creating finished artwork that is of a professional standard, effectively communicating your research and ideas. In the past students have pushed the boundaries, creating illustrative outcomes that have been both 2D and 3D. These have included children’s books, animations, editorial illustrative outcomes, book covers, posters, merchandise, illustrated ceramics etc. You will exhibit these in the MA show and in your professional portfolio. You’ll continue to attend group tutorials, presenting work in progress and receiving feedback and advice to further develop your project.

In your journal of professional practice, you’ll be expected to show and reference advanced knowledge of the commercial processes, production and media commonly used for the design and distribution of illustration media. You’ll also keep a record of your project feedback. Final outcomes must include background material that shows the development of your project work, including sketchbooks, screen shots, and other visual support items.

Optional research module

(20 credit points)

Advanced Art and Design Research

This module will expose you to a range of different research methods across diverse practice-led research projects and research-led practices within Art and Design. If you are interested in pursuing your practice in the form of a PhD, this module will prepare you for further study.

Don’t just take our word for it, hear from our students themselves

Student Profiles

Pin Shuan Chen (Tiffany)


I would recommend this course because the staff are very friendly and are always willing to help.

Charlotte Southall


There are lots of creative opportunities in Nottingham and throughout the year, the course staff have really emphasised and encouraged me to go out and discover what design events are taking place around the city.

Luna Valentine


Georgia Duncan


The facilities are unmatched, as far as your imagination, ambition and ideas go.

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How you’re taught

Teaching and learning experiences will include:

  • lectures
  • individual and group tutorials
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • live projects and competition briefs
  • independent studio practice
  • self-directed research

Specific workshops may include:

  • Visual identity for Illustrators
  • Sequential Illustration
  • Children’s Book Design
  • Graphic Novels: an Introduction
  • Typography
  • Editorial Illustration Ideation

Find out when our postgraduate term dates for the Nottingham School of Art & Design are. Please note that these are slightly different to other Schools within the University.


Assessment is 100% by coursework and involves:

  • project proposal
  • set project research and development
  • professional journal
  • practical work
  • verbal and visual presentations
  • the planning and design of a display of your work

Staff Profiles

Sarah McConnell

Senior Lecturer

Nottingham School of Art & Design

Sarah McConnell is Course Leader of MA Illustration in the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University. She is a widely published Author/Illustrator of Children's books.

Careers and employability

Career Prospects

This course will equip you with strong creative and problem-solving skills. Our graduates become valuable members of professional teams working together on a range of visual communication projects, involving all kinds of cross-discipline collaborations.

Our graduates often pursue careers in digital and printed media for advertising, branding, marketing and promotion, and a diverse range of publications.

Recent graduates roles and destinations include:

  • Illustrator represented by Bright Agency
  • Designer: Penguin Books, Publishers
  • Graphic designer, Dot Dash Design
  • University Lecturer National Institute of Fashion Technology Delhi

Connections with Industry

We’ll support and encourage you to undertake short internships and studio visits to engage with industry. You’ll also have the opportunity to enter industry competitions and take on live projects.

Recent examples have included:

  • RSA competition briefs
  • Creative Conscience competitions – focused on ethically conscious design
  • Collaborative projects with galleries such as Nottingham Contemporary
  • Stratford Literary Festival and Salariya Children’s Picture Book Prize
  • The Macmillan Prize for Illustration

You’ll benefit from guest lectures from visiting professionals who will cover a wide range of creative and professional practice. Recent guests have come from companies such as:

  • Alexis Deacon, children’s book author and illustrator
  • Roderick Mills, artist and illustrator
  • Chrissie Levett, from Creative Conscience Awards
  • social media entrepreneur, Debbiedooodah

You’ll have the opportunity to learn entrepreneurship skills through business development courses at NTU Enterprise - our centre for entrepreneurship and enterprise, and attend events held by industry experts and organisations. You will keep a professional journal, which you will develop throughout the course to become an in-depth examination of current professional theory and practice in your specialist subject area.

You will also attend work-related learning sessions on topics such as self-promotion and marketing, interview skills, and CV and portfolio building.


Explore our showcase ‘We Are Creatives’ - celebrating the work of the School of Art & Design students. You will find a sneak peak of some of our students’ work and gain a real insight into what it’s like to be part of the NTU creative community at

Study trips

Study trips will inspire and inform your projects. Recent visits have included the Manchester Design Conference, and the First Tuesday and Raw Print industry networking events in Nottingham.

You’ll also have the opportunity to go on a study trip to design capitals like Berlin or New York, where you’ll visit internationally renowned design studios.

YouFirst – working with our Employability Team

Our friendly, experienced careers consultants will work closely with you at every stage of your career planning, providing personal support and advice you won't find in a book or on the internet. You can benefit from this at any time during your studies and up to three years after completing your course.

Re:search Re:imagined

To us, research is about more than writing papers and proposing new ideas. By daring to think differently, we’re disrupting the research landscape and finding the answers to the questions that really matter. From electronic textiles to the history of lace, we’re inspiring the brightest minds to rise up and find solutions to some of the most significant global challenges facing society.

Find out more:

Campus and facilities

You’ll be based in the Waverley building – a beautifully restored, listed building with real design heritage dating back from 1863 – the original home of the Nottingham School of Art. Our City Campus is right in the heart of Nottingham city centre.

Explore all of our facilities in our Nottingham School of Art & Design Facilities Hub.

Entry requirements

What are we looking for?

  • 2.2 honours degree in a related subject.
  • Applicants with non-standard entry qualifications and / or relevant work experience will be considered on an individual basis.

Other requirements:

NTU may admit a student with advanced standing beyond the beginning of a course, through an assessment of that student's prior learning, whether it is certificated or uncertificated. Our Recognition of Prior Learning and Credit Transfer Policy outlines the process and options available to these prospective students, such as recognising experiential learning or transferring to a similar course at another institution, otherwise known as credit transfer.

All prospective students who wish to apply via Recognition of Prior Learning should initially contact the central Admissions and Enquiries Team who will be able to support you through the process.

Getting in touch

If you need any more help or information, please contact us at Ask NTU or call on +44 (0)115 848 4200.

You will need one of the following:

  • Bachelors degree grade 2.2 or equivalent qualification.

International qualifications 

We accept qualifications from all over the world – check yours here:

Postgraduate preparation courses (Pre-Masters)

If you don’t yet meet our entry requirements, we offer Pre-Masters courses through our partner Nottingham Trent International College (NTIC), based on our City Campus:

English language entry requirements 

You can meet our language requirements by successfully completing our pre-sessional English course for an agreed length of time, or by submitting the required grade in one of our accepted English language tests, such as IELTS:

Would you like some advice on your study plans? 

Our international teams are highly experienced in answering queries from students all over the world. We also have members of staff based in Vietnam, China, India and Nigeria and work with a worldwide network of education counsellors.

Fees and funding

Home fees for 2022 entry are:

MA Animation £8,800
MA Illustration £8,800
MA Photography£8,800

Alumni Loyalty Scheme - 20% fee discount

We're happy to be able to offer a 20% fee discount to most current NTU students and recent NTU graduates.
See if you're eligible.

Postgraduate loans

The government introduced a new postgraduate loans scheme in the 2016/17 academic year for Masters degrees. The loan will be a contribution towards the costs of study and it will be at the student's discretion to use the loan towards fees, maintenance costs or other costs.


We are offering a number of scholarships for Masters study.

Getting in touch

For more advice and guidance, you can contact our Student Financial Support Service on
+44 (0)115 848 2494.

Find out more about our terms and conditions of study for this course.

International / EU fees for 2022 entry are:

MA Animation £15,850
MA Illustration£15,850
MA Photography£15,850

Alumni Loyalty Scheme - 20% fee discount

We're happy to be able to offer a 20% fee discount to most current NTU students and recent NTU graduates.
See if you're eligible.

International scholarships

You might be able to get a scholarship to help fund your studies. We award scholarships to international students who can demonstrate excellent achievement, passion and dedication to their studies.

Please take a look at our International students page for information about fees, scholarships for international students, visas and much more.

Getting in touch

For more advice and guidance, you can contact our Student Financial Support Service.

Tel: +44 (0)115 848 2494

How to apply

Ready to join us? Then apply as soon as you can. Just click the Apply button at the top of the page and follow the instructions for applying.

Application deadline

You can apply for this course throughout the year, but we'd recommend that applications should be received by the end of July for entry in September.

Examples of work

In order for us to consider your application, we need you to submit examples of your practical work. Please upload these as part of your online application.

For full details on what we require, please read our Masters Work Submission information.

Writing your application

Be honest, thorough and persuasive in your application. Remember, we can only make a decision based on what you tell us. Make sure you include as much information as possible, including uploading evidence of results already achieve, as well as a personal statement.

Keeping up to date

After you've applied, we'll be sending you important emails throughout the application process - so check your emails regularly, including your junk mail folder.

You can get more information and advice about applying to NTU in our postgraduates' guide. Here you'll find advice about how to write a good personal statement and much more.

Getting in touch

If you need any more help or information, please contact us at Ask NTU or call on +44 (0)115 848 4200.

Apply online through our NTU applicant portal.

Application advice

Apply early so that you have enough time to prepare – processing times for Student visas can vary, for example.  After you've applied, we'll be sending you important emails throughout the application process – so check your emails regularly, including your junk mail folder.

Writing your personal statement

Be honest, thorough, and persuasive – we can only make a decision about your application based on what you tell us:

Your portfolio 

If your initial application is successful, you may be asked to upload a portfolio of your work and you may also be asked to attend an interview.

Portfolio advice

Would you like some advice on your study plans? 

Our international teams are highly experienced in answering queries from students all over the world. We also have members of staff based in Vietnam, China, India and Nigeria and work with a worldwide network of education counsellors.

The University's commitment to delivering the educational services advertised.