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Graphic Design & Illustration

BA (Hons) (Top-up)

Study Graphic Design & Illustration at University Centre Leeds

The BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration course at University Centre Leeds combines practical, academic and industry experience to help you place yourself in this thriving sector. It offers a robust programme that is relevant to current design and illustration-related industries, helping you to progress in your chosen career path.

  • Starts:
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Venue: Quarry Hill Campus and Mabgate Campus
  • Fee: £8,745 full-time (per academic year for UK students)
  • UCAS Course Code(s): 8N66
  • UCAS Institution Code: L21
  • Study Mode: Full Time
  • Validated By: The Open University
Graphic Design and Illustration sat on a sofa drawing on a tablet

Graphic Design & Illustration

The course is delivered from studio space in the creative quarter of Leeds city centre and offers a supportive environment to explore and develop your skills and understanding in readiness for life following graduation. You will get time with tutors to discuss your work, exploring how your ideas and projects mesh across this course’s suite of modules. You will also build key industry experience for a strong CV and portfolio. 

The Graphic Design industry has flourished over the past five years due to the growing popularity of digital advertising. Professionals within the sector have been vital to UK businesses developing brands across a variety of mediums, including print, the internet and film (IBIS World, 2021). By the end of 2022, industry revenue is expected to reach £3.4 billion. The industry is also expected to maintain growth over the next five years, with increased advertising activity and demand for digital design services expected to contribute to this growth (IBIS World, 2021). It’s an exciting time to qualify in a professional role and enter a thriving industry.

 At University Centre Leeds, we aim to provide opportunities that help you develop practical skills relevant to the creative industry. We want our graduates to leave us with the skills that are key to being employable within the creative industries, from both subject-specific skills (problem solving, questioning, expressive, creative and technical), to transferable skills (communication, teamwork, project management). 

The BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive, practice-led programme that challenges and develops your design and illustration skills. Created to facilitate progression for a wide range of students from diverse backgrounds, it’s an ideal way to prepare for various creative industry contexts. 

You will put creative discipline at the fore on this course, nurturing a strong and coherent practice that offers opportunity for public-facing outcomes. Experiences will include working with clients, designers, publishers and concept artists. You will also engage in a range of skill-enhancing activities such as selling work, networking and self-promotion, branding, responding to professional briefs, working with the public, exploring academic research, and creating an identity for your professional practice. 

The course is driven by real industry opportunities and the reality of being a graphic designer or illustrator in the real world. Course content has been developed with local galleries, art organisations and design agencies, as well as freelance graphic designers and illustrators. 

This course is validated by The Open University 

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How to Apply

If you would like to apply for to study full time, please do so via UCAS.

The institution code for University Centre Leeds is L21.

The application fee for applying through UCAS is £27.50.

Apply via UCAS

If you are a student currently studying at Leeds City College, Keighley College or Harrogate College and if all of the following applies:

  • you do not already have an application with UCAS
  • you only wish to study your full time undergraduate course with University Centre Leeds
  • should you be successful in your application and enrol onto this course, you agree to us submitting a record of prior acceptance (RPA) application to UCAS on your behalf 

Then you can make a direct application via the following link: 

Internal Students - Direct Application Form

For further information in regards to this please email admissions@ucleeds.ac.uk

Course Information

You will study 120 credits and modules may include:

Compulsory modules:

Specialist Graphic Design & Illustration Practice (20 Credits) This module engages you in your creative output, supporting your skills toward a chosen trajectory through industry-related projects.


Collaboration Project (20 Credits) 

Explore the benefits of collaborative practice by developing a professional external project working across specialisms of your choice.


Contextualising Graphic Design and Illustration Practice (30 credits) Explore and develop an area of academic research related to your creative practice, culminating in a written dissertation.


Professional Portfolio (10 Credits) 

A module that supports the creation of a number of creative assets for your professional portfolio.


Optional modules:


Client Brief (40 credits) Produce and present a negotiated project of work for, and to, a client.

Major Creative Project (40 credits)
Produce and exhibit a body of creative work.

By taking this course you will develop your creative skills through technical supervision and critical questioning. It also encourages the emergence of individual agency and consolidates your creative identity with an increased understanding of current social, cultural and theoretical debates, and their influence on making work.  


Benefits include:


  • Progress and master your design and illustration skills
  • Study modules designed to focus your creative practice
  • Gain the skills, awareness and confidence to work in a dynamic creative industry
  • Build relevant industry and professional experience
  • Direct your learning towards your individual career aspirations
  • Identify, develop and refine your creative niche
  • Small class sizes that allow 1:1 time with tutors
  • The opportunity to collaborate with industry professionals

This course also allows you to tailor any skills learned to your personal career aspirations. By studying in  smaller cohorts, you will benefit from time with tutors who are industry professionals and who will help you develop and master your personal practice.

Assessments draw on a range of skills to benefit many approaches to learning.

Ideas and research are assessed through presentation as well as written and practical outcomes. Reflection and evaluation are important in self-directed learning and feature in the collaboration module and inform the Professional Portfolio.

Creative practice and practical outcomes are the chief component of assessment on the BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration course. The Major Project or Client Brief Modules and Specialist Graphic Design and Illustration practice require practical bodies of work that demand creative stamina.

There is an expectation of presenting the creative work through exhibition opportunities throughout the course and at its culmination. As well as having the chance to present work in an interview scenario to external professionals.

Assessment methods may include:

  • Product response to client brief
  • Presentation to client
  • Dissertation
  • Research proposal
  • Portfolio
  • Log
  • Interview
  • Collaborative project
  • Creative project
  • Exhibition

Students will attend lessons in the Quarry Hill Campus as well as the New Creative Studios at Mabgate Campus.


The practical studio at Mabgate Campus is an open plan industrial space converted to provide bespoke studio and teaching space that offers flexibility for all creative practice.


The Quarry Hill Campus was completed in 2019 and houses most of the Creative Arts degrees. Here students have access to professionally equipped photographic studios and mac suites allowing development or archiving of work. The BLANK_Gallery on the ground floor, HE library and technical services centre are all areas of support and enrichment for your course found at this campus.


Foundation Degree: Pass on the second year of a foundation degree in a relevant subject.

HND: Pass grade in a relevant subject.

GCSE: Together with a number of GCSE grades at 4 or above including English.

IELTS: IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any component.

International qualifications: International qualifications will be assessed against these criteria.

Mature applicants: University Centre Leeds welcomes applications from candidates who may not precisely match the academic criteria but can demonstrate experience in their chosen field as well as academic achievement at level 5. Candidates in this category will be interviewed to assess their suitability for the course and asked to provide a portfolio of evidence to support their application.

*21 years and over at the start of the course

RPL Claims: The course structure actively supports claims for Recognition of Prior Certified Learning (RPCL) or Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning (RPEL).

Interview / Audition: All students must be able to demonstrate either by qualifications or testing that they have the required literacy skills to complete the course.

Portfolio: All students are to present a portfolio of artwork and supporting academic text which is disclosed during an interview or correspondence for distance applicants.

The course prepares you for a range of design and illustration positions in areas such as branding, publishing, multimedia animation, whether that is through fixed employment or as a freelance creative. 

The course also prepares you for the potential of further study, for example, teaching practice or masters level study.

For the latest version of the programme specifications for this course please click here.

For the latest version of the course handbook for this course please click here.

For the latest version of The Open University regulations please click here.

Additional costs for creative materials as well as resources such as books, journals or memberships for personal research. Local opportunities and trips are often subsidised, but optional national and international trips would require additional funds.



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