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Illustration (BA)

Our Illustration degree course at Swansea College of Art UWTSD offers a broad and dynamic programme designed to develop both creative and professional skills, blurring boundaries with Fine Art, Graphic Design, Animation, and other disciplines.

The course reflects and embraces the diverse nature of contemporary illustration and encourages students to challenge the concept of what illustration can be while developing an understanding of the needs of this rapidly evolving and vibrant industry.
Students have access to the most up-to-date equipment and facilities and explore a wide range of techniques, materials, and styles in order to determine personal strengths and develop their own visual language.

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Illustration (BA)

UCAS Code: W220
Apply via UCAS 

How to apply

All applications to study for a full-time undergraduate degree programme are made through UCAS - Swansea College of Art UWTSD is part of University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  All our course come under the institution code T80

Visit the University's How to Apply section to find out more

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Tuition Fees 2021/22:
Home (Full-time): £9,000 per year
Overseas (Full-time): £13,500 per year

5 reasons to study this course

  1. Excellent studio spaces.
  2. Skilled workshops in Traditional, Digital and Printmaking Techniques.
  3. Continued winning success in national and international competitions.
  4. Graduate exhibition at New Designers in London.
  5. Graduate employment includes Moonpig, Usborne Books, LEGO, The Great British Card Company, Tokyo Disney Sea Park, Lush & M&S. Many become freelance illustrators represented by top London illustration agencies.

Take a look at our ratings and rankings page.

What you will learn

Course Overview

Illustration here at Swansea enjoys a reputation for producing a diverse and eclectic range of graduating illustrators who are confident using their own creative voice.

The lively and creative atmosphere in our studios provides a comfortable, friendly and stimulating environment in which to thrive and develop your skills and ideas. Student numbers are comparatively small — we aim to recruit around forty-five students per year: large enough groups to generate energy and a productive group dynamic, but small enough not to preclude individual tuition and personal attention. This means that the staff are available to help, support and challenge you.

“The main reason I loved studying at Swansea was that the lecturers were so friendly […] one of their main priorities within the three-year course is getting you ready to become a practicing illustrator after graduating.” Illustration Graduate, Lucy Littler.

We also have an academic support system whereby you are allocated a personal tutor with whom you may consult on a regular basis, discuss your progress and direction, or any problems you might be experiencing.

There is space and opportunity to work large-scale, create 3D work, installations and make the studios your own. You will have access to the most up-to-date equipment and facilities, and an excellent specialist art and design library.

In addition to studio and gallery visits and optional annual study trips to destinations such as the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy, New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, and Budapest, a full programme of visiting professionals also ensures that strong links with industry and the commercial world are maintained. 

Arrangements are made whenever possible for you to work on ‘live’ commercial projects. This experience is an important part of your final year of study. You will also have the opportunity to enter illustration competitions. Our students have enjoyed competition success, such as the Penguin Design Awards, The Great British Postcard Competition, ‘On the Cards’ greeting card design competition, Rising Stars, and the Hallmark Design Award at New Designers. 

Module Topics

Year 1 – Level 4

  • Visual Studies 1 and 2
  • Contextual Practice
  • Learning in the Digital Era 
  • Contemporary Challenges: Making a Difference
  • Digital workshops
  • Image-making & Communicating
  • Editorial Illustration

Year 2 – Level 5

  • Visual Enquiry 1 and 2
  • Narrative Illustration
  • Contextual Practice
  • Changemakers: Creativity and Value Creation
  • Changemakers: Building your Personal Brand for Sustainable Employment
  • Illustration for Advertising

Year 3 – Level 6

  • Graduate Portfolio
  • Independent Project parts 1,2 and 3
  • Advanced Creative Enquiry

Year 1 – Level 4

Throughout the programme, most of the learning takes place through practical, studio-based projects. We place an emphasis on experimentation and exploration.

During the first year, you will experience a number of studio workshops that demonstrate the use of traditional materials and techniques that are then applied to projects focusing on visual communication and design. There will also be online delivery of modules.

To complement these workshops a programme of both digital and traditional printmaking workshops run throughout the first year. It should be noted that fluency in the use of computers is not a pre-requisite for entry to the programme.

We assume no prior experience and you are eased gently into the new technology through workshops and design assignments. We train you in the use of key software packages such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and After Effects.

Year 2 – Level 5

In the second year of the course, there is increased flexibility in the programme delivery which allows you to fashion your studies to suit your own particular needs, interests and aptitudes.

Projects are increasingly student-centered which means you are able to make choices and interpret the illustration brief in a way that suits your personal requirements. Second-year students can also opt to major in printmaking within Illustration, and carry this on into their third year.

Contextual Practice and Visual Enquiry continue through the second year and there will also be online delivery of modules that introduce you to the professional and commercial environment.

Year 3 – Level 6

In the third year, you spend a large part of your time developing a variety of self-initiated project work which may comprise real ‘live’ commissions from outside bodies and organisations, national and international student competition briefs, and personal projects where you are given the time and freedom to develop your own work free of any commercial constraints. Alongside developing your practice we teach you core business skills such as marketing, copyright, tax and licensing.

You will also complete online modules and an individual investigation on a subject of your own choice related to general illustration. Your other third-year commitment is to organise and mount, within your peer group, an assessed end-of-year exhibition of your work.



Feedback on project work takes place throughout the course in the form of frequent tutorials (both individual and group), seminars and critiques. This process is integral to the course and provides a continuous verbal commentary to the students on their practical work and associated research throughout the development of all of their projects.

Final assessment in the form of a visual portfolio, exhibition, research/ideas book/blog, or presentation is used at the end of each module to provide the students with a formal mark.

All assessment is based on 100% coursework. Students are expected to demonstrate their understanding in the form of practical project work. All practical work is project based. Contextual Practice is also assessed on coursework in the form of essays and constitutes 20 credits of your 120 credit coursework during years 1 & 2, with the dissertation also constituting 20 credits of your final year’s 120.

Continuous verbal commentary to students throughout their project work is integral to the course.

Graduate Attributes Framework

This Framework aims to develop your professional skills and competence alongside your academic subject knowledge. You’ll study up to 40 credits per level throughout your programme from the Graduate Attributes Framework.

The Graduate Attribute modules are designed to enable you to develop, and evidence, a range of career-focused skills related to your subject area. These skills include digital competency, research and project management, as well as such personal competencies as communication, creativity, self-reflection, resilience and problem-solving. 

Our Facilities, Graduates and Industry Links

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Student and Swansea Life

Key Information

Entry Criteria

We are interested in creative people that demonstrate a strong commitment to art and/or design and therefore we welcome applications from individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. To assess student suitability for their chosen course we arrange interviews for all applicants at which your skills, achievements and life experience will be considered as well as your portfolio of work.

Our standard offer for a degree course is 120 UCAS tariff points. We expect applicants to have a grade C or above in English Language (or Welsh) at GCSE level, together with passes in another four subjects. Plus we accept a range of Level 3 qualifications including:

  • Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, plus one GCE A-Level in a relevant academic subject
  • Three GCE A-Levels or equivalent
  • UAL L3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design.
  • UAL L3 Applied General Diploma and Extended Diploma in Art and Design.
  • UAL L3 Diploma and Extended Diploma in Creative Practice: Art, Design and Communication.
  • UAL L3 Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology.
  • BTEC Extended Diploma in a relevant subject
  • International Baccalaureate score of 32
  • Other relevant qualifications can be considered on an individual basis

Qualifications are important, however, our offers are not solely based on academic results. If you don’t have the required UCAS points then please contact the courses admissions tutor or email artanddesign@uwtsd.ac.uk as we can consider offers to applicants based on individual merit, exceptional work, and/or practical experience.

See our Interview Guide for more information.

Career Opportunities

Illustration is an expanding industry which offers a broad spectrum of new and exciting opportunities, particularly in relation to new digital media. The nature of an illustration career is generally self-employed in private practice. The course has a strong commercial, business and entrepreneurial element to prepare students for this exciting and empowering career. Many forge successful freelance careers working with a range of clients internationally; some are represented by top London illustration agencies. Other graduates find employment with design studios, publishing houses, advertising agencies, magazines and newspapers.

The programme also provides a good foundation for those who want to pursue a career in teaching, particularly teaching art and design in schools and, after professional experience, teaching illustration and design in further and higher education. We also offer opportunities for post-graduate study and research within the Faculty of Art & Design. We currently offer an MA in Visual Communication, a specialist PGCE in Art & Design as well as MPhil and PhD research opportunities.

Graduates have found work with the following:

  • Usborne Children's Books
  • Moonpig
  • Lego
  • NHS Trust
  • Allihoper Greeting Cards
  • Marks & Spencer
  • The Great British Card Company
  • Tigerprint
  • Bright Agency
  • Graffeg Publishers
  • Tokyo Disneysea Park
  • Welsh Country Magazine
  • Bay Studios
  • The British Museum
  • Magic Leap Inc.
  • Visible Art
  • Lush
  • The Print Haus
  • Astra Games
  • Locksmith Animation
Additional Costs

Our students have access to a diverse range of equipment and resources, which in most cases are sufficient to complete their programme of study. We provide the basic materials necessary for students to develop their practical work within our extensive workshop and studio facilities.

However, it is likely that art and design students will incur some additional costs to extend their investigation of their personal practice. For example, purchasing their own specialised materials and equipment, joining in optional study trips, and printing. 

Students are expected to bring their own personal art and design equipment with them when they commence the course.  We can advise on the correct equipment needed for your programme of studies and signpost appropriate suppliers if you wish to purchase essential items before or during your studies.  

A basic art and design kit will cost approximately £100 but you may well already have much of the equipment required; please check with us first.  Also, although we have extensive dedicated digital design studios (PC and MAC) for you to undertake your coursework you may wish to bring your own digital devices. Again, please check with us first before making a purchase. 

Student Quotes

Aidan Biddiscombe - Illustration Graduate
“Swansea is one of those places that has so many stories to tell. It’s got a crazy landscape where history, nature and funny ambition collide leading to some extraordinary tales from the most unlikely characters. If you visit remember to explore and you'll find inspiration in a very unexpected place.”

Rebecca Cowley
“Deciding to study at Swansea College of Art has been one of the best decisions I have made so far in my journey to becoming a successful illustrator. Over the past three years, the course has helped me gain valuable skills that will help me in the industry, such as professional practice, problem-solving and creative thinking. The lecturers really do go out of their way to provide students with the best learning experience, offering regular one-to-one tutorials and portfolio tips as well as providing helpful information from guest speakers and professionals already in the industry. This course is perfect for people who are ready to turn their passion for art and design into a dream career”.

Bow Bennett
“Returning to education after a break I was a little apprehensive, but I didn’t need to be! The illustration course has a really friendly atmosphere, and the lecturers genuinely care about our experience. The course content is varied allows us to be creative and explore lots of different potential career paths. Coming to Swansea College of Art has really allowed me to thrive and look forward to a future career in something that I love”.

Miri Hughes
“Since enrolling in the Illustration course at UWTSD, my enjoyment in drawing and creating has grown a great deal. I have learnt so many techniques and gotten to use plenty of different mediums, many of which I'd never had the opportunity to experiment with before, and the tutors are always available to help and give feedback for our work, and advice concerning our projects. If I hadn't joined this course, I firmly believe that my drawing skills would be much less developed, as would my knowledge about the industry, and my confidence level in terms of forging an artistic career in the future”. 

Will Collyer
“My time here at university has been incredible, both for what I have learnt and for the people I have met along the way. I feel far more comfortable and ready to start a career in illustration armed with the knowledge and skills that we all developed during our three years here.  I could not give enough credit to the teachers and technicians who were always around and accessible to offer help and guidance about work or Uni life in general. Without their help and creative input sourced from their own experience and careers I doubt we would have felt as comfortable and subsequently successful as we were”.

Bursary / Scholarship Information

You may be eligible for funding to help support your study.  To find out about scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities that are available please visit our Scholarships and Bursaries section.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Study Abroad 

Students can also take up the opportunity to study for a semester in Europe, the USA or Canada.


In addition to our University Accommodation at Llys Glas, Swansea also benefits from a number of private student halls, all within a short walk, including:

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