Illustration with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
- UCAS Code: W22F
- Level: Foundation
- Starting: September 2021
- Study mode: Full Time (4 years)
- Location: City Centre
Studying with us in 2021/22
It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.
Our BA (Hons) Illustration with Foundation Year degree course aims to give those with a passion for image making and illustration the skills they need to capture and communicate ideas through pictures. We celebrate the challenge of finding your individual visual voice through experimenting, risk taking and critical reflection. You will also explore how your work can be applied across a wide range of contexts, from commercial work to personally-driven projects.
This course provides an opportunity to develop a wide range of transferable skills and design process knowledge that is highly desirable to employers.
About foundation courses
This four year programme has been specifically designed to allow you to undertake additional level 3 study, to ensure you are successful on your chosen degree programme. The foundation year helps students to develop skills such as academic writing, referencing and researching, as well as important transferable skills such as project management and team work.
After successful completion of your foundation year, you will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication.
Why study a degree with a foundation year?
Foundation years are a great option if you have the talent, ambition and potential to thrive at Birmingham City University, but do not meet the entry requirements for your preferred course. It’s ideal if:
- You want the flexibility of a year’s study on a more general course to find out the best degree choice for you.
- You have changed your mind about your career since you chose your A-levels or BTECs and need to improve your skills in a different subject area.
- You would like extra time and support to help you build your knowledge, skills and confidence before starting a full degree.
What's covered in the course?
Our challenging and exciting Illustration course will help you develop new skills and different ways of thinking, enabling you to find your own individual, visual voice and prepare you for the ever-changing creative industry.
The course celebrates the synthesis between illustration and all the other visual communication subject disciplines, leading to the development of strong student collaborations that again aims to reflect industry practice.
We support a lively creative community, encouraging the value of peer learning. This learning is supplemented by an integrated workshop programme that provides the opportunity to work alongside, and be informed by, industry experts from a wide range of disciplines.
"I took part in an internship with Moonpig and I’ve also worked for George Asda, as well as completing some design work for some festivals. The course gives you live briefs which gives you direct connections to the industry, as well as the opportunity for your work to actually be used and displayed somewhere." Phoebe Munger
Why Choose Us?
- Your Foundation Year gives you the chance to explore Graphic Communication, Illustration, Design for Performance, Photography, Fine Art and Art and Design. You will have the flexibility to switch (should you wish to change direction) onto a number of related undergraduate degree programmes within Birmingham School of Art or the School of Visual Communication.
- There will be opportunities to exhibit at high-profile London graduate shows, including New Designers and D&AD New Blood.
- You will receive industry insight from significant practitioners, including Laura Carlin, Russell Cobb, Sarah Fanelli, Le Gun, Paul Willoughby, NoBrow, Paul Slater, People of Print, Dan Fern, Jonny Hannah, Isobel Greenberg, Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, Paper Cinema, Fabric Lenny, Sarah Maycock,Graham Rawle, Lizzie Stewart and Jo Todd-Stanton .
- Live project partnerships include Tiny Tree Books, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, DanceXchange, Flatpack Film Festival, Playground Games and Moonpig.
- Professional practice and core business skills are delivered by outside agencies such as the Association of Illustrators and other external specialists.
- Illustration - BA (Hons)
- Art and Design with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
- Fine Art with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
- Graphic Communication with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
- Design for Performance: Theatre, Film and Live Events with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
- Photography with a Foundation Year - BA (Hons)
We accept a range of qualifications, the most popular of which are detailed below.
80 UCAS tariff points.
|LEVEL 2 QUALIFICATIONS|
|IELTS||Minimum overall score of 6.0, with 6.0 in writing and no less than 5.5 in the remaining three skills.|
|Plus one of the following Level 3 (and above) Qualifications|
|A Level and Advanced VCE||
AS and AS VCE
|Considered with a maximum of 3 other Level 3 qualifications (AS Levels must be in different subject to A-Levels) to obtain 80 pts|
Access to HE Diploma
Foundation Studies (Art and Design, and Art, Design & Media)
IBO Certificate in Higher Level
International Baccalaureate Diploma
|Obtain a minimum of 24 points overall|
Irish Leaving Certificate (Highers)
|Pass the Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of 80 tariff points, achieved in five Higher level subjects.|
OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma
Scottish Advanced Higher
|Pass overall (C or above on the core)|
UAL Extended Diploma in Art & Design
UAL Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production & Technology
UAL Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts
|If you have a qualification that is not listed in the table please refer to our full entry requirements on UCAS.
Further guidance on tariff points can be found on the UCAS website.
Additional information for EU/International students
Please see your country page for further details on the equivalent qualifications we accept.
In addition to the academic entry requirements listed above, international and EU students will also require the qualifications detailed in this table.
|EU/Non-EU (International) Qualifications||Requirements|
Minimum overall score of 6.0, with 6.0 in writing and no less than 5.5 in the remaining three skills.
If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.
Applications from mature students (21+) with alternative qualifications and/or considerable work experience will be considered on their merits.
- UK students
- International students
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £9,250 per year
- Apply via UCAS
Award: BA (Hons)
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 4 years
- £13,200 per year
If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.
Guidance for UK students
UK students applying for most undergraduate degree courses in the UK will need to apply through UCAS.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a UK organisation responsible for managing applications to university and college.
Applying through UCAS
Register with UCAS
Login to UCAS
Complete your details
Select your course
Write a personal statement
Get a reference
Pay your application fee
Send UCAS your application
You are not required to submit a portfolio for this course.
Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items.
Based on the past experience of our students, you might find it helpful to set aside about £50 for each year of your studies for your personal stationery and study materials. All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.
Accommodation and living costs
The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.
The course is a member of the Association of Illustrators, entitling you to various discounts on your membership and publications. During the course there are a number of large-scale collective group projects and workshops where the basic materials are supplied by the course.
You are taken on a selection of UK study trips. To date these have included London, Bristol, Oxford, Manchester and more local ‘mystery’ locations.
All students are provided with access to the online training site Lynda.com. This website provides a wealth of video tutorials to supplement your activities in the studio and allow you to be supported during your self-directed study.
Adobe accreditation is also available for all students. This allows you the chance to take an exam in the various software packages hosted by Adobe and be awarded a qualification at the end of each. Microsoft Office 365 and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage space is provided free to all students.
Each student receives a starter amount of printing credits.
Working in a lively and energetic environment you will be given the freedom to expand your knowledge in conceptual development, practical skills and creative exploration underpinned by broad critical understanding and emerging theoretical principles.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):
This module explores the term ‘Context’, what it means to a practitioner and how you can apply it to your own work. You will explore how the context of your work can radically alter its meaning.
You will experiment with the design and layout of gathered information, supported by relevant seminars and workshops. Experimenting with layout and physical compilations of information you will produce a zine and/or other production. This will evidence carefully considered documentation techniques alongside an understanding of the word ‘context’.
Artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Their art is a dynamic combination of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that challenge traditional boundaries and defy easy definition.
This module will look at experimental approaches to drawing to identify radical new solutions from the perspective of the contemporary world we live in. Your brief is to apply the process of ‘rework’ to found imagery, object/s and or photographs.
You will explore your ideas through a series of workshop activities that enhance established techniques and encourage new experimentation.
You will be encouraged to explore innovative ways of recording imagery that integrate with your developing practice.
During this module you will meet lecturers, researchers and partners from across BCU, the city and further afield to open your understanding of practiced based creative work. Through lectures and workshops, you will be introduced to the versatility of subject areas in terms of ideas, development, research, materials, techniques and contexts.
Creative realisation is not just about the practice of producing creative responses, it is about identifying the factors that generate creative thinking and facilitating the process. For this module you will draw on your own creative strategies to facilitate the development of a project that is appropriate for progression onto your chosen BA (Hons) course.
Successful completion of your Foundation year will guarantee progression to any of the accredited degree courses listed above.
You will undertake an Introduction to Visual Communication alongside students from the other Visual Communication degree paths. You will begin to formulate knowledge and understanding of the subject’s key visual and intellectual principles.
With the support from staff within the School you will start to develop a real depth of knowledge of illustration practice, as well as other design related areas. Towards the end of your first year, and into the second, you will receive guidance helping you to select your chosen area of practice within illustration and possible career progression.
Your modules will cover the processes of production within the field of illustration. You will develop entrepreneurial and collaborative skills through the Introduction to Visual Communication module, as well as developing connections across the four different subject disciplines, preparing you for the life of an illustrator.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits):
This module introduces the universal principles and theories of visual communication, celebrating the wider opportunities for interdisciplinary practice within the School. The aim of the module is not only to introduce you to the principles within your own chosen subject area, but also to provide opportunities to take workshops in other subject areas, seek advice from experts in other disciplines and work collaboratively with students from across the Visual Communication subject areas.
The aim of this module is to introduce you to the main principles and common practice found within Illustration, creating a solid foundation of knowledge and skill based activity.
This project investigates contemporary approaches to illustration, looking at the way illustrators are bypassing traditional working models and developing their own voice as independent image-makers. It engages students in active learning towards producing a publication for a live exhibition or event.
Throughout your first year, a series of Perspectives lectures will be delivered on a regular basis, exploring a wide range of themes appropriate to the analysis and production of visual communication outcomes. These lectures will be coupled with studio-based discussions and/or activities considering discipline-specific research. Discourse follows on from this lecture series, and is a module in which you will produce a written response. The module, and preceding lecture series, will supply you with a broad contextual framework that will underpin your practice.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.
The ‘Space and Place’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.
The ‘Time and Sequence’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.
The ‘Sound and Movement’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.
The ‘Text and Image’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.
The ‘People and Identity’ optional L4 module is designed to equip students with a good understanding of the issues surrounding these two areas. This will be achieved through a conceptual and practical understanding of the narrative process.
In your second year of study you will develop your practice, producing successful commercial outputs through a wide range of different projects and context. Your studies will focus on contextualising your chosen discipline within specific aspects of contemporary practice.
Live projects, industry links and competitions form a key part of the curriculum from this stage of the course onwards. We will encourage you to reflect upon your strengths and weaknesses and advise you to build upon achievements in order to improve your performance. Active participation through various workshops and masterclasses are a key part of the second year.
During your second year you will begin to focus on a specific area of illustration, preparing you for your final year of study. Working alongside a specially assigned tutor, as well as small groups you will identify and research a specific area of illustration practice. This will be supported by seminars and lecturers from industry experts.
In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 100 credits):
Defining and communicating effectively to an audience is key to successful illustration. This module provides an opportunity through a range of briefs to begin defining an area of practice within a professional context. Students will explore briefs within established discipline areas of illustration such as editorial, publishing, advertising and narrative/sequential, with an emphasis on producing work that can be expanded upon to reach audiences in new, innovative and exciting ways.
This flexible module reflects upon the range of experiences in Level 4 and Level 5 to allow you to identify a specific direction for your own practice and future aspirations. This will then form the initial stage and design of your Level 6 study. In this module, you will explore possible approaches, areas of research and projects that will help define your area of practice.
This module provides an opportunity for you to apply your knowledge and skills to an external, professional brief. The brief will be set by an external client/ agency, in consultation with your supervisor, and it could be a ‘real life’ problem to be solved, or a simulation. It is an opportunity for you to engage in a professional manner with an aspect of your subject area, which contributes to the development of employability skills within the supportive infrastructure of the University. Where appropriate, the project may involve interdisciplinary collaboration with students from other courses. In this way, it reflects the collaborative, flexible nature of employment within the Creative Industries.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.
The purpose of this module is to enable you to develop professional attributes and subject skills through experience in the work place, and to critically reflect upon your learning in that context. You will normally be expected to arrange your own placement, with support from academic staff and ADM Careers+.
The module is an opportunity to learn and critically reflect on the skills of collaboration by enabling you to create an interdisciplinary project with students from complementary disciplines, or with academic staff. Collaboration is a vital employability skill within the Creative Industries and this module allows you to develop these skills, making use of University facilities and with the support of academic staff. Within this module framework, several kinds of collaborative opportunities are available. For example, with the approval of your supervisor, you can determine a project based on your own interests; your supervisor may set you a predetermined project to enable you to work with other students in a way that is appropriate to your subject area; or there may be opportunities for you to collaborate with staff on research projects. In all cases, you must apply your subject skills to an interdisciplinary project which will be agreed in advance with your supervisor.
You will develop sustained and original work which will demand a lot of independent study. This will culminate in a dissertation, where you will develop and refine your specialist knowledge of a particular area of practice.
Your final year focuses on your professional future, ensuring your project work provides you with the research and skills you need to prepare yourself for after graduation.
You will have the opportunity to showcase your final year project at our Visual Communications graduate show, as well as having the chance to be nominated for a Visual Communication Graduate Award. In the past we have had award sponsors such as illustrator Dave McKean, photographer Brian Griffin and Trevor Beattie.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):
Level 6 Critical Practice constitutes a step progression from Level 5, building and elaborating a more advanced expansion of study. Critical Practice provides the opportunity to adopt an increasingly autonomous commitment to the individually chosen direction(s), from the wide spectrum of Visual Communication and Creative Design Practice. These directions are established with guidance and academic rigour through individual tutorials, guest professionals, workshops, group discussion and peer participation.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practice-based portfolio.
During this course you will gain hands-on experience and produce relevant, innovative work. We encourage you to challenge yourself and produce work that sees you step outside your comfort zone. You’ll also experience high-level industry engagement through creative, practice-based learning.
Classroom projects and activities
- Moonpig: We host a yearly collaborative project with Moonpig, culminating in student placements and publishing.
- Le Gun: Le Gun deliver live workshops exploring drawing on a large scale. They work with students to break down their boundaries and inhibitions.
- Fabric Lenny: A fantastically lively and collaborative project, engaging students in painting, sculpture, print, animation and live projection.
- Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Live Portrait Project “Hundred’s and Thousands”: Students responded to artwork in the gallery leading to the development of their own portrait pieces. These were exhibited in the gallery as part of a cultural exhibition.
Helen specialises mainly in portraiture - particularly in relation to music - with a varying yet distinctive style. Since 2011, she has produced work for Lady Gaga, becoming part of her Haus collective, working on projects for her and the Born This Way Foundation.
She has since enjoyed work for a wide variety of clients such as Elton John AIDS Foundation, Warner Music, Tumblr, Hollywood Reporter, Sky Arts, TS3 (France), Refinery29, Esquire, ESPN FC, The Stranger (Seattle), airberlin, Economy (Rethinking Economics), American Express Essentials, Entrée Libre (France 5), StudioCanal UK and Skype.
For more information, visit Helen's website.
Josh is an award-winning freelance illustrator. The majority of his work is conceptual and editorial based as this allows him the freedom to express abstract and contemporary thinking. Josh's clients include BBC Sport, Computer Arts, Bulletin and Quarto Children’s Books.
For more information, visit Josh's website.
Sonny creates quirky characters and has a very personal and diverse visual language. He applies his designs to children’s books, self-publishing, editorial, fashion and surface pattern.
For more information, visit Sonny's website.
Katie shows a flair for working in more traditional materials such as graphite, watercolours and inks. Her strengths in mark making and observational drawing has led to commissions from Radley, Dr Martens, London Midland and Soho House Magazine.
For more information, visit Katie's website.
Trips and visits
While you study the course you will be offered opportunities to go on group excursions both in the UK and abroad. There are usually three overseas trips a year, which we offer both at subject level, as well as School level, to Venice, New York and Berlin.
Locations do alter each year to allow for students to experience a range of cities. We always put on UK study trips to places such as London, Manchester, Oxford and Liverpool. Where possible, UK trips are free or heavily subsidised.
As a Visual Communication student, you’ll be encouraged to take advantage of these trips as we see them as adding extra value to your course and they do offer additional research opportunities.
As graduating students you will follow your own career path, which may mean going straight into industry. However, many students look at the opportunities we offer for postgraduate study at the University.
The School runs a one-year MA Visual Communication course as a natural progression from its undergraduate courses. You will be encouraged to continue your journey with us and develop your practice further.
Enhancing employability skills
Throughout the course you will discover and refine a portfolio of practice which best suits your motivations and aspirations. Through this you will develop as a creative individual, equipped not only for a career within the illustration spectrum, but with the transferable skills to benefit a whole range of professional contexts.
This degree is designed to enhance your skills and aptitude, preparing you for a career within a landscape that is continuously changing. You’ll develop specialist knowledge and understanding within the field of illustration. As a creative practitioner and graduate of this course you will be able to generate a range of potential ideas and visual solutions. You will have the ability to produce creative work that demonstrates sound judgements in accordance to the theories and concepts of illustration and visual communication subjects, responding to the demands of industry.
You will develop an in-depth understanding of the relationship between theory and practice through research, allowing you to create meaningful, well-informed work and preparing you to take on further study. You will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts and established principles that govern creative practice.
Alongside this you will establish a range of working strategies, methods and materials, learning how to apply these to production. You will also discover, and respond to, the influence of audiences, clients, markets and other participants in relation to visual communication practice.
As an Illustration student you will be encouraged to develop your professional networks. We strongly believe that creating relationships with industry will enable you to develop your profile and enhance your professional networks. Networking is vital to furthering your opportunity to undertake work placements and paid jobs.
While placements are not a compulsory aspect of this degree you will be encouraged to engage with industry, incorporating this throughout your work. Engagement with industry is a core focus throughout this programme.
You will also be presented with the chance to attend trips and visits which will widen your insight into the working-practices of industry. In addition to this, as a School we have multiple working-relationships with organisations, allowing our students to take on professional roles and gain experience. Take a look at how students have worked with industry here.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
The School offers a broad education as well as the specific subject skills, so we see many graduates working in the creative industries but also in a variety of employment such as management, education, tourism, marketing and freelance business.
Industry demands are constantly changing, so it’s important that we prepare you for all eventualities. The internationalisation components mean you are aware of global expectations and the possibilities of work outside the UK. All modules have transferable skills built into the teaching, meaning you are able to apply your knowledge to a variety of tasks and challenges.
Illustration graduates work in a range of careers including:
- Freelance illustrator
- In-house illustrator/designer (Watermark Publishing & The Art File)
- Art director (Playground Games)
- Designer (Next)
- Graphic designer (McCann Erikson)
- Trend forecaster
- Buyer (Next)
- Print technician
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Students come to study in the School of Visual Communication from all over the world but we have nurtured some long-standing relationships with Malaysia, Thailand, China and India.
If you are a student from these countries, or any other, you should consider studying with us as we offer a wide curriculum that has internationalisation built into the modules. We actively encourage trans-disciplinary teaching, group projects and have established relationships with colleges and industry overseas.
We take a pride in developing strong creative communities and these thrive on the injection of different cultural experiences. To develop a sense of sharing all experiences and ideas is fundamental to the philosophy of visual communication.
Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)
International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.
BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.
Our visual communication degrees are housed in the state of the art £62 million Parkside Building, part of our City Centre Campus.
We offer extensive studio and workshop space and cutting-edge equipment such as Vicon 3D (an external tracking motion capture facility) and Gypsy (an exoskeleton-based motion capture system). Both of these systems extend the possibility for production of 3D animation and films.
You will enjoy access to our Hollywood standard MILO unit. We were the first School of Visual Communication in Europe to offer MILO motion capture technology, now one of only two owned by Universities in Europe.
We offer cutting-edge provision such as digital print centres and Sonny Ross became the first student on the Visual Communication course to master the art of the RISO machine. He has since used this to produce many successful RISO publications including “Rojo & Baxter” which has been a success at various zine and book fairs across the country.
The Parkside Building also offers:
- exhibition space
- digital and analogue photographic facilities and studios
- dark rooms
Margaret Street campus
During your Foundation Year you will be based at our Margaret Street Campus - an impressive purpose built Grade 1 listed building. From industry-standard machinery in metal, wood and print, to our studio spaces and media suite, everything you need will be at your fingertips from day one.
Deputy Course Leader in Illustration
Ian has had work published nationally and internationally for clients such as The Japan Times, Radio Times, The Guardian, Cycling Plus, The Economist, Financial Times and The Independent on Sunday. Working as a freelance illustrator since 2002, his style is a blend of painting, drawing, photography, found objects and printmaking that are fused together digitally.