• Overview
  • Awards and Modules
  • Start Dates
  • Entry Requirements
  • Fees
  • Careers
  • Student Discounts and Offers
  • Course Duration


ma illu overview

The Top Up Master’s allows you to achieve an MA qualification in under two years studying full-time or, if you wish to fit your studies around your other commitments, you can study part-time and complete the course in under four years.

Building on your existing qualifications and experience, studying for a master's degree can give you an edge over other designers in a highly competitive market. The MA is designed not only for those who wish to develop their existing professional practice, but also for those aspiring to advance their career opportunities in an international context, as well as those wishing to develop the capabilities to manage or participate in complex professional projects.

Awards and Modules

ma illu modules

On completion of the Top Up Master’s you will gain two qualifications. You will initially study the honours Level of the BA Illustration course before progressing on to the master’s level. You are required to achieve a 2:2 or above in order to progress onto this level.

You will graduate with an internationally recognised master’s degree in Illustration (Visual Communication) and a BA (Hons) Illustration degree from the University of Hertfordshire.

MA Modules

On the master’s course, you will study core modules alongside students from other disciplines: Illustration, Photography and Interior Design. You are encouraged to approach these modules from the point of view of your own practice.

The core modules are:

  • Postgraduate Study in Context
  • Research and Practice
  • Creative Industries: Global Perspectives
  • Critical Studies
  • Creative Industries: Business Perspectives
  • Creative Industries: Professional Presentations

Click here for more information about these modules.

Throughout the course, you will build a foundation for your Major Study. You will also complete an outline or proposal and will develop the knowledge and skills required to implement your plans.

You will also undertake three modules centred on your discipline:

MA Module Descriptions

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Practice 1: Art and Design

Your practice in this module is expected to reflect your individual interests within the evolving contemporary discipline of illustration and may include illustration briefs and emerging practice within editorial and book illustration, applied illustration within branding and visual identity, illustration within screen-based, web, interactive, spatial and moving image contexts. In the Practice 1 module, you will develop a first exploratory portfolio of sketchbook work, identifying new directions for your creative practice to take forward into the Practice 2 and Major Study modules.

ma illu modules

Practice 2: Art and Design

In Practice 2, you will continue to build on your work from the previous module. A commitment to in-depth sketchbook work and other forms of illustration development will be particularly important in this module, which provides a foundation for the Major Study. In your illustration projects you may choose to experiment with digital techniques and/or traditional media, including but not limited to: drawing, printmaking, collage and other image-making media. Projects may reflect emerging contemporary practice within editorial, fine art, applied, spatial or screen-based illustration. In this module, you are encouraged to consider interdisciplinary contexts, wider contemporary critical debates and your professional audiences, in order to expand your practice in illustration.

Major Study

The Major Study will allow you to realise a project that builds on the knowledge and ideas explored throughout the programme, and demonstrate an advanced level of creativity and an in-depth knowledge of illustration.

You will build on ideas investigated in earlier parts of the programme and bring together practical, theoretical, commercial, as well as other contextual approaches, to complete a sustained body of original and innovative practice. This body of work will exhibit professional excellence and comprehensive understanding of illustration practice. The realisation of this body of work is supported by work in progress online discussions involving students studying all disciplines on the Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design, as well as one-to-one dialogue with your tutor.

As the culmination of your postgraduate journey, the Major Study project will be the final submission for the master’s award, demonstrating the communication, professional, conceptual and creative skills that you have acquired during your studies. The project will also provide evidence of preparedness for employment to potential future employers and clients.

Your Major Study project is expected to reflect a development and realisation of individual interests within the contemporary discipline of illustration. This may include, but not be limited to, self-initiated illustration briefs and emerging interdisciplinary practice within:

  • Editorial and book illustration
  • Applied illustration within branding and visual identity
  • Illustration within screen-based, web, interactive and moving image contexts

In your illustration projects, you may investigate digital techniques and/or traditional media including drawing, printmaking, collage and other image-making media. The content should be challenging and thought-provoking. Each project should demonstrate awareness of the forefront of your discipline in its originality and creativity. Your practical work will also address specific audience requirements along with relevant social, cultural and political contexts.

You will also submit a written reflective statement of around 3,000 words in which you will contextualise your own work and practice. The written submission aims to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of theories of visual communication, specifically in relation to illustration, and critically appraise the aims of the work, as well as the professional and commercial contexts in which it was developed. Writing this statement will provide you with insights into your own work, and the skills to express your ideas in a coherent and informed manner to potential audiences.

In both the Practice 1 and 2 Art and Design modules, you will work with a specialist subject tutor.

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Level 6: BA (Hons)

On the BA (Hons) programme, you will start to view yourself as a committed, professional practitioner in illustration. Studying at this level gives you the opportunity to develop an exciting and ambitious portfolio to assist with progressing your career or finding employment within the industry. You will extend your creative and technical abilities to reach a professional level. This level allows you to demonstrate greater independence and have the opportunity to direct individual project briefs in response to set key themes before progressing onto the MA.

When working commercially for clients or in other employment, it can sometimes be hard to find the time to produce imaginative, high quality work. Level 6 of your degree will allow you to concentrate on producing this kind of material.

Level 6 Module Descriptions

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Competition Briefs

This module gives aspiring new illustrators the opportunity to respond to challenging competition briefs. You will select from a series of modern and stimulating industry briefs to showcase your talents.

The briefs are typical of those provided by globally recognised companies and demand a high level of research, selection of innovative outcomes and advanced levels of design development. The briefs also require consideration of branding, advertising, editorial design, packaging, as well as new media.

This module will allow you, not only to compete on an international stage (if you choose), but also to contribute to your graduate portfolio as you prepare for a career in the creative industries.

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Negotiated Project 3B

This module provides you with the formal opportunity to negotiate a body of work. Within the creative industries, it is recognised that illustrators rarely self-initiate work, although they may frequently find themselves working with a client and assisting with the development of a brief.

The flexible nature of the brief enables you to develop a body of work that demonstrates a personal response to a given theme for potential employers. In addition, it is a platform from which you can demonstrate your creative skills in a more ambitious way. The negotiated and self-directed approach to this module builds on the preparatory projects set in previous levels. At Level 6, you will prepare a work schedule and exercise personal responsibility, independence and initiative in your work.

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This module aims to develop the entrepreneurial skills acquired during Level 5 through the encouragement of innovative approaches to securing employment within the creative industries. In addition to producing an employment strategy plan, you will also generate creative outcomes that allow you to explore your personal and professional approaches to illustration.

Throughout, you will acquire the self promotion and marketing skills necessary to establish contacts, work experience and employment within industry. You will also produce a digital portfolio website or blog, a self promotional packaging piece, CV design and an individual employment strategy plan.

In this module, you will identify and present your strengths as an illustrator and you will create work to market yourself with a view to opening dialogue with industry and securing employment. Your work will allow you to further advance your own practice and explore the direction you wish to follow in the creative industry.

Critical and Cultural Studies

This module will enable you to conduct an in-depth study of an aspect of design culture of your choice, with emphasis on the analysis of appropriate social, cultural, economic, technical, historical and aesthetic issues relevant to your chosen topic and creative work.

You will have the opportunity to bring your own interests into your work, and your independent research will be supported through discussion with your peers in the forums and course materials. You will also further develop skills in research, organisation and planning, and critical analysis.

The assessed element of this module consists of a 6,000 word essay or technical report.

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Final Major Project

This module offers you the opportunity to apply all of the technical skills and industry knowledge acquired throughout the course, examining your use of both traditional and emerging digital technologies. When you have decided on a suitable live brief or have built a project around one of the given themes, you will carry out and critically analyse advanced research. You will also engage with the creative process in a way that will stimulate the production of imaginative ideas, and carry the development of this work through to a conclusion.

You will produce substantial, investigative work in terms of your research and output. You will also be required to submit a written report of 1,200 to 1,500 words that clearly describes, and reflects upon, your work for this project.

At this level of study you will also be expected to show an independent and professional approach to the project in terms of presentation, and time and project management, at the conclusion of the module.

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Start Dates

We have intakes in February, June and October. Depending on the course you choose, you may be able to start in any intake, but there could be some restrictions. You can apply directly on our website at any time for any future intake and your Admissions Advisor will be able to confirm when the next start date for your chosen course will be.

Even if you are unsure about when you would like to start, or which course is best for you, contact us and a member of our Student Recruitment Team will be able to advise you.

start dates

Entry Requirements

ma illu entry

We consider all applications on an individual basis and welcome applications from those with non-standard qualifications and from a variety of backgrounds.

We offer guaranteed entry onto the Top Up Master’s from a relevant HND or Foundation degree, or professional experience in illustration, or a relevant subject.

International Applicants

All applicants from non-majority English speaking countries need to provide proof of English language proficiency. One of the following qualifications (or equivalent) is required:

  • GSCE English Language grade A-C
  • IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in any band)


Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

Accredited Prior Learning (APL) is the process for accessing and recognising prior experiential learning or prior certificated learning for academic purposes. This recognition gives the learning a credit value and allows it to be counted towards the completion of a degree or other award.

Credit is the common currency of university programmes. Each course module has a credit value and these credits are accumulated towards the full award. For example, an honours degree requires 120 credits at each of Levels 4, 5 and 6.

The APL process is intended to stop learners repeating learning that they have already achieved.

There are two types of APL:

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) is learning that has been recognised previously by an education provider, evidenced by formal certification, and assessed and recognised for the award of credit.

If you have previously studied a course that has broadly the same learning outcomes as ones on an IDI programme, then you can apply to have these credited against your degree. However, if a qualification or credit is more than five years old, it could be considered out of date and may not be used towards a degree.


Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) is learning that has been achieved through experiences outside the formal education and training systems, normally associated with a working environment, which has been assessed and recognised for the award of credit by the University. It is different from formal learning, as it is often unstructured and can be more personal and individualised.

APEL applicants can develop skills, strengths and knowledge from a range of experiential learning. Please be aware that learning must be at an equivalent level to that on the modules offered on our programmes and you must be able to evidence it. This is typically done by means of a portfolio. It is usual for this to involve some sort of reflective writing about your learning, but it might involve many other forms of evidence too.

It is important to remember that it is the learning from experience rather than the learning itself that is assessed for credit, which you will need to be able to articulate.

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  • Our standard fees for the Top Up Master's are £9,000



From £576.75 per month
  • Four instalments of £2,292
    Total payment of £9,168*
  • 16 instalments of £576.75
    Total payment of £9,228*


From £288.38 per month
  • Eight instalments of £1,146
    Total payment of £9,168*
  • 32 instalments of £288.38
    Total payment of £9,228*

*Please note these figures include a small administration fee.

Recommend a Friend

Increasingly our students are coming to us through personal recommendation and we’d like to recognise this. Whether you are a recent graduate, a current student, or even if you’ve just secured your place for the next intake; whenever you recommend IDI to a friend, colleague or family member, and they go on to enrol on a course, we’ll reward you both with £100. Find out more


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ma illu careers

The MA Illustration (Visual Communication) award will prepare you for a career as an illustrator, and also for illustration-related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, advertising and various other fields.

Potential Careers:

  • Art Director
  • Children's Book Illustrator
  • Creative Director
  • Editorial Illustrator (print)
  • Branding and Identity Designer
  • 3D Design and Visualisation
  • Spatial Illustration
  • User Interface Designer
  • Animation Illustrator
  • Interaction Designer
  • Multimedia Illustrator
  • Typography Specialist


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Student Discounts and Offers


Through partnerships and initiatives, we are able to offer our students institutional discounts on various products and services to help you gain access to quality materials at an affordable fee.

Adobe Creative Cloud

As an IDI student, you would be eligible for a discount of up to 65% off Adobe Creative Cloud* on production of an approved 'Proof of Student Status' letter.

*Adobe Creative Cloud is only available in selected countries. Find out if you can gain access from where you live by clicking here.

Graphics Direct

IDI students can also receive additional discounts. Enter ‘IDI’ at the Graphics Direct checkout and you will receive an extra 10% off, even on discounted and sale items.

Course Duration

The Top Up Master’s is available to study in the following modes, subject to minimum cohort numbers:

  • Part-time - Completed in ten semesters (three years and four months)
  • Full-time - Completed in five semesters (one year and eight months)

Expected minimum studying time commitment per study mode:

  • Part-time - 15 to 20 hours per week
  • Full-time - 30 to 35 hours per week

The hours per week indicate time spent on directed activities. However, you will also need to consider the additional time needed to read support materials and other resources, upload your work to the IDI-Study site, communicate with your tutors and interact with your peers within the forums.

If you begin studying and feel that the pace isn’t quite right for you, you can change your study mode within the first four weeks of study, or on completion of a level.