Illustration and Design with Integrated Foundation Year BA (Hons)

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Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

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This is a four-year version of our popular BA (Hons) Illustration and Design course, with an integrated foundation year. Push the boundaries of illustration. Develop your own style and release your personal creativity. Enter the inspiring world of professional illustration.

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If you are passionate about drawing and are full of creative ideas then this course will cultivate your talent. At Sunderland we encourage students to push the boundaries of illustration. The course blends traditional techniques with computer technology, such as virtual reality and 3D design.

Perfect your craft alongside experienced academics, all are practicing professionals at the cutting edge of their field; they bring their industry insights and experience directly into their teaching.

Why us?

  • You can combine illustration with other areas such as animation, graphics, advertising, 3D illustration and web design
  • We are one of six institutions across the UK that is participating in The Design Council’s Design Academy Scheme. Design Academy is an interactive, four-day training programme for Design students at leading universities, helping to prepare students from a variety of disciplines for real-world design challenges by developing their strategic design capabilities
  • 93.4% of our graduates are in employment, further study or training within six months of graduating, according to DLHE 2016/17 (based on full-time, first degree, home leavers)
  • We work closely with the nearby Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, which showcases some of the UK's finest authors and illustrators for children
  • Access to the latest digital illustration hardware including Apple Mac Pros, Wacom Cintiq drawing screens and virtual reality displays
  • Industry experienced staff including published children's book author, NHS medical artist and professional freelance illustrators
  • Access to FabLab Sunderland on City Campus, part of a global network of digital fabrication spaces that provide 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters and a CNC router
  • Our Art and Design courses were ranked 2nd overall in the UK in the 2018 UK Engagement Survey
  • Our Art and Design courses were ranked 2nd in the UK for Assessment and Feedback, 2nd in the UK for Retention and Progression, and 3rd in the UK for Employability in the 2018 UK Engagement Survey

New Sunderland Culture logo

A city brimming with creative potential

Offering a year-round programme of exhibitions, events and performances, Sunderland Culture brings big-name artists from the worlds of contemporary visual arts, glass, ceramics and performance to the city, alongside showcasing the best and most exciting local talent. There is a huge range of opportunities for students to visit the venues, take part in events and get involved in the programme. Learn more about Sunderland Culture.

Student work

Course structure

In the first year – the foundation year – you will study five modules; a module about the foundations of art, design, performance and media production, an essential study skills module, a foundation project module, practical numeracy skills, and an introduction to creative practice module. After completion of this foundation, you will then move onto the Illustration and Design honours degree course.

Your second year introduces you to a range of different media and focuses on the fundamental skills of illustration including observational drawing, printmaking, animation and digital drawing and painting. In your third and fourth year you will narrow your focus and develop your own personal style of illustration through open briefs based on real-world commercial projects.

You will have the opportunity to exhibit your work at the end of year degree show. The show is open to the public and invited guests in order for you to showcase your portfolio and meet potential employers from the design sector.

Feedback is given regularly during teaching sessions and at the end of the semester in order for you to develop your work to the highest standard and also to reflect on how you might have approached the project differently.

Teaching sessions are made up of a combination of personal one to one meetings with design tutors and group critiques designed to encourage team working and to create a community vibe among the year groups. This is supported by lectures, seminars, workshops and independent learning. You will have access to studio spaces outside of teaching time, which facilitates reflection on work and peer evaluation.

View our student galleries.

Foundation Year

The Creative Industries: Arts, Design, Performance, Media Production Integrated Foundation Year includes five modules:

  • Foundations of Art, Design, Performance and Media Production (40 credits)
  • Essential Study Skills (20 credits)
  • Foundation Project (20 credits)
  • Practical Numeracy Skills (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Creative Practice (20 credits)


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

Year 1 (national level 4):

  • Design Theory 1 (20 credits)
  • Illustration, Media and Printmaking (60 credits)
  • Sequential, Narrative and Concept Illustration (40 credits)

Year 2 (national level 5):

  • Design Theory 2 (20 credits)
  • Illustration and Contemporary Practice (40 credits)
  • Printmaking for Illustration (20 credits)
  • Beyond Desktop Publishing (20 credits)
  • Computer Illustration (20 credits)

Final year (national level 6):

  • Illustrator as Professional (40 credits)
  • Design Research (20 credits)
  • Final Major Project (60 credits)

More about BA (Hons) Illustration and Design with Integrated Foundation Year at Sunderland

Discover more articles
  • The University provides generous studio spaces, well-equipped workshops and excellent facilities for design students.

    Within our digital design suites, there are Apple Macs, PCs, HTC VIVE VR and Wacom Cintiqs with Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium. This includes software such as ZBrush, Unity 3D, Maya, Blender, Cinema 4, Dreamweaver and Adobe Creative Suites. Our specialist technical staff, including qualified Adobe and Maya Certified Instructors, offer back-up and help in making the most of the software.

    Design facilities
  • FabLab Sunderland offers a diverse range of specialist digital design and fabrication equipment. Based at the Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland city centre, it is a creative space where anyone can make (almost) anything. Our students gain free access to FabLab's machines which include:

    • Epilog laser cutter
    • ShopBot CNC router
    • The Roland Modela MDX-20 milling machine
    • Roland Vinyl cutter GS-24
    • Dimension 1200es Series 3D Printer – ABS plastic (large capacity 3D printer)
    • Ultimaker 2 (small scale 3D printer)
    • Ulitmaker 2 Extended (medium scale 3D printer)
  • The University Library has an exceptional collection of photography books and monographs and subscribes to a comprehensive range of academic journals and databases so you can access reliable and up-to-date information.

    A dedicated Academic Liaison Librarian supports students and staff in the arts, design and performing arts disciplines.

    The key resources for your course include:

    Discover: The Library’s multi-disciplinary search tool

    Art Full Text: A major resource for media and arts information

    JSTOR (short for ‘Journal Storage’): Giving access to important journals across the humanities, social sciences and sciences

    Lexis: A major resource on full-text newspaper articles and legal information

    Library Services - arts and design
  • Map and directions


This course is based at the Priestman Building, the main base for art, design and performance on City Campus. Thanks to a major renovation programme, the Priestman Building provides state-of-the-art teaching space and resources as part of a vibrant and creative learning environment.

Entry requirements

The Integrated Foundation Year is specially designed to support you where you have just missed the grades required for direct entry onto a three-year degree, or if you have relevant work experience and are now looking to broaden your subject knowledge but want more time to develop study skills before starting your degree.

Entry requirements are provided for guidance only and we may offer you an entrance interview which will help us determine your eligibility for your chosen degree. This enables us to consider making you an offer if you are perhaps a mature student who has been out of education for a period of time, or you have gained significant knowledge and skills through employment rather than traditional education.

Eligible entry qualifications:

1. Normally a minimum of three Level 2 qualifications (NVQ, GCSE or equivalent ), including Maths and English at grade C or above** and a minimum of 40 UCAS tariff points from Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A or AS Levels, BTEC certificates/diplomas, access courses or equivalent)
2. Demonstrable evidence of appropriate knowledge and skills acquired from at least three years of post-school work experience.

Find out how many points your qualifications are worth using the UCAS Tariff calculator.

If you are unsure of whether you think you might be suitable for the course, please contact us!

** If you have studied for a GCSE which has a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above. Equivalent alternative qualifications are also accepted, such as Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have not achieved a grade C in Maths and English we may be able to work with you to ensure that you are able to gain these in the first year of the course, depending on your experience.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

For more information about Integrated Foundation Year programmes, including more detailed module information, please see our Help and Advice articles.

Fees and finance

If you join us in September 2020, the foundation year will be £5,000.

For the following three years, the annual fee will be £9,250 but you will receive £1,250 cash-back in the first and final year of the full-undergraduate course.

In addition, you may receive free travel across the Tyne and Wear region and a University of Sunderland StudyPLUS Card loaded with additional offers up to the value of £200, plus a bundle of study skills books worth £80.

If you are a full-time UK student you may be eligible to receive financial support to cover your fee and maintenance loan for the full four years.

Please note, this course is not available to international students.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

Scholarships calculator

This information was correct at the time of publication.

City Campus by night


Throughout the course you will build a creative and industry ready portfolio that will help you launch a career as an illustrator or graphic designer, or take up any other roles where creative skills are important. You'll exhibit your work at our final year Degree Show, visited by industry professionals and creative employers and may have the opportunity to take your work to London.

Our graduates have gone on to work in a variety of illustration and design roles, such as freelance illustrators for Oxford University Press, The Guardian newspaper, Hallmark cards, design studios at the Open University and Virgin's design department. Other students have gone on to be employed in design companies throughout the UK and many choose to progress onto our MA Design course.

Career options

Our graduates go on to have diverse careers. One of our graduates works for a publishing house in Japan, dealing with the design and illustration of children's wildlife books. Another was offered a three-book contract at a New Designers Graduate Show and has subsequently won further contracts for illustrations.

Many graduates also operate as freelancers as part of a 'portfolio career' alongside other creative work. They create illustrations for advertising, packaging and editorial purposes. Whatever route you choose, your course will put you on a fast track to getting work published and recognised.

Placements and visits

You will have opportunities to apply for internships and other live projects where you can work alongside professional illustrators and designers. 

In addition, our academic team organises visits to arts and design venues and companies in London and across the UK. This is to provide you with the opportunity to travel around London and visit illustration agencies, design studios and experience private viewings of famous artwork at the British Museum.

Employability days and guest speakers

We hold specific 'employability days' to help give you that essential cutting edge. We invite former graduates and employers to come into the University to look at student portfolios and give advice. 

Through our connection with the Association of Illustrators and strong links with professional illustrators, we are able to attract a range of top names to give guest lectures. The input of these internationally-known speakers helps broaden your learning and provide fresh perspectives.



Meet the students

  • The course allows you complete freedom to explore the discipline fully, cultivating originality.
    Adam McDade

    Adam McDade

  • I’m hoping to go on to create more books after I have finished my degree.
    Chloe Violet Sandy

    Chloe Violet Sandy

  • When I graduated I started working straight away as a graphic designer.
    Katie Chappell, Illustration and Design graduate

    Katie Chappell

  • The tutors are just like friends who are very approachable and helpful.
    Melissa Bailey, Illustration and Design graduate

    Melissa Bailey

  • My course has definitely shaped what I would like to do in the future.
    Rachel McKenna, Illustration and Design graduate

    Rachel McKenna

Meet the team

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