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Contemporary Art and Illustration BA(Hons) 2016-17

At a Glance

UCAS code:

Start date:
19 / 09 / 2016

3 years full-time
4 years inc. placement year

Places Available:
45 across the suite of Contemporary Art and Illustration courses (this number may be subject to change)

Course Type:
Full Time / Inc. placement year

Entry Requirements
•  BBB at A Level (or equivalent UCAS tariff points)
•  DMM – DDM BTEC National
•  Pass in Diploma Foundation Studies in Art and Design combined with A Level or BTEC National qualifications, to total an equivalent of 300 UCAS tariff points

Passes in GCSE English and Maths at Grade C or above are also required.
Strong emphasis will be placed on the quality of your portfolio and a satisfactory interview.

Other suitable experience or qualifications will be considered.

Department of Art and Design
Tel:+44 1484 471891

The course

This course lets you test your creativity within a lively studio environment. With a focus on the role of the visual in modern society, you can work across a wide range of media including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, moving-image, digital processes and photography. In the first year you’ll experiment with concepts and materials, forming a basis from which you go on to develop according to your individual strengths in the second and final years.

You’ll learn from teaching staff who have a wealth of experience in fine art and illustration, plus well-known guest speakers who form part of our contextual studies programme. The course offers you options for development both as an artist and/or as an illustrator, with opportunities to work on real projects set in collaboration with our industry partners, both nationally and internationally.

Course content

The course is organised around the link between studio activity, professional orientation and critical reflection. You'll develop practical skills, as well as skills of evaluation, interpretation and presentation through research and discussion.

You'll benefit from our established industry links through live projects, competitions, awards and exhibitions.

Year 1

+ Studio Practice 1

The module will concentrate on promoting an in-depth and disciplined approach to the breadth of contemporary practices in contemporary art and/or illustration. The focus is on exploration and experiment, in both ideas and materials, as a broad introduction to approaches to practice. You will be encouraged to draw upon existing knowledge in order to begin to establish the frameworks within which to operate as a creative practitioner. You will engage in processes such as drawing, painting, printmaking, lens-based media and 3D work and will be encouraged to examine these processes in relation to your personal conceptual and critical development. (100% portfolio).

+ Studio Practice 2

Building on your experience during the first term, this module continues to promote research and experiment in the production of practical work. You will draw upon knowledge and progress gained in Studio Practice 1 in order to extend the range of your visual practice. Debates and issues within contemporary practice will continue to inform your thinking and development, and you will begin to recognise a range of contexts in which you might work. You will continue to develop a structured and self-critical methodology in relation to your studio work. (100% portfolio).

+ Contemporary Practice in Context 1

This module introduces you to vital discourses and debates surrounding the influences, production and critical reception of contemporary art and/or illustration. We will explore the culture of the subject with reference to a wide range of images, artefacts, selected texts, film excerpts, reviews and exhibitions. You will learn to recognise and appraise key conventions and contexts and apply that knowledge in the studio, in discussion, and in a series of written formats which recognise the breadth of creative and critical styles deployed by today’s practitioners. These will develop your confidence and ability to demonstrate your understanding of and engagement with contemporary art and/or illustration. (100% contextual portfolio).

Year 2

+ Studio Practice 3

This module focuses on identifying a potential direction within a range of practices. Based on the experience and knowledge gained during the first year, you will now begin to negotiate the types of practice with which you wish to engage. Building upon the exposure to a variety of media, concepts and contexts from Studio Practice 1 and 2, you will increase your sense of independence in studio activity as you develop your own creative identity. You will begin to consider your work within current contexts and debates around Contemporary Art and Illustration and their inter-relationship.(100% portfolio).

+ Studio Practice 4

This module extends the level of independence developed in Studio Practice 3. It requires you to develop greater self-reliance and self-critical ability. It combines both internally set and external projects. Through negotiation, you will articulate a clearer idea of your position within creative practice, and test your practice within external contexts. You will develop independent projects and make links with appropriate professional bodies in order to explore the potential of your practice and gain professional experiences. This will be augmented by input from visiting specialists, live projects and field trips.(100% portfolio).

+ Contemporary Practice in Context 2

Building on knowledge gained in the first year, this module develops your ability to understand and engage with a range of visual, oral and written contexts informing contemporary practice. You will reflect on issues emerging in the studio and situate your own work within wider critical and cultural debates. Lectures, seminars and collaborative workshops will explore cultural theory and research methods to equip you with the capacity to present knowledge in a number of creative and academic formats. Across the year, these outcomes will be gathered selectively into a research portfolio.(100% research portfolio).

Year 3 - optional placement year

+ School of Art and Design Placement

You will normally spend a total of 48 weeks between the end of year two and the beginning of your final year in a managed work experience. You will be encouraged to obtain a placement activity relevant to your area of specialism, however a wide range of placements will be regarded as suitable. The placement will be monitored and you will be assessed on completion. (100%).

Final Year

+ Research and Development

This module will establish and inform your major project. Within it you will identify a theme/subject/issue relevant to your practice. The module will re-emphasise the importance of in-depth research, within which you will demonstrate originality, pro-activity and innovation. The context and parameters of this module will be defined by you, through negotiation and ongoing dialogue with your tutors. (100% research portfolio).

+ Major Project - Contemporary Art and/or Illustration

You will build upon and test research developed in THD1340 Research and Development. You will channel your creative and intellectual skills, either as an individual, or as part of a collaboration or interdisciplinary team, to create innovative, original or highly professional propositions(s) appropriate to your discipline through, for example; sketchbooks, worksheets, creative outputs. You will realise the potential of your major project in a form appropriate to your intentions. Your artefacts will act as a group of coherent summative statements. (100% creative project)

+ Theory

This module is specifically designed to unfold throughout the final year, reflecting theoretical, technical and professional issues appropriate to your practice. The module is intended to be a critical and diagnostic tool with which to examine your work. It can be made up of a series of outputs, and will help you to determine and contextualise the direction of your practice-based modules. The process of reflection, research and critical analysis is vital to the module. It will help you to identify connections between concept, method, realisation and mediation of your major project. It will allow you to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge and insight into your specialism, enabling you to make informed decisions/judgements related to your practical outputs.(20% verbal presentation/80% final assessment).


The course offers an optional one-year work placement after the second year, in the UK or abroad. This will give you the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience, insight into your chosen career and open up your graduate employment prospects. Our Placement Unit and academic staff have excellent industry links and can support you in applying for and finding your placement(s), as well as during your placement year.

Students within the area of Contemporary Art and Illustration have recently taken up placement opportunities with companies including: Surface Gallery – Nottingham; Debenhams – London; Buile Hill Visual Arts College – Salford; and Barnsley Civic Theatre – Barnsley.

Alternatively you could consider starting your own small business by applying for the Enterprise Placement Year in conjunction with the University’s Enterprise Team. You’ll benefit from business advice, mentoring and networking sessions. You can find out more information on the Enterprise Placement Year here.

Career opportunities

During this course you can benefit from the opportunity to gain the Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) qualification in addition to your degree, at no extra cost. This is a globally recognised qualification awarded by the leading software package provider to the creative industries, which most of our students will use in their professional careers. This extra qualification is in demand from employers and gives you a competitive edge in the job market.

Graduates have gone on to work in freelance design, children's book illustration and the greeting card industry. They have been employed by companies including Urban Outfitters, Google, Action Aid, Barclays, Sunday Telegraph, Sony PSP, The Big Chill, Converse and others. Within the field of contemporary art students have worked as artists exhibiting in New Sensations (a joint venture between the Saatchi Gallery and Channel 4), Newspeak (Saatchi Gallery), Northern Graduates Prize, New Contemporaries, Castlefield Gallery in Manchester and Alison Jacques in London, and others. Students have also taken up work in curating, community arts, art therapy, design and teaching.

Teaching and assessment

You'll work on studio-based projects, delivered through a combination of group tutorials, workshops, industry-linked projects, lectures, contact with visiting illustrators and artists, study trips (national and international), seminars and individual tutorials. Continual assessment techniques will be used through all aspects of your studies.

How much will it cost me?

Please contact the Student Finance Office for more information about 2016/17 fees and finance.


If you're an international student (including EU) you can check if you meet our entry requirements (both academic and English language) by visiting our country pages.

If you do not meet the entry requirements you can consider completing a degree preparation programme (if you are from a country outside of the EU) at the University’s International Study Centre (ISC). You can call the ISC on +44 (0) 1273 339333 to discuss your options. You can also complete the online application form or to ask a question please fill in the enquiry form and talk to one of our multi-lingual Student Enrolment Advisers.

If your English language is not at the required level (IELTS 6.0 overall), we have a range of Pre-Sessional English programmes that you can enrol on before starting your degree course. You will not need to take an IELTS test after completing one of our Pre-Sessional English programmes.

How to apply


Research plays an important role in informing all our teaching and learning activities. Through research our staff remain up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, which means you develop knowledge and skills that are current and highly relevant to industry. For more information, see the Research section of our website.

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