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Children's Book Illustration (MA)

Course Description

Follow in the footsteps of acclaimed children’s artists. Show your work to publishers at book fairs and exhibitions and get dedicated support from a team of internationally-recognised artists, who’ll help you to develop your own personal visual vocabulary and make connections with the children’s publishing industry.


This taught studio course, the first of its kind in the UK, will give you the dedicated support and knowledge you need to develop your practice in the art of children’s book illustration.

Within the broad guidelines of each module, you’ll propose and develop a project, with guidance from internationally recognised illustrators, writers and publishers of children's books. You’ll share and discuss your work with other students in group critiques, and attend lectures and seminars that will inform your studio practice.

Illustration at Anglia Ruskin is built on a tradition that goes back to the founding of the Cambridge School of Art in 1858. Our MA students work in dedicated illustration studios right next door to the Ruskin Gallery, with access to a fully equipped printmaking studio.

By studying with us, you’ll follow in the footsteps of alumni such as designer and war artist Edward Bawden, acclaimed graphic satirist Ronald Searle, and Roger Law and Peter Fluck, founders of the TV phenomenon Spitting Image.

Teaching times: currently either Mondays and Thursdays (9am-3pm) or Tuesdays and Fridays (9am-3pm). There are also lectures and presentations on Wednesdays from 3-5pm (full-time); Wednesdays 9am-5pm in semesters 1 and 2 (part-time)


Our partnership with Walker Books and its American counterpart Candlewick Press will give you the chance to go on a work experience visit to their London offices. They also sponsor our annual Sebastian Walker Award for Most Promising Student.

Many of our past students now enjoy careers as freelance authors and illustrators for children. Among our published graduates are Paula Metcalf, Marta Altés, Nadia Shireen, Birgitta Sif, Rebecca Patterson and Jo Empson.

You may decide to take your work to a deeper level with a research degree, like our PhD Children’s Book Illustration.


Core modules:
Observation and Experiment
The Sequential Image
The Diploma Project
The Diploma Review
Master's Project: Art and Design


In your first three studio modules, you’ll show your progress through project work, worth 80% of your module grade, and an essay relating to the contextual study lectures, which is worth 20%.

Your Diploma Review thesis will be assessed 100% on your 6,000-8,000 word essay, while the Master’s Stage Project will be assessed 90% on your project work and 10% on your written report.

What you'll study

Cambridge School of Art has been inspiring creativity since 1858 when it was opened by John Ruskin.

Engaging with current debates surrounding contemporary practice and with the state-of-the-art facilities, Cambridge School of Art houses light, bright studios, industry-standard film and photographic facilities, and 150-year-old printing presses alongside dedicated Apple Mac suites. Our digital art gallery, the Ruskin Gallery, exhibits both traditional shows and multimedia presentations, from national and international touring exhibitions and our own students.

We are the only university in Cambridge offering art and design courses at higher education level. A tight-knit community of artists, academics and over 900 students, we collaborate across our University, the creative industries, and other sectors. Cambridge is a centre for employment in the creative industries and there are rich opportunities for collaboration with the city’s entertainment, technological, scientific, arts and heritage industries.

Our graduates have a history of winning national and international awards and an excellent employment record. They include Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Dave Gilmour, Spitting Image creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law, and illustrator Ronald Searle, the creator of St Trinian's.

We’re part of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences, a hub of creative and cultural innovation whose groundbreaking research has real social impact.

Field trips

At our annual London graduation exhibition you’ll show your work to leading publishing companies and literary agencies. We also organise a stand at Bologna Children's Book Fair each year, where you’ll have more opportunities to secure a publishing deal with industry reps. As a direct result, our past students have signed contracts with publishers including Macmillan, Random House, Nosy Crow, Sarbacane (Fr), Donizelli (It), Child's Play, Walker Books, HarperCollins (NY), Doubleday (NY), Penguin (NY), Faber & Faber and Hodder. Advances against royalties have ranged from €2,000 with an independent publisher, to $50,000 for a three-book deal.

Work experience

Our partnership with Walker Books and its American counterpart Candlewick Press will give you the chance to go on a work experience visit to their London offices. They also sponsor our annual Sebastian Walker Award for Most Promising Student.

Specialist facilities

You’ll work in dedicated illustration studios right next door to our Ruskin Gallery, with access to a fully-equipped printmaking studio.

Visit the Children's Book Illustration (MA) page on the Anglia Ruskin University website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Nicola Killen

533.jpg While working as an illustrator in the greetings card industry I became more and more interested in children's books and felt that the MA in Cambridge would be the best way to develop my skills in this area.

I chose to study full-time as I wanted to focus on my work and to make the most of the facilities on offer - including life drawing, printmaking and letterpress. The class was really supportive of one another and, comprising many different nationalities, provided a diverse range of perspectives.

The focus on observation and drawing on location at the beginning of the course was great for me as it took me away from the commercial approach I was used to, and was something that I continued throughout the course. The following modules are designed to lead you gradually into working specifically for children's books, with the help of both visiting and full-time tutors.

The course provided the opportunity to attend lots of different talks and exhibitions, and visiting the Bologna Children's Book Fair was a real highlight. As well as hearing from authors and illustrators, links with the publishing industry mean that an insight into the entire publishing process is provided.

The esteem in which the course is held within the publishing industry generates a great deal of interest in the graduation exhibition and catalogue.

I am really glad I chose to do the course as it has been an invaluable experience.

(Student Profile)

Nadia Shireen

876.jpg Anglia Ruskin was the first institution to offer an MA in Children's Book Illustration. During my research it became clear that as well as being innovative, the course was also well respected. The part time option allowed me to keep working and stay financially afloat.

I didn't realise at the time quite how much the course would affect my life! The course forced me to take my drawing seriously for the first time, which has in turn made me reassess my work and what I want to do in the future. The tutors all shared a commitment to bringing the best out of every student. I found them supportive, encouraging and honest. It is vital to be open to criticism in order to get the most out of the course. There's a real passion for the subject from the teaching staff that is highly infectious.

The course works closely with the publishing industry, which is invaluable for aspiring illustrators. A team from Egmont Publishing regularly visited us, and gave us insight into the ever-changing landscape of the industry, as well as personal feedback on our work. The graduation show in London was attended by talent-spotters from all of the major publishing houses, which I think is a testament to the reputation of the course. At the graduation show I was approached by several publishers, and have signed to Random House Picture Books for a two-book deal. For now at least, I've managed to quit the day job and am working full time on writing and illustrating books for children - a dream come true! My experience at Anglia Ruskin will help me in my new career every day. It's hard to quantify the impact learning and growing in a supportive environment has had on me.


Entry Requirements

A good honours degree (or equivalent), normally in a related subject. Applicants with professional experience are also encouraged to apply. If English is not your first language you will be expected to demonstrate a certificated level of proficiency of at least IELTS 6.5 ( Academic level) or equivalent English Language qualification, as recognised by Anglia Ruskin University. Applicants to this course will be required to attend interview and display a portfolio of work for assessment. Applicants resident outside of mainland UK only may submit a portfolio electronically.

Last Updated

30 September 2016

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