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Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels MA

Learn about the course below
January 2021
1 year full-time
2 years part-time
£8,500 (UK/EU) *
£14,000 (INT) *
Course leader
Martin Ursell

We’re planning to teach through a flexible combination of online and face to face learning for the first few months of the new academic year. If you’re thinking about starting with us in autumn 2020 or spring 2021, check back for more detail on arrangements for this course in July and August, and see our current plans for teaching and learning.

This course will now start in January 2021 as we've changed some of our teaching arrangements in response to the coronavirus outbreak. You'll get the same great learning experience with lots of support to do your best with this later start date.

This course is no longer accepting applications for 2020 entry. The next entry is January 2021

This practice and research-based course will enable you to explore and develop your interest and skill in all forms of narrative and sequential illustration. You will produce a children's book, graphic novel or illustrated text using our extensive facilities, supported by highly experienced staff and successful practitioners in the field.

Why study MA Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels at Middlesex University?

This is a highly practical course that aims to give students the very best opportunity to publish in these fields. The course is staffed by practising illustrators with rich and varied experience in these fields and invaluable insight into all aspects of publishing. The course will draw on the advice and expertise of visiting publishers, writers, editors, designers and art directors offering the best possible opportunity into the seemingly impenetrable world of publishing, narratives and children's books. Middlesex University offers superb facilities, including our exceptional printmaking rooms offering silk screen, lithography, mono print, wood and lino cutting, etching and dry point options. Students will have access to our state-of-the-art reprographic department, where dummy books and sample illustrations may be printed to the highest professional quality. In addition, we offer practical bookbinding expertise and instruction, enabling students to produce illustrated material to the highest presentation standard.

Course highlights

  • Visits by professionals working in children’s books and graphic novels, including visits from publishers, editors and designers
  • Exceptional research and reference opportunities including collections of artists’ books, a materials and specialist collections room and access to the extensive Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) collection of printed ephemera
  • Strong focus on professional presentation skills such as printing and preparing a publisher’s dummy
  • Workshops and practical advice in creating and launching a website.

Find out more

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What will you study on the MA Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels?

You will study all aspects of narrative illustration within children’s books and graphic novels. The course combines theoretical and practical work to give you a strong foundation from which to produce your own narrative and sequential illustrations. You will also study historical and contemporary examples of illustration from children’s novels and graphic novels.

What will you gain?

You will gain the skills to create your own narrative and sequential illustration. By the end of the course you will be able to produce your own children’s books and graphic novels, using various printing and binding methods. You will also have an understanding of the market and the knowledge to negotiate the publishing business.

  • Modules

    • Developing Practice - Term 1 (30 credits)

      In this module you will explore a chosen area of illustration in a contemporary context while enhancing your technical skills. You will learn to employ a variety of reflective methods to develop your own creative research proposal with the advanced communication skills to present, discuss and evaluate your work.

    • Critical Debates - Term 1 (30 credits)

      In this module you’ll explore the key concepts, ideas, issues and research methodologies relating to the practice and theory of children’s books and graphic novels. With particular focus on the cultural and social contexts within your chosen discipline, you’ll produce a portfolio of critical responses to contemporary debates in research and professional practice.

    • Pen to Paper - Term 2 (30 credits)

      This module will explore sequential imagery in storytelling, looking particularly at opportunities for gaining access to the publishing industry. As part of this module you will assemble a store of visual proposals, enabling you to present your ideas to publishing houses.

    • Advanced Research - Term 2 (30 credits)

      This module will prepare you for your final major project by enabling you to explore the work of practitioners and scholars in illustration and the contemporary research problems they face. By the end of this module you will have produced an illustrated research survey demonstrating your findings and investigations.

    • Major Project - Term 3 (60 credits)

      The major project is an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired during the course to the process of writing and illustrating your own children’s book or graphic novel, supported by critical and reflective written work that demonstrates your resolution and expertise.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Optional modules are not offered on every course. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, or there are staffing changes which affect the teaching, it may not be offered. If an optional module will not run, we will advise you after the module selection period when numbers are confirmed, or at the earliest time that the programme team make the decision not to run the module, and help you choose an alternative module.

How is the MA Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels taught?

The course combines lectures, seminars, reading groups and practical studio time.

Each module is designed to be flexible, allowing you to bring your own specific interests to the course work while developing and expanding your visual language and understanding of the requirements and demands of successfully seeing through the activity of writing, illustrating and preparing a text for publication.

Additional time will be spent looking at the available avenues and opportunities for publishing, including co-editions, book fairs (a dominant and crucial factor in successful publishing), self-publishing and the international publishing market.


Your skills, knowledge and understanding will be entirely assessed by coursework including practical projects, oral presentations and supporting written work. There are no exams.

Your final major project will require you to create your own children’s book or graphic novel.

  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. Additional costs
  4. Scholarships and bursaries

Scroll through the images below to view the great examples of our student work. Make sure to follow us on Instagram too to see the latest events and displays.

Book Illustrations

Graphic Novels

How will the MA Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels help your career?

The course will prepare you for a career in children’s books, illustrating stories and graphic novels. There will be chances to meet with agents, publishers, writers and practicing illustrators. Almost all illustrators working in children’s books and graphic novels work in a freelance capacity and advice will be given on how to establish yourself, based on first hand experience, in this field.

Advice is given on how to approach publishing houses, including presenting your book at the world’s biggest children’s book fair at Bologna, Italy and at the Frankfurt book fair in Germany.

Possible alternative careers include teaching and studio-based work.

With strong links to art and design employers in the UK and abroad, we support the individual ambitions of every one of our students while they are studying with us and after graduation.

The studios and workshops at our £80 million purpose-built Art and Design facilities on campus in North London are recognised as among the best in the country. With a wide range of digital media, equipment, software, print-making and library facilities on-site you’ll benefit from unique levels of access to both the latest forms of technology and traditional tools, with expert support to develop your work.

These facilities include:

  • Studio working space
  • Superb printmaking facilities including lithography, relief printing, mono-print and silk screen
  • Large format Epson printers
  • Bookbinding instruction and equipment
  • Extensive library and special collections
  • Weekly life drawing open access classes.

Martin Ursell
Programme Leader

Martin Ursell has illustrated many picture books for children, including the award-winning Song of Pentecost by W. J. Corbett. He has illustrated stories by Roald Dahl, Marina Warner, Ted Hughes, Pippa Goodhart, Linda Jennings and Dick King Smith and as well as the bestselling Gruesome series. Martin was a regular illustrator for Jackanory and visiting illustrator for The National Federation of Children’s Books, South East Arts and Kent Young Peoples Services. His own story Hairy Hairy was televised by the BBC. He was the author and illustrator of the popular Draw books published by b small and he is currently working on an epic, three-part graphic retelling of the Reynard the Fox stories that date back a millennium. Martin wrote Illustrating Children’s Books for the Crowood Press in 2013, currently in its third edition, and a companion text Keeping Sketchbooks published in 2016.

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