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Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels MA

Learn about the course below
January 2022
1 year full-time
2 years part-time
£9,000 (UK) *
£14,500 (EU/INT) *
Course leader
Martin Ursell

We plan to begin teaching our January 2022 start courses on campus, with some online support, as long as Government guidance allows. If you are overseas and have difficulties or concerns around joining in person teaching, we’ll support you to start online before you join us. We expect you to be on campus for learning by 14 February and will keep you updated in January if we need to make any changes to our learning and teaching.

We will publish updates on any changes to how we teach should guidance change.

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 and these will be part of our blended learning approach available where possible. Students will have access to our state-of-the-art reprographic department, where circumstances allow, where dummy books and sample illustrations may be printed to the highest professional quality.  Our university printing department CDS will offer the opportunity for students to have their dummy books printed where necessary and delivered to a specific address, enabling students to pitch their final major projects where this is appropriate and relevant.  In addition, we offer practical bookbinding expertise and instruction, enabling students to produce illustrated material to the highest presentation standard.

Course highlights

  • On line or studio visits by professionals working in children’s books and graphic novels, including online visits from publishers, editors and designers.
  • Exceptional research and reference opportunities including collections of artists’ books, a materials and specialist collections room and access, where circumstances allow, 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

Sign up now to receive more information about studying at Middlesex University London.


Find out more

Sign up now to receive more information about studying at Middlesex University London.

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.

    • Advanced Research Skills – Term 1 (15 credits)

      This module aims to provide you with the knowledge and skills required to undertake independent academic research in Visual Arts and Design at postgraduate level. By introducing you to contemporary and emergent research resources in the discipline; essential frameworks and tools for navigating research ethics in creative fields, linking to Middlesex University’s Research Ethics guidelines; and consolidating advanced knowledge of referencing conventions for academic integrity, you will be able to propose and structure a relevant research proposal for independent enquiry and investigation.

    • Contexts: Materials and Methods – Term 1 (15 credits)

      This module aims to develop your knowledge and skills in the research methods and materials pertinent to the contexts of your creative practice. Designed as a set of specialist elective seminar courses, led by a variety of researchers within the university, this module allows the student to experiment and learn first-hand about the methods and materials used by the researcher and to gain and apply insights into knowledge at the cutting edge of Visual Arts and Design, and relate this to your own emerging research interests.

    • Contexts: Critical Review – Term 2 (15 credits)

      This module aims to deepen your knowledge and skills in the critical review of influential research pertinent to the contexts of their creative practice. Designed as a set of specialist elective seminar courses, led by a variety of researchers within the university, this module allows you to experiment with new areas of knowledge and deepen their critical understanding of the wider contexts for their creative practice.

    • Positioning your Research – Term 2 (15 credits)

      This module aims to develop you into a confident researcher and communicator and to provide a showcase opportunity for the student to engage in peer review and public debate as a means for professional development and consolidation of the research scope, methods, context, and practice of their Master’s project.

    • 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.

We are regularly reviewing and updating our programmes to ensure you have the best learning experience. We are taking what we've learnt during the pandemic and enhancing our teaching methods with new and innovative ways of learning. Please regularly check this section of the course page for updates.

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 project,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.

Teaching and learning from 2022

We have developed new approaches to teaching and learning for the 2021/22 academic year, and have resumed the majority of our teaching on campus.

We are currently reviewing our approach to teaching and learning for 2022 entry and beyond. We've learned a lot about how to give you a quality education - we aim to combine the best of our pre-pandemic teaching and learning with access to online learning and digital resources which put you more in charge of when and how you study. We will keep you updated on this throughout the application process.

Your timetable will be built around on campus sessions using our professional facilities, with online sessions for some activities where we know being virtual will add value. We’ll use technology to enhance all of your learning and give you access to online resources to use in your own time.

The table below gives you an idea of what learning looks like across a typical week. Some weeks are different due to how we schedule classes and arrange on campus sessions.

This information is likely to change slightly for 2022 entry as our plans evolve. You'll receive full information on your teaching before you start your course.

Learning structure: typical hourly breakdown in 2021/22

Live learning Contact time per week, per level:  11 hours a mix of asynchronous and synchronous learning
Self-paced learning time Average hours per week, per level:
9 hours independent learning 18 hours independent learning and research
On demand resources Average hours per week, per level: As and when necessary 

Outside of these hours, you’ll be expected to do independent study where you read, listen and reflect on other learning activities. This can include preparation for future classes. In a year, you’ll typically be expected to commit 1200 hours to your course across all styles of learning. If you are taking a placement, you might have some additional hours.

Definitions of terms

  • Live in-person on campus learning – This will focus on active and experiential sessions that are both:
    • Led by your tutors including seminars, lab sessions and demonstrations We’ll schedule all of this for you
    • Student-led by you and other students, like small group work and presentations.
  • Live online learning – This will include lectures, tutorials and supervision sessions led by your tutor and timetabled by us. It also includes student-led group work that takes place online

  • Tutor set learning activities – This covers activities which will be set for you by your tutor, but which you will undertake in your own time. Examples of this include watching online materials, participating in an online discussion forum, completing a virtual laboratory or reading specific texts. You may be doing this by yourself of with your course mates depending on your course and assignments. Outside of these hours, you’ll also be expected to do further independent study where you’ll be expected to learn, prepare, revise and reflect in your own time.


You have a strong support network available to you to make sure you develop all the necessary academic skills you need to do well on your course.

Our support services will be delivered online and on campus and you have access to a range of different resources so you can get the help you need, whether you’re studying at home or have the opportunity to come to campus.

You have access to one to one and group sessions for personal learning and academic support from our library and IT teams, and our network of learning experts. Our teams will also be here to offer financial advice, and personal wellbeing, mental health and disability support.

  1. Standard entry requirements
  2. International (inc. EU)
  3. How to apply
  1. UK
  2. EU fees
  3. EU/International
  4. Additional costs
  5. 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.

Download our Alumni Achievement roundup featuring excellent examples of our graduates' real-world work and success stories.

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.

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.

Woodrow Phoenix
Visiting Lecturer

Woodrow Phoenix is a writer, artist, comics creator and graphic designer based in London and Cambridge.

His work regularly appears in UK and US publications. His groundbreaking book 'Rumble Strip' (Myriad Editions) was reviewed in The Times as "One utterly original work of genius. It should be made mandatory reading for everyone, everywhere.” He co-edited ‘Nelson' (Blank Slate) which won The British Comics Award for Best Book of 2012 and an Eisner nomination. 'Crash Course', an extensively revised and updated version of 'Rumble Strip', was published in the USA by Street Noise Books in August 2020.

His other comic books and strips include 'Donny Digits' which appeared weekly in The Guardian; The Sumo Family', which appeared weekly in The Independent on Sunday and then monthly in Manga Mania magazine; and 'The Liberty Cat', published quarterly in Japan by Kodansha in Morning magazine.  ‘SugarBuzz!'  an anthology comic made in collaboration with co-creator Ian Carney), resulted in multiple television projects for Walt Disney, The Cartoon Network and other independent tv production companies.

We’ll carefully manage any future changes to courses, or the support and other services available to you, if these are necessary because of things like changes to government health and safety advice, or any changes to the law.

Any decisions will be taken in line with both external advice and the University’s Regulations which include information on this.

Our priority will always be to maintain academic standards and quality so that your learning outcomes are not affected by any adjustments that we may have to make.

At all times we’ll aim to keep you well informed of how we may need to respond to changing circumstances, and about support that we’ll provide to you.

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