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Children's Book Illustration and Graphic Novels MA

Learn about the course below
September 2023
1 year full-time
2 years part-time
£9,600 (UK) *
£15,100 (EU/INT) *
Course leader
Martin Ursell

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 books, graphic novels and illustrated texts 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.

*this course is subject to review. We periodically re-evaluate our programmes to make sure the content and teaching stay up to date and relevant. Please check this page regularly for updates.

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 practical and theoretical 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 books 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 - Compulsory

    • Explore: Storytelling, text and image (30 credits)

      Expand and develop your knowledge of storytelling methods and devices from given subject matter and themes, and considers story construction, pacing and narrative drive appropriate to the 16pp book format. You will explore and develop the impact of unreliable narration and story resolution and consider the balance of text and image crucial to the16pp book format and explore this through a variety of image making processes. You will consider the moral implications within storylines and inclusivity and diversity in books for children and the implications involved when resolving a story.

    • Positioning your Research (15 credits)

      This module aims to develop the student as 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.

    • Contexts: Critical Review (15 credits)

      This module aims to deepen the student’s 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 the student to experiment with new areas of knowledge and deepen their critical understanding of the wider contexts for their creative practice.

    • Contexts: Materials and Methods (15 credits)

      This module aims to develop the student’s knowledge and skills in the research methods and materials 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 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 their own emerging research interests.

    • Advanced Research Skills (15 credits)

      This module aims to provide the student with the knowledge and skills required to undertake independent academic research in Visual Arts and Design at postgraduate level. By introducing the students 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, the students will be able to propose and structure a relevant research proposal for independent enquiry and investigation at Master’s level.

    • Elaborate: Narrative and sequential illustration (30 credits)

      Develop, appraise and explore storytelling devices to create a 32pp book from an original source through to a completed professional publishers dummy. You will consider and critically evaluate the demands and design of the 32 page picture book structure on image making and storytelling methods within this format. Advance your own knowledge, practice and personal/professional development of storytelling within narrative illustration and achieve an awareness of publishing trends through bookfairs and engagement with industry. Recognise the importance, through research and analysis,  of creating narratives that inform, enrich and develop a child’s understanding and engagement with contemporary issues.

    • Realise: Books for publication (60 credits)

      Utilise the principles and processes of advanced creative practice that determine the development of a significant body of artwork or text, usually a children’s book, graphic novel or equivalent. Utilise accrued knowledge and skills and aims to develop an understanding of organising, concepts, text and image, into a coherent whole. Explore diverse and varied approaches to storytelling, text and image through the use of process and experimentation. Encourage through research and exploration, the consideration of current, relevant and social themes as a basis for a cohesive body of work.

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 have learnt during the pandemic and enhancing our teaching methods with new and innovative ways of learning.

We aim to model a wide range of teaching strategies and approaches on the course which you can adapt to your own setting.

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 2022 academic year, and have resumed the majority of our teaching on campus.

We are currently reviewing our approach to teaching and learning for 2023 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 2023 entry as our plans evolve. You'll receive full information on your teaching before you start your course.

Learning structure: typical hourly breakdown in 2022/23

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 

This information is likely to change slightly for 2024/25 entry as our plans evolve. You'll receive full information on your teaching before you start your course.

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/International
  3. Additional costs
  4. Scholarships and bursaries

Scroll through the images below to view 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 a dummy book and portfolio at the world’s biggest children’s book fair at Bologna, Italy and at the Frankfurt book fair in Germany. Visits are also made to the London Bookfair, an increasingly important fair in the publishing calendar.

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 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, and Dick King Smith and is the illustrator of the bestselling Gruesome series. Martin was a regular illustrator for the children's TV programme Jackanory, and his own story Hairy Hairy was televised by the BBC.

Martin's many picture books include Fred's Garden by Linda M.Jennings and a book with best selling children's author Julia Donaldson called Follow The Swallow.

Martin was a visiting illustrator for The National Federation of Children's Books, South East Arts and Kent Arts and Libraries Young Peoples Services. He is also a mentor for the ground breaking 2019 House of Illustration/Pathways project.

Martin has written two books for the Crowood Press, Illustrating Children's Books and Keeping Sketchbooks and has illustrated well over one hundred publications. Most of his books have sold internationally.

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.

  • Middlesex staff profile

    Florian Grossett

    Florian's final major project, a graphic novel titled The Chagos Betrayal has been published by Myriad to huge international acclaim. Florian's book details the true, harrowing and compelling account of the Chagos islanders and how they were forcibly evicted, by the British Government to make way for a US military air base in the Indian Ocean. John Pilger said of Florian's book, "Extraordinarily moving, almost haunting and powerfully factual. Please read what has been done in your name" and Benjamin Zephaniah said, "A very creative way of telling of a terrible and ongoing atrocity. It is impossible to explore this book and not feel the injustice, and then feel that justice must be done." Florian opened the London Bookfair 2021 with a presentation and discussion about  The Chagos Betrayal with Julian Sands.

  • Middlesex staff profile

    Janas Lau

    Janas's final major project, a moving and pertinent story of living in modern day Hong Kong called, Where is my Next Home? was published in 2019 and shortlisted for the Cheltenham Illustration award and the Clairvoyants International Illustration Competition. The book is a brilliant critique of China's influence and increasingly authoritarian treatment of the former British colony and as a marriage of text and pictures succeeds on every level. Janas produced two brilliant and thought provoking picture books highlighting these issues. Her picture book I am Not a Deer which deals with human rights issues and freedom of expression superbly illustrates the censorship and suppression endured in Hong Kong in the twenty first century.

  • Middlesex staff profile

    Ian Pentney

    Ian published two children's books whilst on the course with author Jessica d'Este, Noah and the Ark and Jonah and the Whale.  He followed this success with a three part graphic novel called The Penang Pilot that will be published later this year.  This graphic novel draws on family history to create a story of the tensions and relationships of a family separated by continents and embroiled in the prejudices and attitudes of our colonial past.

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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