Image representing Graphic Design (top-up)

Graphic Design (top-up) - BA (Hons)

UCAS code W210

This is an archived page and for reference purposes only


This one-year programme will help you develop a portfolio of work tailored to your intended direction within graphic design and/or illustration.  It will also enable you to convert a HND or Foundation Degree (level 5) qualification (in a relevant subject area) into a Batchelor's degree (level 6). This qualification is taught at West Kent College's University Centre in Tonbridge and is awarded and quality assured by the University of Kent



Although this programme offers a natural progression route from the HND in Graphic Design at West Kent College, we also welcome and encourage applications from students who have achieved a HND or Foundation Degree in graphic design or a related subject at another college or university.

The programme has been designed to enable you to develop a portfolio of work which is tailored to your intended direction within graphic design and/or illustration. The design briefs are deliberately left quite open so that they might be interpreted to suit your design pathway. The overarching pathways are Illustration, Photography and Typography. However, you do not have to choose one at the expense of the other.

Why study this programme?

The programme is staffed by highly qualified, experienced tutors and those with industry-level design experience. It also features visits and workshops from other practitioners; in previous years these have included illustrators, lettering artists, art directors and typographers. 

Additionally, we encourage design industry representatives to engage with students and we have frequently organised ‘live’ commercial briefs which have led to prizes and work placements. We enter recognised competitions such as the Design Museum’s ‘Design Factory’ annual competition, for which the programme has had winners every year. 

Being just a 40-minute train journey from London, we organise regular trips to the capital and throughout south-east England to enrich your learning experience. You benefit from an excellent ratio of staff to students, meaning that personal support is regularly available. 

The resources for students are excellent, with a large pool of computers available and many subject-specific library resources. A significant proportion of graduates gain employment in the design industry and some progress to postgraduate study and teaching.

Student profile

"I feel like I learn so much day by day, and I have never been happier in my adult work and social life. "

Ed Clark - BA (Hons) in Graphic Design

Who is this course aimed at?

Graphic Design is a broad umbrella term that has come to largely cover a wide range of careers. Typically our students will go on to work in adverting and/or marketing agencies but others have gone on to pursue careers in typeface design, printing industries, illustration, editorial design, book design and teaching. 

The programme goes beyond the use of computers and is as much about helping you develop a range of thinking skills and the ability to work at speed in an ever-changing and exciting profession. 

Being a designer requires the ability to analyse your work as pieces of visual communication and you need a good eye for detail. Graphic design differs from Fine Art in that the work produced is to fulfil the needs of a client brief as opposed to self-expression. However, there is still great scope for creative freedom and the pushing of boundaries.

Teaching Excellence Framework

All University of Kent courses are regulated by the Office for Students.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Course structure

You will study the following three modules:

  • Dissertation (30 credits) 
  • Advanced Professional Practice (45 credits) 
  • Final Major Project (45 credits) (A negotiated project of your own topic choice)

Teaching and assessment

As well as developing technical skills, you will acquire presentation skills and develop critical writing skills via academic writing and blogging. You will develop the ability to work confidently on your own and as a member of a team. 

Throughout the programme you will not only receive staff input but you’ll be expected to contribute to critiquing sessions and seminars where you can exchange ideas and support your peers at regular intervals. Most importantly the programme will provide you with the opportunity to build the all-important portfolio of work that will represent your skills and learning and demonstrate your ability to enter industry or progress to further study.

Your work will be assessed continuously throughout the course. This occurs via critiquing sessions, presentations and a formal assessment at the end of each module. There are no exams for this programme. Practical workshops, lectures and seminars are a key feature of higher level study and you will be expected to attend and participate in these activities. 

You will be given ongoing, regular feedback to assist your decision-making and to support the direction of your work. Regular attendance is essential so that a good design dialogue can be maintained as this forms the basis of the design process. This largely occurs through one-to-one meetings. You will keep a record of your research and development as these underpin the journey taken to arrive at the final outcomes. Assessment generally takes places during a presentation, with the exception of the dissertation which is handed in as a written piece for grading.  Expected timetabled hours and time commitment outside timetabled hours:

The programme typically involves an average of 12 timetabled hours over three days per week during term time. This is a full-time programme and you will be expected to dedicate approximately 20 hours per week to self-directed study to carry out research and assignment work outside of timetabled classes.

Equipment required

You will require the following equipment for this programme:

  • Scalpel or other cutting knife (with the safety on, such as a cork or a case) 
  • A3 hard case portfolio 
  •  Notebook/sketchbook 
  • Steel ruler (60cm minimum)
  • Glue (eg Pritt stick)
  • Spray mount (for external use only)
  • Black bullet-nosed marker and a range of fine liners for visualising
  •  A range of pencils 
  •  Putty rubber (eraser)

The College has ample computer equipment with which to complete your projects. You will not be expected to purchase any software for the programme, although the teaching staff can provide advice if you wish to do so.

Contact Hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Widen participation in Higher Education by providing opportunities for HND or Foundation Degree achievers to gain a BA (Hons) Degree in Graphic Design.
  • Support and encourage learners to develop a specialist focus and application for their work through the provision of a curriculum that encourages critical and analytical skills and the knowledge to challenge design conventions and ideology.
  • Offer opportunities to capable learners, regardless of culture, background, learning difficulties or disability, to develop both academically and creatively.
  • Significantly increase learners’ knowledge of graphic design through the provision of a highly contextualised curriculum model that draws on contemporary design practice together with relevant historical, theoretical and cultural material.
  • Foster independent learning and develop learners’ ability to apply, consolidate and extend their learning in different contextual frameworks and situations, both within and beyond the field of graphic design. Produce graduates who are highly creative and potentially entrepreneurial practitioners able to articulate and synthesise their knowledge and understanding, attributes and skills in effective ways within the contexts of creative practice, employment, further study, research and self-fulfilment.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain a knowledge and understanding of:

  • Systematic and detailed knowledge of the historical evolution of design, visual communication and related media/genres and of the significance of the works of other designers and creatives.
  • Detailed and in-depth understanding of the contexts and concepts relating to graphic design and its place within contemporary visual culture together with the development of critical theory and its application within contemporary design practice.
  • The effective application of appropriate methodologies to critical analysis and ideas development together with research methods and synthesis and the appropriate presentation of findings and analysis.
  • The relationship between the aesthetic and utilitarian dimensions of the medium.
  • The selection, testing and creative application of conventional and digital design techniques, processes and materials together with the implications and potential of developments in current and emerging media and technologies.
  • The application of resourcefulness and entrepreneurial skills within the context of contemporary professional practice and a detailed understanding of the relationship of graphic designers with audiences, clients and consumers.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual skills:

  • The synthesis of ideas and concepts from the work of others and from historical, cultural and contextual references. 
  • The generation, development and evaluation of ideas, concepts, proposals, solutions and arguments in response to set briefs and/or self-initiated activity. 
  • The use of appropriately creative techniques and conventions to visually represent a range of objective and subjective information, meanings and messages.
  • The synthesis and effective articulation of knowledge, understanding, attributes and skills in the contexts of professional practice, further study, research and self-fulfilment.
  • The undertaking of systematic, effective and self-directed research using a wide range of appropriate resources. 
  • The employment of both convergent and divergent thinking in the processes of observation, investigation, speculative enquiry, visualisation and/or creation.
  • The interpretation, articulation and analysis of ideas and information through the use of oral, written and visual language.
  • The demonstration of critical thinking, analysis and evaluation skills through the presentation of arguments and conclusion.

Subject-specific skills

You gain the following subject-specific skills:

  • The effective generation, development and application of ideas, concepts, proposals and solutions in response to set briefs and/or self-initiated work.
  • The creative and effective use of visual language within graphic design through the ability to use techniques and materials in an intuitive way to convey intended meanings and messages.
  • The selection, testing and creative application of appropriate technical and practical skills relating to conventional and digital design techniques, processes, materials and environments.
  • The development of ideas through to material outcomes by managing and making appropriate use of the interaction between intention, process, outcome, context and methods of dissemination.
  • The effective application of resourcefulness and entrepreneurial skills in support of their own practice.

Transferable skills

You gain the following transferable skills:

  • Self-development – the ability to manage own roles and responsibilities; to study independently; to manage own time in achieving objectives; to undertake personal and career development; to transfer skills gained to new and changing situations and contexts; to identify personal strengths and needs.
  • Interaction – the ability to relate to and interact effectively with individuals and groups; to work effectively as a team member; to undertake collective endeavour and negotiation; to accurately define and review the work of others; to treat others values, beliefs and opinions with respect.
  • Communication – the ability to organise, analyse and evaluate information effectively; to articulate ideas and information effectively in visual, oral and written forms; to present ideas and work to audiences in a range of situations.
  • Management – the ability to select and use a variety of information sources; to deal with a combination of routine and non-routine tasks; to identify and solve a range of routine and non-routine problems.
  • Technology – the ability to source, navigate, select, receive, evaluate and respond to a variety of information from a variety of sources; to select and use a range of technological equipment and systems; to select and effectively employ appropriate communication and information technologies.
  • Creativity – the ability to apply a range of skills and techniques to develop a variety of ideas in the creation of new/modified products and solutions; to use a range of thought processes to identify and define intellectual and practical tasks; to articulate reasoned arguments through reflection, review and evaluation.


Graduates of this programme typically enter design agencies or similar settings. The programme has produced book illustrators, lettering artists, typographers, art directors and many of our alumni have gone on to set up their own successful design agencies.

Entry requirements

Applicants should hold a Foundation Degree or HND in graphic design or a related discipline at Merit or Distinction level. 

The College will also consider applicants who have completed 240 credits in a degree programme in graphic design or a related discipline with achievement equivalent to a Merit profile in a Foundation Degree or HND.

All applicants will be interviewed and asked to present a suitable portfolio of their work at interview.

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

It is not possible to offer places to all students who meet this typical offer/minimum requirement.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

Qualification Typical offer/minimum requirement
Access to HE Diploma

See above

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

See above

International students

International students cannot be admitted to this programme at this time due to visa restrictions.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of 'pre-sessional' courses in English for Academic Purposes. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

General entry requirements

Please also see our general entry requirements.


The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

UK/EU Overseas

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

A materials fee, currently set at £40 per year, is payable for each year of the programme. This fee will contribute to the cost of inks for the Mac room printers and the supply of basic materials such as tracing paper.

An additional fee for trips, currently set at £80 per year, is also payable for each year of the programme to cover admission fees for all external visits organised by the College and to contribute to the cost of guest speakers and workshops. Please note that this fee will not cover your travel costs for the external visits.

Contact West Kent college for more information about accommodation and living costs


For more information about funding, please see the West Kent College website.