Blog 10: Becoming a Master?

First I apologise if you thought you were reading this post to learn the secrets of become a Jedi master, again sorry to disappoint you and myself this will be a discussion about Master’s degrees.

Serious Talks:

Unfortunately, instead of learning about the mysteries of the force we will be talking about the mystery behind the postgraduate degrees. The lecture we had was directed by the head of the MA courses at the university of derby followed by two current students who are taking the course. The masters itself at Derby specifically is split into two different courses, being the (MA) Visual Communication and the (MDes) in either Illustration, Graphic design or Animation. This is again a serious topic, which follows more adult decisions into whether you want to spend another year studying building up more debt or embracing the chaos that is the real world. Although at derby current BA students get a 10% discount towards the fees of £640 per 20 credits for the MA and £9,250 for the MDes.

(It’s like bargain deals but with your time and much more money.)

The discount itself is an incentive to apply but I feel that it’s not enough of an advantage to sway my decisions into applying. The courses take 12 months to complete and include a compulsory third semester which doesn’t exist at BA level, meaning no long summer break, which in my opinion is great. Don’t get me wrong I like time off but it leads to procrastination if not kept in check hence a third semester would keep me occupied. This amount of time is dedicated to studio practice an being able to go the next step further with independent exploration whilst being supervised by lecturers to truly stand out of the crowd.

Derby Masters:

Even the students at the presentation gave their thoughts, which included the independence to follow their ambitions, challenge the norm, grow into a better designer as well have the discussions and feedback by students and teachers alike to truly develop at post graduate level. Ultimately the point being put across was that this higher tier of education gives you an even bigger head start in the industry, even employers head hunt Ba students but they will appreciate the time and effort the master students have taken to complete such a degree which will work in their favor.

The only hindrance I can think of with this is, that the extra year in education censors you incredibly to the real world and creating a network as we were told previously. I consider that the university will provide experience and simulate the industry but it makes more sense to maybe take a step into the world and make your mark in such times. By this I mean the current climate of Brexit and British industries is heading into vast uncertainty. The creative side of UK seems to be at risk when we leave the EU due to vast amounts of funding and experience we gain from such cooperation. Hence, I personally would want to get myself out there, making connections with companies and getting work into the public sphere to compensate for the upcoming loss of that European infrastructure. Being able to work and earn as well puts less pressure on yourself after leaving university’s you can back yourself up before it gets any worse, merely as selfish counter precaution.

“The MDes in Illustration has offered me the chance to extend my learning straight through BA levels into something more profound. I really enjoyed the first three years studying at Derby and felt that I wanted to push myself that little bit further and develop my skills to master’s level.”

Laura Vann, MDes Illustration graduate

There was a theme of journey being centered around this lecture, that the masters were another step along an individual path, hence why they look out for contemporary and ambitious students to tackle the postgraduate level awards. The groups are smaller it would seem, which means more concise and insightful discussions and connections on the course, as there are still people on my course now I haven’t spoken too nor remember their names due to the large class size. Another thing the students said, was that the masters allows you to truly look inwards at your character and your work be it in process or attitude, ultimately being able to adapt a change your preconceptions. As the work and yourself will evolve on this course, you can truly hoe your craft in a safe environment which is another positive but this censorship could blind you from the realities which you inevitable need to face in the industry and to which I have mentioned in my previous posts.

Other Courses:

I took this chance to look up other university courses on the same level in order to not be blinded by what the lecturer at my own university said.

(I’m not a traitor trust me)

One such courses was at the University of Edinborough where the courses description goes on to say that the postgraduate study is a reflective programme to delve into areas such as web design, publishing, theatre and television. In comparison with Derby it is a combination of studio directed practice and heavy theory driven studies, to repaper for employment. Although this programme is 21 months long at the cost of £6,150, which again it’s down to matter of prioritty; whether you keep building knowledge with the access to university level facilitiess or in the same time build those vital connections and portfolio. Again, it’s a small difference as leaving university and going on to the next level is more about time and cost. Although the Brexit climate and the looming shadow of a second independence referendum for Scotland would make Edinborough a temperamental choice and cost, as I could be considered an international student if they secure independence in a vote.


The other university I investigated was Falmouth, where they provide an (MA) Illustration: Authorial practice. This course differs from the others as it focuses in directly on print, publishing and authorial world as a hint in its title. This narrative, editorial and sequential focus is an invested niche for illustration, as the other universities took a broader approach with the industries that their postgraduates could focus on. I won’t mention the costs again here, as its becoming apparent if you took a degree at BA level you don’t take the cost into consideration if you want the experience, it’s like they say you must take the chance if you want it rather than standing a far.  I look at what the students at Falmouth had to say about the course itself which are as follows:

The course injected a great deal more motivation, professionalism and creativity into my practice, helping me foster and cultivate connections and progressions in my chosen area, especially combining traditional craftsmanship with new technologies.

Jenny Soep MA Illustration: Authorial Practice graduate

I joined the MA because I wanted time to develop my own independent practice away from the pressures of contracts and clients. The research I began at Falmouth, with grants I won whilst on the course, has taken me in a completely new direction. This enquiry has involved working as an artist in residence and workshop participant in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

Sue Corke MA Illustration: Authorial Practice graduate

From those comments the Falmouth course like the others does its upmost to mold their students further into a hybrid of traditional and digital practitioner who challenge the conformity of visual communication, who rightly want to explore the field in depth. The postgraduate tier again is a pool of opportunities to exploit as they mention with projects abroad and grants which is all part of that design experience. Yet in illustration there is not direct route to gaining the top jobs, you could progress further without a degree if you have the mindset and skills. In conclusion, I would further consider a masters after I had established my free-lance work as more of a future millstone, as due to o the current economic climate its paramount to get in and setup before it gets even more difficult to do so.

With this all in mind, I will be trying to contact a professional illustrator to get their own insight on the industry.


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