Culture - Source: Alesya Krit

Source: Alesya Krit


Materials - Source: Laurence Douny

Source: Laurence Douny


Design - Source: Rafael Schacter

Source: Rafael Schacter

MA Programme Structure

Programme Entry
The Core Course of the MA
Optional Courses
Individual Research Project
Departmental Seminar Series
External Seminars and Conferences
Graduate School Skills Development Courses

The MA in Culture, Materials and Design is administered by the Department of Anthropology and taught jointly with the Institute of Archaeology. The programme commences in September and is available either full-time over one calendar year or part-time over two calendar years. To graduate, students must have completed 180 credits of assessed work that has to be submitted by the end of the course.

The masters programme is comprised of:

  • The core course (45 credits)
  • Three optional courses (each worth 15 credits)
  • Individual research project (90 credits)
  • Departmental seminar series

Programme Entry

Students with a background in the creative industries, design, material sciences, or manufacturing technologies and an interest in the social aspects of materials and design will be suited to this programme. Students coming from an anthropology, sociology or archaeology background who have a specific interest in combining critical theory with a significant level of practical engagement with artefacts or environments will also find the course particularly relevant.

The Core Course of the MA

The CMD core course is designed to give you a broad grounding in sociocultural approaches to materials (more in the first term), and to design (more in the second). It does this by setting out a number of key areas with which you need to be familiar, and also making you aware of other questions and areas of literature which you can investigate in more detail, as required by specific projects or work.

After doing the first term of the core course, you will:

  • Know a range of the kinds of questions which you can ask about material culture in general, and materials in particular.
  • Be familiar with several key ways of thinking about the culture of materials and design.
  • Be familiar with the contrasting ways in which different disciplines (anthropology, archaeology and materials science) approach materials and design.
  • Have thought critically in broad terms about frameworks and contexts within which we commonly encounter and study materials and design.

In the first term, we explore a range of approaches to culture and material culture (eg. materialisms, practice, meaning, subjects & objects), and examples of specific contexts and materials (eg. craft, homes, workplaces, nature, pasts & presents, textiles, construction). In the second term, we build an expertise in particular areas of design (eg. creativity, design politics & citizenship, science in popular culture, science communication) and design anthropology (eg. history, methodologies, anthropology in institutions, value & values, the idea of context).

The core course runs in parallel with a series of practical sessions, which are more aimed at the development of skills and competencies, by the application of the knowledge explored in the core course. Where possible, the practical sessions will address parallel issues to the core courses.

Optional Courses

Students choose their three option courses with the agreement of the course director. Courses are offered at the Department of Anthropology and the Institute of Archaeology. Students can apply to take one of their options from those offered by other departments in UCL if it fits their research interests (please note that some courses have prerequisites). This approach allows each student to create a customized programme that matches their research interests and helps them to develop a coherent personal portfolio of knowledge and skills.

For a list of the optional courses for masters students currently offered by the Department of Anthropology and Institute of Archaeology click here.

Individual Research Project

Each student will be assigned a supervisor who has a research profile compatible with the student's interests. The supervisor will help their student construct an individual research project to be submitted as a dissertation (15,000 words long) on any approved topic. The subject of a dissertation is broad - any anthropological or archaeological topic. Most students begin with a focus on design or materials, but your research journey can lead in different directions. A CMD dissertation needs to specify what the potential audience for the research is, to indicate an awareness of what the potential engagement and wider role of the research might be.

The individual research project is the largest and last element of the course; the mark for the submitted dissertation provides half of each student's final grade. It is anticipated that the student will choose a subject for study that relates closely to their intended future career. Some students may want to consider their individual research project as a pilot for further academic study at PhD level.

Departmental Seminar Series

During the autumn and spring terms the anthropology department runs weekly research seminar series for the staff and postgraduates. Speakers are established academics from UCL and other high-profile institutions across the world. The subjects addressed in the research seminars relate to the theoretical perspectives covered in the core course. Presentations cover cutting edge debates and current research, often enabling students to hear about developments before they have been published.

External Seminars and Conferences

A range of seminars and conferences are run across UCL and in external institutions associated to the MA in Culture, Materials and Design. Students are encouraged to attend those that relate to their research interests.

Graduate School Skills Development Courses

Students on all masters courses at UCL are eligible to apply for places on the Graduate School 's skill development programmes. For more information about the range of skills development courses and the application process click here.

For more general information on Masters degree programmes at UCL, click here.