UCL Graduate degrees


Creative Documentary by Practice MFA

The MFA provides extended practical training in creative documentary film and aims to provide all the technical and intellectual resources required to make outstanding non-fiction moving image. It draws on broad based anthropological and critical thinking about the social and cultural world but above all will leave you with a deep practical understanding of the craft of factual film making, culminating in the production of a medium-length feature documentary film.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2018

Modes and duration

Full time: 2 years

The programme lasts 21 months from October of entry year. In July-early September of year two, concluding with the film festival, we offer non-assessed industry induction courses.

Tuition fees (2018/19)

£15,940 (FT)
£25,350 (FT)

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 16 March 2018
Close: 5 September 2018

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Current Students website.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

You are required to have a 2:2 at BA or pass at a non practice based Masters. We require a portfolio of work to support all applications. We will accept applications from practitioners whose portfolio of work and CV demonstrates communicative and artistic achievement to the level of BA.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:

About this degree

You will acquire advanced camera and editing skills in a context of critical enquiry about the social world. You will learn and explore diverse forms of factual storytelling including how to work with an ‘external commissioner’. You will learn how to take risks in pushing the boundaries of film form. You'll deepen you knowledge of documentary film history and learn how to tell long-form stories through images.

Students undertake modules to the value of 300 credits.

In the first full calendar year the programme consists of four core modules (total 135 credits) and three optional /elective modules (45 credits) - a total 180 credits. In the second (academic length) year you complete a graduation project (120 credits).

Overall total 300 credits

Year one core modules

There are four compulsory core modules in the first year

  • Introduction to the practice of Documentary and Ethnographic Film (30 credits)
  • Advanced practice of Documentary ad Ethnographic Film (60 credits)
  • Short 'commissioned' Practical Film Project and sustained reflection (15 credits)
  • Research Work and Book (30 credits)

The research work and accompanying book refers to preparatory work for your final graduation project. 

Optional modules

Students choose three modules from the following to achieve a total of 45 credits

  • An Introduction to Social Theory (15 credits)
  • The Story and I – Finding the Form (15 credits)
  • Time and the Staged Index – The evolving narrative of Photography and Film (15 credits)
  • Experimental and Interactive Storytelling – Form and Narrative (15 credits)
  • Documentary Radio – a practice based introduction (15 credits)
  • Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye (15 credits)
  • The Idea of Documentary (15 credits)
  • Russian Cinema: Epochs and genres (15 credits)
  • Global Cinemas (15 credits)
  • East and South Asian Cinemas (15 credits)
  • Performance, visual media and popular culture in Africa (15 credits)
  • The French New Wave (15 credits)
  • Genre in Italian Cinema (15 credits)
  • Nordic Cinema: Contextualising Dreyer, Bergman and Dogme (15 credits)
  • The Latin American Cinematic Tradition (15 credits)
  • New Argentine Cinemas (15 credits)
  • Hollywood Genres (15 credits)

In 2018 new courses in 'Writing well about international affairs' and 'Journalistic skills for a multi-platform world' will also be introduced.

You may apply to take other courses at UCL by agreement with the host department and the tutor for the MFA.

Research project/design project

In your graduation film ('research project/design project') you will independently make a medium length creative documentary film/moving image story on a subject of your choosing. Pre-production begins at the outset of the second year supervised by the course tutors and project mentors. You will also produce a project diary reflecting on the entire work process.

Teaching and learning

All practice based courses are delivered in lectures, masterclasses and tutorials followed by supervised project work. Across the MFA you will spend significant time each week completing camera and editing exercises, building up a portfolio of work. All work is assessed, either formatively or formally, by the MFA teaching team.


There is no formal fieldwork but almost all film projects will involve working off-site in fieldwork type conditions. 

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Creative Documentary by Practice MFA


For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.



Graduates of the programme will develop a series of practical and transferable skills including:

  • Solving complex problems - developing lateral thinking and creative questioning
  • Managing time and production flows in complex projects and effectively integrating research into film practice
  • Communicating effectively and succinctly
  • To be able to pitch and sell stories/product to potential clients
  • Be able to find the form best suited for a particular 'narrative, be this in media or other contexts.

Why study this degree at UCL?

We live in an increastingly audio-visual world. In the 19th century the novel was the form. Today it is moving image. If you want to show people new ways of looking at the world, if you want to use cameras, microphones, the possibilities of montage, narrative structure to find new ways of storytelling this degree is for you. We have no ideology and promote no house-style. We want to help you find your own voice in an artistic form that is in its earliest days - where 'anything goes'. If that sounds like your home then this degree is for you.

Over two years you will learn to

1 handle different cameras, lenses and different sound recording equipment to produce cinematic  image and sound as well as mastering the technical skills to use professional editing programme/s and post production processes.

2 you will be able to experiment with different sorts of story telling in films of different lengths for varied audiences. You will learn to take risks.
3 Under the highest quality supervision you'll manage a long form (40+ minute) film project carried out by yourself.
4 you'll devise a collaborative ('commissioned') visual research project with persons not trained in film narrative techniques.

We see a film school as an integral part of the creative environment of the 21st century in which the university provides a privileged space for creative work that can only rarely take place outside of its walls. Our school is therefore a site of creative and collaborative creation linking the creative industries and university life. Since 2008, at what is now UCL's Future Media Studio, and together with Open City Documentary Festival and School we have explored how the teaching of creative non-fiction story telling can best be taught. We have pioneered practice based teaching by practising (part-time) professional film makers. 

Department: Anthropology

Student / staff numbers › 50 staff including 22 postdocs › 180 taught students › 120 research students
Staff/student numbers information correct as of 1 August 2017.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Anthropology
68% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Who can apply?

You are required to have a 2:2 at BA or pass at a non practice based Masters.  We require a portfolio of work to support all applications. We will accept applications from practitioners whose portfolio of work and CV demonstrates communicative and artistic achievement to the level of BA.

Application deadlines

All applicants
5 September 2018

We would like to see a portfolio of your work - with a film/s of up to 20 minutes duration - as well a short text about one or two film projects with illustrative images or photos. Shortlisted candidates will be called for interview and a final selection will be made - after a film-making bootcamp - of the selected candidates.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Creative Documentary by Practice at graduate level
  • why you want to study Creative Documentary by Practice at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to this programme
  • how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of a challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Contact information

Page last modified on 14 November 2017 by UCL Student Recruitment Marketing