UCL Graduate degrees


Creative Documentary by Practice MFA

The MFA provides extended practical training in creative documentary film and aims to provide 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 storytelling in factual film, culminating in the production of a medium-length feature documentary film.

Covid-19 programme updates

Due to COVID-19, there may have been updates to this programme for the 2020 academic year. Where there has been an update, these are indicated with a red alert and a link which will provide further information.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2020

Modes and duration

Full time: 2 years

The programme lasts 21 months from October of entry year.

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 1 November 2019
Close: 11 August 2020
Due to the large number of applications received, this programme is no longer accepting applications for 2020/21 entry. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Applications for 2021/22 entry will open later in the year.

Tuition fees (2020/21)

£16,520 (FT)
£26,890 (FT)

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 Students website. This is a 2-year programme, comprising 300 credits in total. The full-time fee quoted is for Year 1 only; the fee in Year 2 will be subject to UCL's annual fee increase.

Fee deposit: All full time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £2,000 for this programme. All part-time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £1,000.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

A minimum of a lower second class Bachelor's degree or a pass in a non practice based Master's. A portfolio of work is also required. We will accept applications from practitioners whose portfolio of work and CV demonstrates communicative and artistic achievement to the level of a Bachelor's degree.

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

Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English

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.

The programme consists of four compulsory modules (135 credits), three optional modules (45 credits) and a graduation project (120 credits).

Upon successful completion of 240 credits, you will be awarded a MFA in Creative Documentary by Practice.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change.

Compulsory modules

All students must take the following four compulsory modules:

  • Introduction to the practice of Documentary and Ethnographic Film (30 credits)
  • Advanced practice of Documentary and 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 must take 45 credits in total from the recommended optional modules below, modules available within the department (with approval from the programme tutor) or appropriate options in other departments (with approval from the programme tutor and host department).

  • 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)
  • Writing about International Affairs (15 credits)
  • Journalistic skills for a multi-platform world

For a complete list of modules available within the department or in other departments, please see UCL's Module Catalogue.

Covid-19 module updates
Due to COVID-19, there may be updates to the modules for your chosen programme of study this year. Some modules may not be available or may need to be moved to a later term or year of study.  We have included these updates below:   Graduation Project (Creative Feature Length Documentary Film) (ANTH0180) is now a compulsory module. These updates are relevant for 2020-21 academic year only.  The full list of modules will be available in the module catalogue from late August.  From the first week of September, you will be invited to complete module selection from Portico, our student record system. There may need to be additional updates or changes to modules during the academic year to allow for new guidance from the UK Government and Public Health England. Your department shall keep you updated of these changes as they become available.  

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.


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

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 as well as watching numerous films. All work is assessed, either formatively or formally, by the MFA teaching team.

Covid-19 contact hours on campus
In Term One, while campus will be open, all the learning activity for the core content of your modules will take place online – including lectures, tutorials, seminars and assessments. By “core content” we mean everything you need to learn to complete the module successfully. In addition to these online contact hours, we will be offering some face-to-face educational activities for students on campus, and we will provide alternative online activities for those students unable to join us on campus. These activities, which will include contact with academic staff, will be relevant to your programme of study may include seminars, academic and employability skills workshops, small-group or individual tutorials, lab and practice-based teaching. UK Government safety guidelines will limit the amount of ‘in person’ activity we can offer and while it will vary from programme to programme, is likely to be no more than 1-2 hours per week. This will vary across departments, particularly if your programme includes laboratory/practical/studio/workshop sessions. You will be updated with more specific details as they are available and your timetable will indicate which sessions will be on campus and which will be available online.
Covid-19 practical component updates
Due to COVID-19, there may be changes to the availability of the practical components for your chosen programme. Any updates relate only to the 20/21 academic year and may not apply to all students across the programme depending on your year of study.  Your department will keep you updated if the practical component of your programme is able to occur and/or any alternative options available.   There may need to be additional updates or changes to the practical component during the academic year to allow for new guidance from the UK Government and/or Public Health England. Your department shall keep you updated of these changes as they become available. 
Covid-19 assessment updates
There may be changes to the format of assessments for modules in this programme due to COVID-19. These will be summarised for each module on the module catalogue from 17 August 2020.   If any changes to assessments need to be made during the academic year due to updates in government guidance, these will be communicated to you as soon as possible from your department.    
Communicating further Covid-19 mitigation plans
We are continuing to follow UK Government guidance, as well as the expertise of our researchers, including specialists in health, education, human behaviour and infection prevention, to make sure UCL is as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. If it becomes necessary to make further changes to your programme as a result of new guidance/regulations, UCL and your department will communicate these as soon as this becomes clear. We will keep you up-to-date with our plans throughout term one, so you have the information you need to be able to take decisions that are right for your circumstances. Please ensure that you keep in touch with your department by regularly checking your UCL emails, Moodle courses, the Coronavirus FAQs for Students page and any UCL online groups or social media you follow.

Additional costs

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.


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 increasingly 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: i) 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; ii) 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; iii) Under the highest quality supervision, you'll manage a long form (40+ minute) film project carried out by yourself; iv) you'll devise a short collaborative ('commissioned') visual research project with persons not trained in film narrative techniques.

We see the Future Media Studio 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 Studio 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

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.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £80 for online applications and £105 for paper applications. Further information can be found at: www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/application.

Who can apply?

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
11 August 2020

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.

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.

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Page last modified on 13 August 2020