UCL Graduate degrees


Creative Documentary by Practice MFA

The MFA offers the opportunity for students to develop an understanding of non-fiction film as a research practice. It opens with an extended piece of work during which you will be encouraged to reconceptualise what ‘documentary film’ is. Drawing on broad based anthropological thought about the social and cultural world we aim to produce filmmakers who are imaginative, risk-taking and intellectually engaged: pushing boundaries in the field.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 2 years

The programme lasts 21 months from October of entry year.

Application dates

Visa nationals
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 31 May 2021
Non-visa nationals
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 30 July 2021
Applications may close earlier if all places on the programme are filled.

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£16,000 (FT)
£28,500 (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: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees. 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

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

Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

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 develop your camera and editing skills in a context of critical enquiry about the social world. You will learn and explore diverse forms of creative non-fiction filmmaking including how to collaborate with researchers from other fields. You will learn how to take risks in pushing the boundaries of film form. You'll deepen your knowledge of documentary film history and learn how to use moving image in diverse ways.

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
  • The Story and I – Finding the Form
  • Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye
  • Experimental and Interactive Storytelling – Form and Narrative
  • Experimental cinema and new media: Form and narrative
  • Documentary Radio – a practice based introduction
  • Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye
  • Sonic Experience Design and Production
  • The Idea of Documentary
  • Russian Cinema: Epochs and genres
  • Global Cinemas
  • East and South Asian Cinemas
  • Performance, visual media and popular culture in Africa
  • The French New Wave
  • Genre in Italian Cinema
  • Nordic Cinema: Contextualising Dreyer, Bergman and Dogme
  • The Latin American Cinematic Tradition
  • New Argentine Cinemas
  • Hollywood Genres
  • Writing about International Affairs

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

Research project/design project

In your graduation film you will independently make a research led creative documentary film on a subject of your choosing. Pre-production begins at the outset of the second year supervised by the course tutors and project mentors. A research book will be kept throughout production - to assist with the exploration and development of your film’s themes and ideas, and to chronicle your research journey.

You will also produce a critical text which engages your research and reflects on your finished film work


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

Teaching and learning

This practice-based courses is delivered through 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.

In the first term you will spend two days a week in tutorials and in the second and third terms one day a week. You will have additional masterclasses and screenings most weeks in the first year. You will spend at least two days a week across the whole year in self-directed film making. In the second year you will have tutorials one day a week in the first term and then crit reviews across the period completing your graduation project.

Additional costs

You will need to have two hard drives capable of securely storing your film material. UCL provides one of these in exchange for you buying your own private licence of Creative Cloud for home use. UCL runs Creative Cloud on the edit computers so there is no need for a personal licence but some students find this useful.

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 accessable.co.uk. 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.


The programme equips students for careers in:

  • film and TV industry as camera operators, producers, directors, editors, researchers
  • academia – ethnographic research, visual media and culture
  • marketing and research
  • communication and other media
  • archives, as well as cultural heritage organisations


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
  • Being able to pitch and sell stories/product to potential funders
  • Being able to find the moving image form best suited for a particular field of investigation

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, to find new ways of representing the lived world 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 non-fiction 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 forms of moving image, with work of different lengths for varied audiences, learning to take risks; iii) under the highest quality supervision, you'll manage a large moving image project (40+ minutes of film) carried out by yourself; iv) you'll devise a short collaborative ('commissioned') visual research project with persons not trained in moving image.

UCL’s Future Media Studio is 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, and together with Open City Documentary Festival and Open City Docs 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.

This programme requires two references. Further information regarding references can be found in our How to apply section.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at: 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. Students without any filmmaking experience are encouraged to apply for the MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film.

Application deadlines

Visa nationals
31 May 2021
Non-visa nationals
30 July 2021

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.

This program is targeted at students who already have made film work, but now wish to push themselves creatively. We expect students to arrive with an understanding of how to shoot and how to edit, with a good working knowledge of Adobe Premiere Pro.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.

Page last modified on 28 August 2021