Material and Visual Culture MA

London, Bloomsbury

This MA provides a broad-based training in social science approaches to the analysis of material and visual media. The programme draws on art, photography, film and media through the lens of visual anthropology. Students would also focus on museum anthropology, technology, architecture, cultures of materials, and fashion.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
1 calendar year
2 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applicants who require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 05 Apr 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Applicants who do not require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Aug 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

This research based Master's degree is suitable for those students entering postgraduate study with a strong background in the discipline, gained either through an undergraduate degree, or through a well-regarded conversion Master's programme.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

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.

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

Equivalent qualifications

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. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

*Should you experience any issues with the drop-down below, try de-selecting the country and re-selecting it. If this doesn't work, then you may refer to this page which may help you find the same equivalencies - check the Entry requirements above beforehand. Please note the table is indicative only, revisiting when the dropdown is working to confirm is recommended.

About this degree

The programme covers a range of contexts such as production, exchange and consumption, and uses anthropological perspectives based on the comparative study of societies, historically and culturally. Skills training is given in social anthropological field research and analysis, and in specific methods for the study of material and visual forms.

Who this course is for

The programme is particularly suitable for students with a prior degree related to material culture: anthropology, sociology, design, architecture, fashion, heritage and museums, arts, visual culture, social geography, and history. It is also a conversion degree, acting as an introduction to the field, and anyone who wishes to develop their interest and expertise in material and visual culture may apply.

What this course will give you

Our long-standing material and visual culture programme was the first of its kind in social science, and the department is a leader in the field. Our lecturers specialise in many different aspects of material culture, ranging from architecture to consumption to photography to space exploration. We played a significant part in establishing the discipline and we host and edit key publications such as the Journal of Material Culture, the journal Home Cultures, and book series.

UCL Anthropology ranks fourth in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023, making it the top ranked institution in London, and third in the UK and Europe for the subject. Our staff and researchers have worked on every continent and in all kinds of social, commercial, private and public environments.

London is a highly collaborative environment. We have close links with material culture practitioners and anthropologists in many museums, companies, third sector organisations and other institutions. The city is host to an unrivalled spectrum of opportunities for intellectual dialogues, events and engagements.

The foundation of your career

Anthropology graduates have gone on to work in design, the arts, heritage and museums, media and film, journalism, design anthropology, market research, academia, user experience, art, technology, materials consultancy, policy and the civil service.


The programme develops skills in cultural and social critique through the research and interpretation of the material world. Its aim is excellence in scholarship.

Students learn how to think independently, originally and critically about these topics, based on their own hands-on independent research. As well as a range of methodologies, they learn key theoretical approaches arising from philosophies of materialism and materiality. They learn to interpret sociocultural phenomena such as relationships, identity, social discourse and meaning, social structure, cultural history, relations with the environment, human motivation, and praxis.

As experts in material culture, our graduates can work in any institution that demands skills in social research and critical thinking


Anthropology is a human-focused discipline and good anthropologists may be finding and building their networks during the year as a part of their research. During the year, the department offers a range of possibilities for building your sense of what you may wish to do afterwards. These include the ‘Anthropology in the Professional World’ seminar, which is organised by the departmental careers tutors. The seminar is a platform for anthropologists working outside of universities to set out their work, give examples of projects, and show how they make a difference. Other opportunities lie in certain courses or in the thesis. Some students undertake dissertation research in collaboration with companies or institutions, to develop a sense of a certain professional area. Many material culture optional courses involve a practical or engaged element or product, such as the design anthropology option which involves working with an external design client. Anthropological professional organisations include the RAI, based very close to UCL, the ASA, EASA, and other organisations. Some years, we may organise engagements with these organisations (such as a visit to the RAI photo archive planned for 2024).

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, group presentations and discussion, tutorials, independent directed reading, interactive teamwork, laboratory and practical work, video, film and web-based courses. Students will also have the opportunity to visit museums, galleries and other relevant sites. 

Assessment is through coursework, unseen examination, a portfolio of engaged material and visual culture work based on the practical sessions, and the dissertation.

The compulsory module typically involves around 81 contact hours (mix of 2h or 3h seminars & 1h practical). The three optional modules (15 credit) usually amount to 54 contact hours (assuming 2h weekly seminar) but will vary depending on the choice of modules. Estimated time in dissertation supervision is around 2h (30 min meetings). Estimated time with your personal tutor (individual and small group tutorials) accounts for a total of 5 further hours. Students are also expected to attend the 2h weekly Section Research Seminars for the whole section.


The programme runs over one full academic year for full time students and over two full years for part-time students.

The programme consists of five elements:

  1. Compulsory module in Material and Visual Culture (including Ethnographic Methods in Term 1)
  2. Three optional modules
  3. Dissertation
  4. Research Seminars
  5. Postgraduate Presentation Day

Students must take three optional modules - at least one module from the Material and Visual Culture MA optional modules and up to two from the optional modules below. Out of the total, up to one module can also be taken from appropriate options in other departments (with approval from the programme tutor and host department).

The Part-time course takes place across two years of study:

  1. Compulsory module: Students take the compulsory module during their first year (including Ethnographic Methods).
  2. Three optional modules: Students take at least one option during their first year. They are encouraged to spread their options across the two years, with two during their second year, to ensure they have a structured learning element throughout.
  3. Dissertation: the dissertation is submitted at the end of the second year. Students are encouraged to submit proposals and ethics forms during their first year, to be able to undertake some research during the Summer of their first year.
  4. Research seminars: Part-time students should attend the seminar throughout if possible, or as a minimum during their first year when they are taking the compulsory module.

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 are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MA in Material and Visual Culture.


All dissertations involve original hands-on research, which each student devises for themselves. This is usually ethnographic, but may also be based on visual analyses, archive work or netnography.


A few students undertake placements as a part of their thesis fieldwork, but where they occur these are for students to arrange. We do receive occasional approaches from institutions with such placement proposals. We facilitate them where we can.


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

Online - Open day

Graduate Open Events: Material and Visual Culture MA

An opportunity to ask any questions you have about studying the Material and Visual Culture MA, from programme content, structure and entry requirements to life in the Department of Anthropology, career prospects and support and wellbeing provisions.

Online - Open day

Graduate Open Events: Material and Visual Culture MA

An opportunity to ask any questions you have about studying the Material and Visual Culture MA, from programme content, structure and entry requirements to life in the Department of Anthropology, career prospects and support and wellbeing provisions.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £19,300 £9,650
Tuition fees (2024/25) £31,100 £15,550

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

If a student decides to undertake field research (optional), the cost is normally borne by the student.

In recent years our students have received fieldwork funding from the department’s Turing Scheme and the Anna Sturm Law Travel Prize.

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

Funding your studies

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

Aziz Foundation Scholarships in Social and Historical Sciences

Value: Full tuition fees (equivalent to 1yr full-time) (1yr)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

UCL East London Scholarship

Deadline: 20 June 2024
Value: Tuition fees plus £15,700 stipend ()
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

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 £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Material and Visual Culture at graduate level
  • why you want to study Material and Visual Culture at UCL
  • how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of a challenging academic environment
  • 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.

Material and visual culture tends to attract people who are natural social scientists, in the sense that they really wish to research and think about humanity and people. More specifically, material culture researchers tend to be especially interested in the material world, in exploring culture through forms, material stuff, substances, aesthetics, particular genres of objects, institutions which shape our material environment, or other aspects of it. A personal awareness of this kind of sensibility and interest is a particular advantage, and people who share it come to us from across the world.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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