Material and Visual Culture MA
This MA provides a broad-based training in social science approaches to the analysis of material and visual media. Its core approaches range across art, photography, film and media within visual anthropology, to consumption, museum anthropology and cultural heritage, design, techniques and technology, architecture, digital anthropology, landscape, cultures of materials, and fashion.
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
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. International Preparation Courses
Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.
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.
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 in terms of number of staff, publications and research. Many of our lecturers specialise in various fields of material culture, ranging from architecture to consumption to photography to space exploration. We played a significant part in establishing the field, and we host and edit key publications such as the Journal of Material Culture, the journal Home Cultures, and book series. We are also specialists in a range of theoretical and critical approaches and traditions within the area, many of them different forms of critical materialism.
UCL Anthropology ranks fourth in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022, making it the top ranked institution in London, and third in the UK and Europe for the subject. This means that among staff and researchers we have first-hand expertise of working as researchers in most kinds of social environment and many parts of the world. UCL anthropologists have worked on every continent and many countries, and in all kinds of social, commercial, private and public environments. We can advise on most kinds of cultural research and guide your work.
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
The programme is designed as an advanced research degree in material culture, mostly anthropology and with elements of design history, archaeology, museum studies, social geography and architecture. Whoever is interested in material things and materials is interested in material culture: art, architecture, photography, consumer products, consumption, design, heritage, film, sound, fashion, infrastructure, landscape and innovation.
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.
The programme develops skills in cultural and social critique through the research and interpretation of the material world. Its aim is excellence in scholarship. Experts in material culture, and our graduates, work in any institution which demands skills in social research and critical thinking. This includes in design research, 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.
Teaching and learning
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:
- Compulsory module in Material and Visual Culture (including Ethnographic Methods in Term 1)
- Three optional modules
- Research Seminars
- 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:
- Compulsory module: Students take the compulsory module during their first year (including Ethnographic Methods).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fees and funding
Fees for this course
|Tuition fees (2023/24)||£18,000||£9,000|
|Tuition fees (2023/24)||£29,000||£14,500|
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: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.
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
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.
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