This MA provides a broad-based training in social science approaches to the analysis of material and visual media: ranging from art, photography, film and media within visual anthropology, to consumption, museum anthropology and cultural heritage, landscape and genres (such as clothing and the built environment), within material culture.
Modes and duration
Tuition fees (2020/21)
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 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.
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: Advanced
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.
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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.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of one compulsory module (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits) and a research dissertation (90 credits).
Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded a MA in Material and Visual Culture.
- Critical Issues in Material and Visual Culture
Students must take 45 credits in total from the recommended optional modules below. Out of the total, up to 15 credits can be taken from modules available within the department or appropriate options in other departments (with approval from the programme tutor and host department).
- Advanced Topics in Digital Culture: Ethnographies of the Digital
- Anthropology and Photography
- Anthropology of Capitalisms
- Anthropology of Death
- Anthropology of Social Media
- Anthropology of the Built Environment
- Art in the Public Sphere
- Current Themes in Material, Visual, Digital and Design Anthropology: Smart Phones
- Design Anthropology
- Digital Infrastructure: Materiality, Information and Politics
- Documentary Film and the Anthropological Eye
- Extra-Terrestrial Anthropology
- Issues in Power and Culture
- Material Politics
- Mass Consumption and Design
- Practical Documentary Filmmaking
- Risk, Power and Uncertainty
- Social Construction of Landscapes
- Transforming and Creating Worlds: Anthropological Perspectives on Techniques and technology
For a complete list of modules available within the department or in other departments, please see UCL's Module Catalogue.
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.
All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a 15,000 word dissertation.
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.
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.
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 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, art, materials consultancy, and the civil service.
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, human motivation, and praxis.
Why study this degree at UCL?
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.
We are based in one of the largest anthropology departments in the UK, which is routinely considered one of the top ten anthropology departments in the world (5th in QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019). 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.
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?
The programme is particularly suitable for students with a prior degree related to material culture: specifically 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.
- All applicants
- 24 July 2020
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 Material and Visual Culture at graduate level
- why you want to study Material and Visual Culture at UCL
- what is your research proposal
- 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.
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