UCL Graduate degrees


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, technics and technology, architecture, digital anthropology, landscape, cultures of materials, and fashion.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 1 year
Part time: 2 years

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 31 May 2021
Applications may close earlier if all places on the programme are filled.

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£16,000 (FT)
£8,000 (PT)
£25,800 (FT)
£12,900 (PT)

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.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

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.

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

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

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.

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 module:

  • Critical Issues in Material and Visual Culture

Optional modules

Students must take 45 credits in total from the recommended optional modules below. Out of the total, at least 15 credits must be from List 1. On consultation with the programme tutor, who needs to approve it, there is the possibility of up to 15 credits from another UCL department.

  • MVC LIST 1
  • Anthropology and Photography
  • Anthropology of the Built Environment
  • Art in the Public Sphere
  • Design Anthropology
  • Extra-Terrestrial Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Technics and Technology
  • Informatic Cultures: The Anthropology of Data, Algorithms and Computation
  • Social Construction of Landscapes
  • The Anthropology of Social Media
  • MVC LIST 2
  • *Any optional module not chosen from List 1
  • Anthropologies of Religion
  • Anthropologies of Science, Society and Biomedicine
  • Critical Perspectives on Cultural Heritage
  • Documentary Radio – a practice-based introduction
  • History and Aesthetics of Documentary
  • Key Ideas in Social Anthropology
  • Practical Documentary Filmmaking (Lab-based)
  • Sonic Experience Design and Production

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

Dissertation/research project

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.

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 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 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, materials consultancy, policy 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 (4th in QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020). 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.

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?

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.

Application deadlines

All applicants
31 May 2021

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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Page last modified on 28 August 2021