• Overview
  • Awards and Modules
  • Start Dates
  • Entry Requirements
  • Fees
  • Careers
  • Student Discounts and Offers
  • Course Duration



The Top Up Master’s allows you to achieve an MA qualification in under two years studying full-time or, if you wish to fit your studies around other commitments, you can study part-time and complete the course in under four years.

Building on your existing qualifications and experience, studying for a master's degree can give you an edge over other designers in a highly competitive market. The MA is designed not only for those who wish to develop their existing professional practice, but also those aspiring to advance their career opportunities in an international context, as well as those wishing to develop the capabilities to manage or participate in complex professional projects.

Awards and Modules

ma photo modules

On completion of the Top Up Master’s you will gain two qualifications. You will initially study the honours level of the BA Photography course, before progressing on to master’s level. You are required to achieve a 2:2 or above in order to progress on to this level.

You will graduate with an internationally recognised master’s degree in Photography (Visual Communication) and a BA (Hons) Photography degree from the University of Hertfordshire.

MA Modules

On the master’s course, you will study core modules alongside students from other disciplines: Illustration, Interior Design and Graphic Communication. You are encouraged to approach these modules from the point of view of your own practice.

The core modules are:

  • Postgraduate Study in Context
  • Research and Practice
  • Creative Industries: Global Perspectives
  • Critical Studies
  • Creative Industries: Business Perspectives
  • Creative Industries: Professional Presentations

Click here for more information about these modules.

Throughout the course, you will build a foundation for your Major Study. You will also complete an outline or proposal and develop the knowledge and skills required to successfully implement your plans.

You will also undertake three modules centred on your discipline:

MA Module Descriptions

ma photo modules

Practice 1: Art and Design

In the Practice 1 module, you will develop a photography portfolio of exploratory practice that identifies new directions, themes, methods and concepts for your photography, to take forward into the Practice 2 and Major Study modules. Your theme and approach are expected to relate to an area of contemporary photography and professional practice. This may be within, for example:

  • Fine art contemporary photography
  • Documentary photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Editorial photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Contemporary advertising photography

Your work may be: analogue and/or digital based, medium or large format photography, or a result of experimental techniques such as camera-less photography or alternative processes.

ma photo modules

Practice 2: Art and Design

Building on the Practice 1 module, you will continue to develop your individual project. Typically, this will involve a more extensive and in-depth body of committed photography project work developed in negotiation and discussion with your tutor. Some typical outcomes from Practice 2 projects, reflective of the contemporary discipline of photography, might include, but are not restricted to:

  • Work on an extended photobook project
  • Development of a sustained body of conceptual fine art work for exhibition or site-responsive photography installation
  • A body of documentary or photojournalism work
  • Photography projects with multimedia, online or moving image elements
  • Digital and/or analogue experimentation
  • Development of an ambitious in-depth cohesive portfolio of editorial, fashion or advertising photography work

Major Study

The Major Study is a self-initiated project that builds on the knowledge and ideas explored throughout the course, during which you will demonstrate an advanced level of creativity and understanding of photography. You will build upon ideas established and explored in earlier parts of the programme and bring together various practical, theoretical commercial and other contextual concerns to generate a sustained body of original practice. This body of work will evidence creative autonomy, professional excellence and expertise in the field. The realisation of this body of work is supported by work in progress online discussions involving those studying on all disciplines of the Postgraduate Programme in Art and Design and one-to-one tutor dialogue.

The work submitted should include a written reflective statement in which you will contextualise your own work and practice. The written submission aims to display your knowledge of theories of visual communication, specifically in relation to photography, and critically appraise the aims of the work and the professional and commercial contexts in which it was developed. Writing this statement will provide you with insights into your own work and the skills to express your ideas in a coherent and informed manner to potential audiences. The final text will also provide audiences with insights into your motivations and themes.

Your photography Major Study may be produced for a variety of contexts and formats reflecting the evolving nature of the contemporary discipline of photography. This could include realised final photography project work presented as photography books, multimedia presentations, photography exhibitions, site specific photography and any other emerging forms of photography practice.

As in the Practice 1 and 2 Art and Design modules, you will work with a specialist photography tutor on your Major Study project.

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Level 6: BA (Hons)

On the BA (Hons) you will start to view yourself as a committed, professional practitioner. Studying at this level gives you the opportunity to develop an exciting and ambitious portfolio to assist with progressing your career or finding employment within the industry. You will develop your creative and technical abilities to a professional level. This level allows you to demonstrate greater independence and have the opportunity to direct individual project briefs in response to set key themes before progressing on to the MA.

Level 6 Module Descriptions

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Concepts and Planning

This module offers you a period of creative enquiry to define an area of your personal interest in photography, in preparation for your final degree project. A body of visual research, experimental practice and study of practical feasibility culminates in the formal presentation of the ‘Individual Proposal’ document and a logbook.

During this module, you will be required to compile a formal 'Individual Proposal' document for your Degree Major Project. This document gives you the opportunity to reflect on your own interests, goals and directions in photography. Through support materials, your visual research and forum discussions, you will revisit some of the debates around contemporary photography aesthetics in order to underpin the development of an informed personal aesthetic. This is to support you in the critical analysis of your project proposal, its realisation and its integration of theory and creative practice. You are required to keep evidence of your practice-led research and idea development in a logbook that supports the integration of practice and theory.

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Professional Portfolio

In this module, you will conduct targeted research into the best practice examples of professional portfolios within your chosen photography specialist areas. You will present and discuss these examples through forum participation, case histories and portfolio review with fellow students and tutors. You will also seek to create your own individual style of portfolio presentation and produce high quality samples of work that display your conceptual and technical skills in order to form a memorable and coherent body of work.

On completion of this module you will have produced a body of photographic work that demonstrates versatility and your ability to present your work effectively to professional audiences and prospective commissioners. This will be new work that compliments, but is distinct from, work undertaken for your Degree Major Project.

Your research and development will provide you with opportunities to explore a wide range of modes of exhibition, and distribution of contemporary and professional photography imagery. Portfolio imagery will be created with a range of distribution opportunities in mind, for example websites, online galleries and image banks, as well as hard copy display or exhibition pieces.

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Enterprise and Employability

The creative industries employment sector has seen a huge growth in the number of graduates leaving university with the appropriate qualifications. Consequently, it is to be expected that employment may not happen instantly upon graduation. Therefore, a solid, realistic and progressive strategy underpinning an approach to employment is essential. This module addresses creative enterprise, entrepreneurship and its development, with an emphasis on preparing you for photography, photomedia freelance work and business practice within the creative industries.

You will consider a range of entrepreneurial business models, as well as approaches to setting up a photography business. In doing so, you will study the contribution made by business plans and creative enterprise advice agencies. To further prepare you for work in the creative industries, you will reflect on aspects of special relevance to contemporary photography freelance work, with respect to marketing, self promotion, networking, sales and collaborative working, as well as the broader social, economic and technological contexts.

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Degree Major Project

This module is an opportunity to pursue a self-directed programme of media practice that demonstrates creative and expressive ambition, experiment and achievement. It represents the culmination of study for each student and requires independent management of practical, conceptual and professional issues.

The outcomes for this module will include your professionally focused photography practice (which normally forms the basis of the final year portfolio of work), detailed and critically engaged research, and a written evaluation of the relationship between your practice and identified professional contexts.

In this module, you have the opportunity to display your advanced knowledge and understanding of photography. You will engage in a period of sustained creative activity, offering a primary platform upon which to demonstrate your abilities and potential to a professional audience.

Critical and Cultural Studies

As an informed creative practitioner, you are encouraged to engage critically with your discipline, its history, ideas by which it is informed and how it is likely to evolve in the future. This module will enable you to conduct an in-depth study of an aspect of visual culture of your choice, with the emphasis on the analysis of appropriate social, cultural, economic, technical, historical and aesthetic issues relevant to your chosen topic and creative work.

In this module, you will be able to bring your own interests into your work. Your independent research will be supported through discussion with your tutor, your peers in the forums and course materials. You will also develop skills in research, organisation and planning, critical analysis and presentation. There will also be a focus on practising correct, conventional academic writing skills.

The assessed element of this module consists of a 6,000 word essay or technical report.

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Start Dates

We have intakes in February, June and October. Depending on the course you choose, you may be able to start in any intake, but there could be some restrictions. You can apply directly on our website at any time for any future intake and your Admissions Advisor will be able to confirm when the next start date for your chosen course will be.

Even if you are unsure about when you would like to start, or which course is best for you, contact us and a member of our Student Recruitment Team will be able to advise you.

start dates

Entry Requirements

ftm photo entry portfolio

We consider all applications on an individual basis and welcome applications from those with non-standard qualifications and from a variety of backgrounds.

We offer guaranteed entry onto the Top Up Master’s from a relevant HND or Foundation degree, or professional experience in photography, or a relevant subject.

International Applicants

All applicants from non-majority English speaking countries need to provide proof of English language proficiency. One of the following qualifications (or equivalent) is required:

  • GSCE English Language grade A-C
  • IELTS 6.0 (with no less than 5.5 in any band)


Accredited Prior Learning (APL)

Accredited Prior Learning (APL) is the process for accessing and recognising prior experiential learning or prior certificated learning for academic purposes. This recognition gives the learning a credit value and allows it to be counted towards the completion of a degree or other award.

Credit is the common currency of university programmes. Each course module has a credit value and these credits are accumulated towards the full award. For example, an honours degree requires 120 credits at each of Levels 4, 5 and 6.

The APL process is intended to stop learners repeating learning that they have already achieved.

There are two types of APL:

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL)

Accredited Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) is learning that has been recognised previously by an education provider, evidenced by formal certification, and assessed and recognised for the award of credit.

If you have previously studied a course that has broadly the same learning outcomes as ones on an IDI programme, then you can apply to have these credited against your degree. However, if a qualification or credit is more than five years old, it could be considered out of date and may not be used towards a degree.


Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL)

Accredited Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) is learning that has been achieved through experiences outside the formal education and training systems, normally associated with a working environment, which has been assessed and recognised for the award of credit by the University. It is different from formal learning, as it is often unstructured and can be more personal and individualised.

APEL applicants can develop skills, strengths and knowledge from a range of experiential learning. Please be aware that learning must be at an equivalent level to that on the modules offered on our programmes and you must be able to evidence it. This is typically done by means of a portfolio. It is usual for this to involve some sort of reflective writing about your learning, but it might involve many other forms of evidence too.

It is important to remember that it is the learning from experience rather than the learning itself that is assessed for credit, which you will need to be able to articulate.

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  • Our standard fees for the Top Up Master's are £9,000



From £576.75 per month
  • Four instalments of £2,292
    Total payment of £9,168*
  • 16 instalments of £576.75
    Total payment of £9,228*


From £288.38 per month
  • Eight instalments of £1,146
    Total payment of £9,168*
  • 32 instalments of £288.38
    Total payment of £9,228*

*Please note these figures include a small administration fee.

Recommend a Friend

Increasingly our students are coming to us through personal recommendation and we’d like to recognise this. Whether you are a recent graduate, a current student, or even if you’ve just secured your place for the next intake; whenever you recommend IDI to a friend, colleague or family member, and they go on to enrol on a course, we’ll reward you both with £100. Find out more


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ma photo careers

The MA Photography (Visual Communication) award will prepare you for a career as a photographer, as well as for design-related roles in digital graphics, online media, communications and marketing, publishing, advertising and various other related fields.

Potential careers:

  • Creative Director
  • Freelance Photographer
  • Art Director
  • Digital Retoucher
  • Advertising
  • Portrait Artist
  • Production Artist
  • Fine Art Photographer
  • Fashion Photographer
  • Product Photographer
  • Wildlife Photographer
  • Event Photographer
  • Travel Photographer
  • Wedding Photographer
  • Photojournalist
  • Photography Teacher/Lecturer
  • Commercial Photographer
  • Forensic Photographer


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Student Discounts and Offers


Through partnerships and initiatives, we are able to offer our students institutional discounts on various products and services to help you gain access to quality materials at an affordable fee.

Adobe Creative Cloud

As an IDI student, you would be eligible for a discount of up to 65% off Adobe Creative Cloud* on production of an approved 'Proof of Student Status' letter.

*Adobe Creative Cloud is only available in selected countries. Find out if you can gain access from where you live by clicking here.

Graphics Direct

IDI students can also receive additional discounts. Enter ‘IDI’ at the Graphics Direct checkout and you will receive an extra 10% off, even on discounted and sale items.

Course Duration

The Top Up Master’s is available to study in the following modes, subject to minimum cohort numbers:

  • Part-time - Completed in ten semesters (three years and four months)
  • Full-time - Completed in five semesters (one year and eight months)

Expected minimum studying time commitment per study mode:

  • Part-time - 15 to 20 hours per week
  • Full-time - 30 to 35 hours per week

The hours per week indicate time spent on directed activities. However, you will also need to consider the additional time needed to read support materials and other resources, upload your work to the IDI-Study site, communicate with your tutors and interact with your peers within the forums.

If you begin studying and feel that the pace isn’t quite right for you, you can change your study mode within the first four weeks of study, or on completion of a level.