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MA Core Modules

What Will I Learn?

If you study on one of the four distinct online MA qualifications in Graphic Communication, Illustration (Visual Communication), Photography (Visual Communication) and Interior Design, you will be required to study a number of modules while specialising in your specific discipline.

You will have the opportunity to study a number of interdisciplinary modules alongside students from related art and design subject areas. You will be encouraged to approach each module from the point of view of your own individual practice, as well as developing skills in collaboration and an understanding of working in the Creative Industries within your subject area.

The descriptions below should help you to get an overview of what each of the MA programmes involve.

What Does the Course Involve?

The following aspects are at the core of the MA programme:

Specialist Art and Design Practice:

You will have the opportunity to develop your creative practice within your own discrete subject area, alongside critical reflection and analysis in the context of historical and contemporary trends.

Professional Context:

You will develop skills, knowledge and understanding relating to the professional environment of art and design, including management, team working, project development and client relationships.

International Perspective:

You will explore this in relation to the creative industries in a global context and to the characteristics of the industry as they are manifested nationally and locally.


You will develop skills, knowledge and understanding relating to business planning, resource planning and project management within the creative industries.

Module Overviews

Within the six course modules, students study together as a community of practitioners. It is recognised that despite the wide-cross section of disciplines contained within the postgraduate Art and Design programme, there are many common concerns and shared interests, including: creative practice, research and advanced study skills, the acquisition of professional skills to help career development, and the range of conceptual issues that underpin advanced practice in art and design.

An understanding of studying and working alongside other creative individuals is a good basis for professional practice. The design of the programme around six core modules undertaken by all students creates both a lively and supportive post graduate community. It encourages innovative approaches to the discipline and an inter-disciplinary exchange across the various named routes.

We recognise that students undertaking the MA are likely to come from a variety of backgrounds. Therefore, this introductory module aims to prepare you for master’s level study in Art and Design, introducing the core skills, the study skills required for future modules and the expectations of postgraduate study. Particular emphasis is placed on the relationship between theory and practice, with the aim of preparing you to understand the connection between all of the modules on the programme.

Themes include:

  • The relationship between theory and practice
  • The context of, and approaches to MA study
  • Reflective practice and critical aspects
  • Interdisciplinary practice and collaborative group work
  • Introduction to creative industries and international context

The Research and Practice module introduces academic enquiry and critical response. The emphasis is on preparing you to critically engage with current debates and to develop your information handling, enquiry and research skills. You will undertake focused research into themes that are of particular relevance to your practice.

You will gain specialist knowledge of the current issues and debates that exist within your field, and develop your ability to contextualise the practical work that you undertake during other modules.

This will add to the placing of your practice in context and will also challenge your assumptions.

You will be expected to demonstrate awareness of insights at the forefront of your field of practice, and the skills of critical engagement that are required to present and respond to these debates.

Typically, the module is assessed through written assignments that are designed to test your skills in academic research and critical analysis.

The module is designed to encourage you to:

  • Critically engage with a range of current ideas and debates concerning research, enquiry and creativity
  • Analyse, critically evaluate and reflect upon your own work and the work of others
  • Develop your understanding and skills in a range of information handling, enquiry and research practices
  • Develop communication skills appropriate to master’s level study

Building on the Research and Practice module, Critical Studies aims to further develop your handling of theoretical, historical, contemporary and global texts. This provides a basis for a systematic knowledge and understanding of genres, aesthetic traditions and current and emerging debates, to a level appropriate for postgraduate research.

You will be required to critically engage with a variety of complex ideas, and to communicate your responses in forms appropriate for an audience of researchers and peers.

Activities typically include presentations and written texts that emulate forms of research output encountered in scholarly environments, such as conference papers and journal articles.

As you progress through this module you will:

  • Further develop your knowledge and critical thinking of the theoretical, historical and contemporary cultural contexts of your discipline and your own practice, to a standard appropriate for postgraduate study
  • Further develop your enquiry and communication practices and skills to a standard appropriate for postgraduate study
  • Undertake a research project demonstrating awareness and use of appropriate methodologies and approaches to critical study, and explore historical and contemporary contexts

On completion of this module you will be familiar with the scholarly environment, and will have an understanding of key histories and theories that underpin practice in your field.

Three Creative Industries modules aim to broaden your knowledge of the creative and cultural industries.

The first of these modules provides insights into the global creative environment. Drawing on your own experience, you are invited to consider your practice in relation to local, national and global art and design industries.

You are also encouraged to consider local and international opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, so that you are prepared to present your practice in professional contexts.

You will become familiar with a variety of professional creative and cultural environments, develop your awareness of your position within the wider local and global creative industries, and recognise the challenges and possibilities of working globally.

You will consider what is meant by “global audiences “and “globalisation” as well as thinking about how global perspectives impact on your work within the programme as a whole.

The module aims to enable you to:

  • Develop your understanding of art and design in a global context
  • Conduct research on international aspects of art and design
  • Consider art and design in national/local context as it relates to global practice
  • Develop an awareness of business and management issues within the creative industries globally

The second Creative Industries module explores the relationships between “creatives”, clients and audiences. You will be expected to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of professional environments and audiences. The module content prepares you for various engagements with other professionals, including project management and collaboration.

During this module you will investigate ways of working, focusing on roles and relationships within a commercial environment, to develop an understanding of your place within a team or group context. It is key to your success as a practitioner that you understand how to liaise and collaborate with others: even a sole practitioner cannot operate in isolation.

You will have the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary peer group on a project brief which simulates creative collaboration within the professional work environment.

You will also:

  • Understand the business context of the creative industries
  • Develop an awareness and understanding of business analysis and planning, including financial analysis
  • Develop an understanding of management issues and gain management skills, including project and people management
  • Undertake a project which allows for the development of relevant skills and understanding of the workplace environment
  • Complete a report which demonstrates an understanding of the business context of a creative project

On completion of this module you will have a familiarity with professional environments and preparedness for work alongside other creative professionals, ensuring that your skills are marketable in a global business environment.

The third Creative Industries module prepares you to present yourself and your art and design work to a range of potential clients and audiences appropriate to your own practice. You will have the opportunity to demonstrate the value of your knowledge, skills and creative practice to potential audiences and employers, and to negotiate the demands of different stakeholders.

During the module you will develop a professional digital presence through a range of activities aimed to enhance your portfolio and your preparedness for pitching and presenting to potential clients and audiences.

The aims of the module are to:

  • Enable you to develop your understanding of the creative and business contexts of responding to a professional client brief
  • Encourage you to develop an understanding of the requirements of presenting work in a professional context
  • Create a professional portfolio of work
  • Create a professional digital presence, as appropriate to your field of study
  • Understand the requirements of the professional client pitch
  • Develop appropriate skills and competencies for presenting to clients

On completion of the module you will be able to present yourself and your work to appropriate audiences in a professional manner.

In addition to research and enterprise based modules, you will undertake practical modules centred around your own practice.

During this module you will further develop the themes and ideas identified earlier within Postgraduate Study in Context towards a more detailed proposal. You will engage in visual explorations, leading to a portfolio of work on your chosen theme, together with supporting contextual research and development.

During the module you will:

  • Negotiate a project that takes into account advanced knowledge and best practice within your discipline
  • Negotiate a project that addresses a range of wider contexts (creative, social, international, ethical and commercial) within your field
  • Make a critical evaluation of the skills necessary to develop and realise the negotiated project
  • Undertake a period of sustained creative enquiry leading to a portfolio, exhibition or other negotiated outcome, and make a critical appraisal of the proposed project

On completion of the module you will have an improved understanding of practice at postgraduate level. You will be able to undertake visual exploration, leading towards meaningful outcomes.

Responding to formative and summative assessment received during the Practice 1 module, Practice 2 enables you to further develop ideas relating to your chosen themes, narrowing your focus from previous experiments.

You will be expected to engage with wider external influences in your own discipline and in art and design more broadly, and demonstrate how these have informed your work. In particular, you will be encouraged to visit exhibitions and attend cultural events, in order to inform your understanding of your practice.

During this module you will:

  • Continue to develop a project that demonstrates advanced knowledge and creativity
  • Locate your practice within a specific creative, cultural, ethical or professional context
  • Make a critical assessment of responses from audiences and external professionals to your creative practice
  • Acquire the skills, creativity and understanding necessary to plan for the final phase of your study

Assessment is typically based on a portfolio of work, finished to a professional level, which demonstrates knowledge of practical, professional and academic contexts.

Major Study Module Overviews

Throughout the course, you will have built a foundation for your Major Study. You will also have completed an outline or proposal and will have developed the knowledge and skills required to execute your plans.

Depending on your specialist area, you will undertake a discipline specific Major Study in the subject area enrolled for, within one of:

  • Major Study: Graphic Communication
  • Major Study: Illustration (Visual Communication)
  • Major Study: Photography (Visual Communication)
  • Major Study: Interior Design

As in the Practice 1 and 2 Art and Design modules, you will work with a specialist subject tutor from your own discipline, as well as having the opportunity to engage with an interdisciplinary peer group.

The Major Study is self-initiated and will build upon the knowledge and ideas explored throughout the MA, during which you will demonstrate an advanced level of creativity and an in-depth knowledge of your discipline.
You will be required to clearly define the remit and aims of your project, leading to practical outcomes that are completed to a professional standard. You will be further required to present your project outcomes in a form suitable for your target audience.

The Major Study project is the final submission for the award of MA. It is the culmination of your postgraduate journey, demonstrating the communication, professional, conceptual and creative skills that you have acquired during the programme. This project will also provide evidence of preparedness for employment for potential employers and clients.

During the module you will:

  • Realise a self-initiated project in your discipline that demonstrates knowledge and creativity
  • Realise an ambitious project suitable for professional and public audiences
  • Develop the skills, creativity and understanding necessary to work as a professional practitioner in your field
  • Acquire critical awareness of contemporary debates and new insights at the forefront of contemporary practice in your discipline

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