* This course is undergoing academic validation. Please note that the information displayed here is subject to change as part of this process.

World's first United Kingdom industry standard international journalism programme with hostile environment reporting specialisation.


This unique course will equip graduates to report from international hostile environments in a safe, informed and innovative way. It was developed in consultation with media organisations, conflict reporters and international security/safety experts/disaster healthcare specialists, all with frontline hostile environment experience. This is supplemented by academic research and critique of the coverage of conflict, terrorism, natural disasters and of state suppression of media and investigative journalists. The course is available in various options including full-time (1 year) and part-time (2 years) on the Coleraine campus, Northern Ireland and is also available by distance learning but some attendance is required for this. Students complete a 12,000 word dissertation in a chosen topic.

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Coleraine campus

Our coastal and riverside campus with a primary academic focus on science and health

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About this course

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This new course will equip graduates to report from hostile environments in a safe, informed and innovative way. It was developed in consultation with media organisations, conflict reporters and international security/safety experts/disaster healthcare specialists, all with frontline hostile environment experience. This traing in hostile environment reporting will be supplemented by academic research and critique of the coverage of conflict, terrorism, natural disasters and of state suppression of media and investigative journalists. The University has long and successful experience running an MSc in Disaster Health Management (online/blended), MA Journalism, MSc Disaster Recovery and MFA Photography (online/campus) and expertise from these programmes will also be used for this new course.

The figures are stark for the increasing global danger for journalists. Some 780 journalists have been killed since 2006 (Reporters Sans Frontiers, 2017) with 74 killed alone in 2016. Thus, Ulster University is harnessing its expertise in areas related to conflict to deliver this innovative programme.

This course is underpinned with advanced practical skills on remaining safe and assessing risk that meet the requirements of major media organisations.This element will be taught through a week long field exercise preceding the course by several highly experienced international trainers all with decades of front line experience in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico and parts of Africa. Even for those opting to complete the course by distance learning, they will have to attend this element in person and it will be delivered the week before the main semester starts.

This hostile environment training course will cover preparation such as country analyses prior to deployment to include geography, history, economics and social structure.This also includes familiarising yourself with cultural etiquette and local area taboos, regional threats and in country communications infrastructure analyses. Water purification and food sourcing and survival tools will also be included. Also preparation such as travel vaccinations, tropical medicine, visas and currencies. It will include a component on emergency first aid and disaster zone healthcare. Other elements will include surviving natural disasters, navigation training, theft avoidance and security of possessions, packing kit, equipment and safety devices. The area of vehicle maintenance and loading, vehicle systematic search and transport considerations.

Once in the hostile environment it will look at personal and accommodation security and situation awareness and counter surveillance measures. It will look then at the more journalistic elements such a meeting sources, establishing remote source communication, using cover stories, telephone security and negotiating check-points. Mines and weapon awareness will also be covered.

It will then look at more common areas that can become hostile environments such as civil disturbances and riots, crowd dynamics and control. Finally, there will be a session on post-traumatic stress disorder awareness. Each day will also have a reflective session.

The course, however, is not just a hostile environments training and certification programme. It will provide students with a deep theoretical understanding of the key elements that both create hostile environments and critiques of how they have been covered in the past. The School has several staff expert on analysis of conflict and post conflict reporting and investigative journalism, particularly relating to paramilitary groups. Other staff from biomedical science, disaster and austere environment nursing, environmental science and disaster recovery engineering who will give guest lectures on disease, climate change, earthquakes and disaster recovery. Students will select an area of importance to their career or interest and complete a 12,000 word dissertation researching this area. These could be areas of conflict, terrorism, post-conflict, criminal gangs, state suppression, climate change, famine, natural disaster, refugee issues and disease.

This will be coupled with National Council for the Training of Journalists’ accredited modules in news gathering and writing, feature writing, ethics and regulation (UK), media law (UK), online, mobile and broadcast journalism. These more technical modules will also harness the School’s new £6m investment in media facilities and expertise in new areas of production to develop new ways of covering journalistically stories from hostile environments.


Semesters 1 and 2 from mid-September to mid-May; attendance is usually 9am-5pm at least two days a week for part-time Coleraine campus-based students. Semester 3 is spent in the second year on the completion of the dissertation. If an optional placement is chosen, then this would likely be completed in the summer of the first year subject to individual circumstances.

Start dates

  • September 2018
How to apply

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

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Entry Requirements

At least a 2.2 at degree level. Other professional experience will be considered.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Teaching and learning assessment

The course contains a considerable practice based element. Teaching and learning is delivered through live news exercises, as well as a portfolio of original work. Assessment is through practice based work and essays where appropriate.

Exemptions and transferability


Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Students will find a wide range of career options in local, national or international news media organisations in print, broadcast or online. Some may also seek to work for non-governmental organisations who work in difficult environments or advocacy groups.

Work placement / study abroad

Those without relevant work experience or those who choose will be assisted in securing a work placement over part of the summer months but it is not mandatory.


How to apply Request a prospectus

Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.

You should also submit an unpublished news article of 500 words that a newspaper in the area that you live (no matter where in the world) could publish. The article should be word-processed, using double line spacing. Applicants with published news stories or audio-visual pieces may submit two of these in addition to their unpublished article. This should be clearly labelled with title of publication, date and page number. The original article/material should not be submitted as we are unable to return supplementary materials. News stories should be emailed to Colm Murphy (c.murphy@ulster.ac.uk).

Interviews are usually held in early May. The closing date is 30 April. Late applications may be accepted if vacancies exist.

Start dates

  • September 2018

Fees and funding

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Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Fees illustrated are based on 18/19 entry and are subject to an annual increase. Correct at the time of publishing. Terms and conditions apply. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages for full details of fees

Northern Ireland & EU:
£13,680.00  Scholarships available

Additional mandatory costs

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


Acting Course Director: Dr Colm Murphy

T: +44 (0)28 7012 3130

E: c.murphy@ulster.ac.uk

Application procedure and enrolment:

Ms Wenli Xu

T: +44 (0)28 7012 3373

E: w.xu@ulster.ac.uk

Email enquiries: artsdirectentry@ulster.ac.uk

For more information visit

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School of Communication and Media