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International Journalism: Hostile Environment Reporting

2019/20 Full-time Postgraduate course


Master of Arts


Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


School of Communication and Media


Coleraine campus

Start date:

September 2019


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. Students complete a 12,000 word dissertation in a chosen topic.

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About this course


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 was 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 can be 9am-5pm at least four days a week. Semester 3 is spent on optional placement and completion of the dissertation.

Start dates

  • September 2019

Teaching, Learning and 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.

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    The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.

    Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:

    • the relevant generic national Qualification Descriptor
    • the applicable Subject Benchmark Statement
    • the requirements of any professional, regulatory, statutory and accrediting bodies.

    Attendance and Independent Study

    As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.

    Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.

    The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.

    Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.

    Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.


    Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

    Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

    Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.

    Calculation of the Final Award

    The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).

    Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.

    All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (18%) or Lecturers (57%).

We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.

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    The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.

    Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.

    Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.

Coleraine campus

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Coleraine campus location info

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Ulster University
Cromore Road
County Londonderry
BT52 1SA

T: 028 7012 3456


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Reporting in a Digital Age 1

Year: 1

This module introduces students to foundational skills in newsgathering and reporting, feature writing, research, and basic sub-editing and design using desktop publishing software. Students will produce a portfolio of journalistic work that will be presented on pages that they themselves create. They will be encouraged to look critically and analytically at a wide range of journalism. The module will use a range of appropriate and effective teaching methods and forms of assessment.

Media Law - General Reporting

Year: 1

This module offers a critical, academic and practical introduction to the broad range of legal topics relevant to those working in journalism. It covers the legal system, defamation and an introduction to court procedure and contempt of court. It also deals with matters such as copyright, privacy, breach of confidence and professional codes. The module prepares students for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) professional law exam in Essential Media Law. It will feature class simulations to test the learner's ability to apply this knowledge in reasoned legal decision-making pertinent to their work.

Reporting for Audio Media

Year: 1

This module provides to an industry standard, theoretical and practical knowledge of audio news reporting for radio and online platforms, in its professional institutional and regulatory contexts. Students are instructed in the practice of newsgathering and production techniques. They will work on both individual, and group projects in a live, real-time news scenario.

Journalism and Conflict

Year: 1

This module introduces MA International Journalism: Hostile Environment Reporting students to current issues and debates in the study of news and journalism in hostile, conflict and post conflict societies. It will examine the role of the media in reporting terrorism. It will provide them with the intellectual framework within which to think about and develop their MA Dissertation proposal. The module also provides practical training in working safely and effectively in hostile environments.

International Journalism and Trauma

Year: 1

This module introduces MA Journalism students to current issues and debates in the study of news and journalism in societies undergoing the trauma of conflict, disease, famine and environmental change. Students will apply their knowledge and critical understanding of these issues to contemporary journalism and consider the implications for reporting war, disease and natural disaster. The programme will provide them with the intellectual framework within which to think about and develop their MA Dissertation. The module will also prepare the student for their proposal and journalistic assignment .

MA Dissertation: Hostile Environment Reporting

Year: 1

This module will allow students to undertake a sustained piece of independent work on a topic related to reporting from a hostile environment internationally. Having agreed a topic with an appointed supervisor that will offer scope for combining academic, personal and professional elements, students will produce a dissertation of approximately 12,000 words or an agreed equivalent in another format. Students on appropriate MA programmes will be encouraged to liaise with industry personnel and tutorial support will be
given on a regular basis by the supervisor.

Reporting in a Digital Age 2

Year: 1

This module allows the student to put into practice the skills acquired in the previous parts of the course. It will allow them develop their skills further by focusing on in-depth journalistic projects. This will refine their skills in journalism practice and production in preparation for the work place and/or further study. They will work individually to produce an in-depth investigative feature of a high standard. They will then use this and additional articles produced by students to edit, design and produce their work in print or on-line. The module will use a range of appropriate and effective teaching methods and forms of assessment.

Reporting for Audio-Visual Media

Year: 1

This module provides to an industry standard, theoretical and practical knowledge of audio-visual news reporting in its professional, institutional and regulatory contexts. Students are instructed in the practice of newsgathering and production for radio, television and other audio-visual platforms using appropriate hardware and software. It is based in an appropriate and effective learning and teaching environment.

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.

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.

Exemptions and transferability


United States of America flagAdditional information for students from United States of America


Typically we require applicant for taught programmes to hold the equivalent of a UK first degree (usually in a relevant subject area). Please refer to the specific entry requirements for your chosen course of study as outlined in the online prospectus. We consider students who have good grades in the following:

Bachelor degree

English Language

Financial Information

In addition to the scholarships and bursaries open to all international students, US students may apply for Federal and Private US loans

Level 12 English Lang in HSD

View more information for students from United States of America  

Careers & opportunities

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.


Start dates

  • September 2019

Fees and funding

Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Fees illustrated are based on 19/20 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: £5,900.00

International: £14,060.00 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


Admissions Office

T: +44 (0)28 70123210


International Admissions Office


For more information visit

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School of Communication and Media


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