Photography (MFA) - MFA - Video
Rethinking photographic practices on Belfast School of Art's world leading MFA Degree in Photography.Take a look
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Rethinking photographic practices on Belfast School of Art's world leading MFA Degree in Photography.
At the Belfast School of Art we strive to develop unique photographic voices, which sit firmly at the cutting-edge of a contemporary international context, while also mining the specifics of our unique geographical and cultural position.
We have been profiled by the British Journal of Photography as one of the most significant photography schools in Europe. Our graduates work internationally between the book, gallery, web and magazine, continually challenging photography’s place within contemporary society and the way we photograph now.
The teaching team is comprised of contemporary practising photographers, writers and thinkers who exhibit and publish internationally. These are Professor Paul Seawright, Ailbhe Greaney, Dr KayLynn Deveney, Ken Grant, and Clare Gallagher as well as two members of the prestigious Magnum agency, Martin Parr and Donovan Wylie. We have a progamme of Guest Lecturers, recently including Hannah Starkey, Guy Martin, and Donald Weber. Throughout the programme students develop an awareness of photography as it exists in a culture of evolving technologies. They are challenged to rethink their practice both visually, theoretically and contextually. Our close links with photographic galleries and photography festivals helps students to build networks and professional practice. The programme is complemented by a series of master classes and advanced skill workshops; an annual field trip to Paris and regular site visits to a variety of cultural institutions such as museums and galleries in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
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About this course
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The MFA Photography has an international reputation and is available for study on campus in Belfast (Thursday delivery) and fully online (eLearning) for students living and working outside Ireland. A Master of Fine Arts degree is a creative degree, which centers around practice in a particular field, in this case Photography. The qualification provides students with a high level of specialisation and allows graduates to teach at University level.
The MFA Photography degree exposes students to key critical debates in photography and offers a dynamic environment in which to develop a major body of photographic work for exhibition and publication. Staff are leaders in the field of photography. Internationally recognised photographers, artists and researchers regularly review student projects, give lectures and critique photographic work.
Guest Lecturers have recently included: Hannah Starkey, Brian Griffin, Mark Power, Anna Fox, Wendy McMurdo, Doug DuBois, Simon Roberts, Chloe Dewe Mathews, Léonie Hampton, Gareth McConnell, Raphaël Dallaporta, WassinkLundgren, Rob Hornstra, Raimond Wouda, Lotte Sprengers, Corinne Noordenbos, Stephen Bull, Gerry Badger, Louise Clements, Tim Clark, Adam Murray and Liz Wells.
The course looks to recruit photographers that are serious about challenging their working methods and extending their visual vocabulary. The course has excellent links with galleries and museums and draws on an exemplary network of artists to create a study environment that is stimulating and encourages experimentation.
Structure & content
The programme is delivered through a range of learning methods, including seminars, presentations, tutorials and group critiques, to enable students to acquire the cognitive skills of a self-reflexive independent learner. There are optional exit points for students to exit with a PGDip or MA.
- Reviewing Practice (40 credits)
- Photography and Culture: (20 credits)
- Contemporary Contexts (40 credits)
- Photographic Futures (20 credits)
Optional Exit Award - PGDip (120 credit points)
- Master's Project (Involves a major piece of practical photography work with accompanying contextualisation. Creative written and photographic resolution of a major body of work is emphasised here.) (60 credits).
Optional Exit Award - MA (180 credit points)
- Master's Project (Involves a major piece of practical photography work with accompanying dissertation. Resolution of the Master's Project through publication via book and/or exhibition is emphasised here.) (60 credits).
Final Award MFA (240 credit points)
Full-time 4 Semesters - Belfast Campus or Online: September - January; January - June; September - January; January - June;
All the core teaching takes place on Thursdays and you should expect to be on campus from 10am - 7pm. During this time you will engage in one-to-one tutorials, a lecture programme delivered by staff and visiting guest speakers, group seminars, group critiques and technical workshops. The rest of the week is spent attending optional tutorials/workshops and engaging in independent study.
The primary assessment method is the evaluation of photographic work in progress. Students work over the duration of the course on a major body of work that is subjected to regular and rigorous critique by staff and internationally renowned visiting photographers. Other assessment methods are visual presentations, seminar presentations, essays and a final year dissertation. There is an interim exhibition which is assessed at the end of the first year, usually in a public gallery.
- September 2019
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.
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The module develops the students' awareness of the cultural and critical determinants that have informed their practice. The module will introduce a range of issues that relate to photographic production and the construction of meaning; e.g. postmodernism, authorship, multi-vocal practices, subjectivity and reflexive practice, globalisation, fictional narrative, are all useful starting points within which to frame and reframe practice. The module reviews some key photographic practices; Issues of critical review, authorship, objectivity, photographic histories, social and cultural production and reflexive practice and use them to provide a framework within which students can question and challenge their existing practice.
Photography and Culture: History and Theory
The module will provide students with an historical and thematic introduction to current issues at the intersection of critical theory and photographic practice. It offers knowledge of key theoretical tools designed to encourage an understanding and skills of evaluating established and emerging issues in visual representation necessary to support their photography and sustain a professional creative practice in an international environment.
This module supports the ongoing development of the students' independent practice taking particular account of where photographs are sited in the expanding contemporary practices that comprise the medium today. The module encourages students to consider the exhibition, publication and distributional contexts of their work at the point of production. A number of case studies and gallery visits tease out the potential for photographs to change given their cultural context.
This module will enable students to develop their engagement with current issues at the intersection of theories of contemporary digital culture and the practice of photography. It offers knowledge of key theoretical tools designed to encourage students to understand, engage with, evaluate and critique established and emerging influences on photography and visual representation: to participate, contribute to and influence the photographic practices of the future.
This 60 Credit module is designed to facilitate a range of professional and critical outcomes encouraging students to develop a contextualised, independent professional practice that understands the complexities of disseminating visual material accompanied by a professionally resolved written statement. It is designed to provide a clear and committed direction that will result in a final body of photographic work demonstrating a high resolution of ideas and practice from which an appropriate selection will be made for a professional on-line exhibition. The module will strengthen and promote the student's ability to carry out professional photographic practice accompanied by independent research and disseminate this in a mature, confident and self-directed manner.
Extended Masters Project
This 60 Credit module is designed to facilitate a range of professional and critical outcomes encouraging students to develop a contextualised, independent professional practice that understands the complexities of disseminating visual material accompanied by a comprehensive academic written contextualisation. It is designed to provide a clear and committed direction that will result in a final body of photographic work demonstrating a high resolution of ideas and practice from which an appropriate selection will be made for a professional exhibition or publication. The written contextualisation allows the student to find the most appropriate form of expression for the historical and theoretical issues in relation to his/her practice-based work. It is initiated by student proposal and structured around tutorials that guide the student through research, content and academic conventions, resulting in a 4-7000 word contextualisation, properly bound and word-processed. The module will strengthen and promote the student's ability to carry out professional photographic practice accompanied by independent research and complete a substantial academic text in a mature, confident and self-directed manner.
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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Applicants must hold:
i) a second class honours degree or higher from a university of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, from the Council for National Academic Awards, the National Council for Educational Awards, the Higher Education Training Awards Council, or from an institution of another country which has been recognised as being of an equivalent standard; or
ii) an equivalent standard (normally 50%) in a Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate, Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma or an approved alternative qualification.
In exceptional circumstances, where an individual has substantial and significant experiential learning, a portfolio of written evidence demonstrating the meeting of graduate abilities (including subject-specific outcomes, as determined by the Course committee) may be considered as an alternative entrance route. Evidence used to demonstrate graduate qualities may not be used for exemption against modules within the programme.
In all cases applicants must provide a portfolio of practical work at interview or on application.
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 teaching, learning and assessment is developed and delivered through several modes:
The course is orientated around an initial review of student practice and re-visiting key debates in photographic history and theory. This facilitates the development of two project proposals to initially be developed in parallel for review at the end of the first semester.
Weekly lectures and seminars are delivered along with individual tutorials:
- To enable you to develop different conceptual models of practice
- To enable you to test a variety of different modes of production and resolution
- To enable you to extend the parameters of your own research and make use of appropriate methodologies and techniques
- To enable you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your practice
Regular individual tutorials provide you with the opportunity to discuss in depth conceptual and practical concerns around your work. They provide an opportunity for a considered discussion of ongoing work and an analysis of feedback and responses to work to date.
Lectures are used to deliver key information and material related to research methodologies and professional practice. Lectures are delivered by staff and invited experts/visiting lecturers from relevant professional fields. Students are expected to use the lectures as a starting point for more intensive and focused study appropriate to their own practice.
Seminars are used to develop your knowledge of, and ability to employ the theoretical tools required for critical analysis in cultural practice. This method of teaching is designed to build confidence in oral communication, and to encourage learning through group discussion and debate.
Student presentations are used to encourage you to undertake independent critical appraisal of your studio practice and its cultural context in order to make use of material presented in lectures and seminars. You are expected to make effective use of research material and to organise and deliver an oral presentation using audio/visual or image/text components.
Studio critiques are used to provide you with an opportunity to evaluate critically the work of your fellow students and to receive critical responses to your own work. Studio critiques are led by a number of core staff and visiting professionals whose role is to encourage the active participation of all students and to contribute to the critical discussion.
These differ from studio critiques in that the generation of the dialogue is led by the subject student.
Feedback is a very valuable element in the course delivery and takes many forms as formative and summative feedback. It is important that you realise that feedback is a two-way activity and that education and art making are part of a continual process of evaluation, feedback and adjustment. This may be between tutor/student, student/tutor, student/student or art-work/artist. Its value is not underestimated and it occurs throughout most forms of delivery but especially in the critiques and tutorials and assessment process.
Exhibition opportunities inside and outside the University are employed throughout the course to extend your understanding of your own practice and professional context.
These include visits to galleries and art events. Field Trips provide important knowledge of art through direct experience and insight into the professional realm.
Demonstrations deliver relevant skills and processes. Technical workshops also include Health and Safety in relation to the operation of machinery and equipment.
Formal assessment takes place at key points within the course and includes assessment of the artwork produced along with written and oral summaries.
Careers & opportunities
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Graduates are prepared for advanced careers in the field of photography. Graduates work as photographers in the fine art and commercial sector, as well as industry professionals. An MFA develops the ability to perform research related to the photographic arts, while also building communication skills and introducing students to new aesthetics and new technology. Such key skills enable graduates to work as photographic curators, editors and critics, within museums, galleries and in publishing. MFA graduates may also pursue a career in education.
Work placement / study abroad
The programme is complemented by a series of master classes and advanced skill workshops; an annual field trip to Paris and regular site visits to a variety of cultural institutions such as museums and galleries in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
The teaching team is comprised of contemporary practising photographers, writers and thinkers who exhibit and publish internationally. These are Professor Paul Seawright, Ailbhe Greaney, Dr KayLynn Deveney, Ken Grant, Peter Neill and Clare Gallagher as well as two members of the prestigious Magnum agency, Martin Parr and Donovan Wylie. All staff are reserach active and are members of the Research Institute of Art and Design. They exhibit and pubish both nationally and internationally.
ApplyHow to apply Request a prospectus
All applicants must attend an interview to discuss their portfolio and applications are received throughout the year. The majority of interviews take place between January and May, with exceptional late submissions considered between June and September. Interviews end in September preceding the start of the course.
Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.
- September 2019
Fees and funding
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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:
- £9,380.00 Scholarships available
Scholarships, awards and prizes
Information on International scholarships can be found at:
Further information can be found at:
Additional mandatory costs
Students should be aware that as the work is self-directed costs may and are likely to be incurred due to the specific material or research needs of that student’s development.
Field trips may incur additional 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.
Student Services Centre
Admissions Tutor: Mr Ken Grant
Course Director: Ms. Ailbhe Greaney
For more information visit
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