Design - MFA
A creative context to develop sustainable, advanced design practice supported by research and entrepreneurship.Take a look
A creative context to develop sustainable, advanced design practice supported by research and entrepreneurship.
MFA Design provides a research-led learning environment and context that offers the opportunity for an individual to develop and advance their specific making, research and design skills at Masters level.
The course supports a range of disciplines including ceramics, graphic design, illustration, jewellery, interaction design, silversmithing and textiles and creates a challenging, supportive environment, where each student is asked to push the boundaries of their current thinking, explore new possibilities, engage in the current debates surrounding design and through this become advanced specialists in their own practice.
Students engage with external organisations, companies and individuals through specific projects, their peers through team projects, and where relevant, students are encouraged to pursue multidisciplinary and cross disciplinary work – solely or in collaboration with fellow students within the wider University or reaching out to external partnerships. Staff are research active, experts in their fields.
Sign up for course updates
Sign up to receive regular updates, news and information on courses, events and developments at Ulster University.
We’ll not share your information and you can unsubscribe at any time.
A globally recognised hub of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurshipWatch the video
About this course
In this section
MFA Design responds to continuing changes in contemporary design practice and challenges the perceived boundaries between the many and varied recognised art and design disciplines.
The course currently supports the areas of: Ceramics, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interaction Design, Jewellery, Silversmithing, and Textiles.
The course supports a range of design disciplines and students. This richness of knowledge and experience of academic and technical staff enhances the student experience on the program, and opens up additional possibilities for collaboration and innovation, whilst maintaining the rigour in technical, research and development skills required of a masters student.
The course is focused on the attainment of advanced, sustainable, skilled practice through research, which is made possible through the technical and specialist facilities available within Belfast School of Art. The course retains the emphasis of entrepreneurship which was a unique strength of the previous version of the program and is built upon tried and tested models developed in conjunction with NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) in recognition of the essential skills necessary for a successful, sustainable practice within the rapidly growing creative industries.
Through ongoing questioning and development during the course a student may identify themselves with a variety of outcomes such as;
Designer Maker – Leading to self employment, professional designer, setting up a SME
Design Researcher – Leading to PhD, research fellowships
Designer Leader – Leading to business leadership or Strategic Thinker within the creative industries.
MFA Design is delivered in full-time mode only, taught over two years.Students can leave with an MA after completing the first 3 semesters. Delivery is scheduled for one day per week. We recognise the changing nature of the student population and wish to offer a program that is accessible to a range of potential students.
However, a full-time commitment to the course is expected, with studios, workshops and library resources available for use throughout the week.
- September 2020
Teaching, Learning and Assessment
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.
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.
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.
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
This module investigates and critically evaluates knowledge and understanding of the wider theoretical development of design as a discipline. The module provides students with a forum for the critical evaluation of the nature of contemporary design thinking and its manifestation in diverse practices. Students are expected to challenge their personal and collective assumptions about the nature of design thinking, to develop knowledge and understanding of current developments in design research and to formulate new alternative paradigms of design practice in the context of a multidisciplinary environment.
The module informs and develops students' abilities to meet future design challenges with its focus on the research, development, management and critical evaluation of practical research and outputs.
Through experimentation, innovation and debate, it facilitates self-directed, sustained individual and collaborative practical and intellectual enquiry. Enabling the student to articulate and underpin their practice with strong theoretical and contextual reflection and analysis, it prepares students through a developmental process to produce a practice led and critically sound proposal that generates the foundation for their Masters Projects.
Exploration and Enquiry
This module provides students with the necessary critical, practical and intellectual frameworks to initiate, evaluate, negotiate and develop a sustainable creative practice within their respective field. The module combines presentations from professionals and researchers that provide a forum for peer discussion and debate. It focuses on the development of self-directed practice-led research and the establishment of a sustainable creative and critical engagement. Advanced digital and analogue skills, technologies and processes will be introduced and appropriate techniques and technologies employed by the students. Students will audit their own skills and their project needs and resource implications. The module offers students the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge, to consider initiating interdisciplinary or strategic partnerships.
This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the role business plays within the creative industries. By focusing on developing students'entrepreneurship awareness it seeks to ensure that they are equipped with the skills needed to establish sustainable creative practices
Masters Project - Part 1
This module provides a period of sustained self-motivated and practice-led creative engagement. It enables a student to produce a body of work relevant to the focus of the student's Masters programme. The module realises key skills and knowledge concerning the management, documentation, evaluation and dissemination of the creative and practice-led research process.
Masters Project - Part 2
This module provides a period of sustained self-motivated and practice-led creative engagement. It brings to a resolution a body of work relevant to the focus of the student's Masters programme. The module realises key skills and knowledge concerning the management, documentation, evaluation and dissemination of the creative and practice-led research process in the public domain. The module facilitates a sustained independent period of enquiry within a clearly determined creative body of practice, underpinned by exploration of a range of critical and contextual frameworks evidence in a final, Masters thesis.
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.
In this section
Applicants must hold a degree (with at least 2ii Honours standard) or equivalent or demonstrate their ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior learning.
The course currently supports the areas of: Ceramics, Graphic Design, Illustration, Interaction Design, Jewellery, Silversmithing, and Textiles.
The specific requirements for admission are detailed below:
i) Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree in any Design practice, Visual Arts or cognate subject from a University of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, from the Council of National Academic Awards, the Higher Education and Training Awards Council or from an institution of another country which is recognised as being of an equivalent standard.
ii) Interview by portfolio and proposal. Applicants must be able to satisfy the panel at interview that their work is of a standard that will allow them to deal with the intellectual and practical rigours of the programme.
iii) Applications are welcomed from diverse backgrounds however where there is a discipline shift the applicant must represent a coherent rationale for this shift and evidence prerequisite knowledge, skills and experience.
The programme is devised specifically to support continuing lifelong learning for professions in a rapidly changing field. Therefore APL (Accreditation for Prior Learning) will be considered as evidence of exceptional ability appropriate to recruitment to the programme. Applications from professionals with extensive professional, industrial and/or commercial experience but lacking recent or higher level academic qualifications will be encouraged. APL (Advanced Prior Learning) will be considered as evidence of exceptional ability appropriate to the course.
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
Exemptions will be considered on an individual basis.
Careers & opportunities
In this section
MFA Design has a very strong employability track record. Graduates from the course have gained employment both nationally and internationally. With the course’s strong entrepreneurial focus, many graduates have gone on to establish their own, successful businesses with many securing substantial venture capital funding.
Our students and graduates are opportunity focused and, during the first six years of the course had secured over £650,000 in project funding. In addition our students and graduates have received international recognition through winning numerous awards and bursaries.
ApplyHow to apply Request a prospectus
Applications are received throughout the year. All applicants must attend an interview to discuss their portfolio. 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.
Applicants are encouraged to apply early and to contact the course director with any questions: E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.
- September 2020
Fees and funding
In this section
Scholarships, awards and prizes
Our students and graduates have been the recipients of many national and international awards and prizes.
Information on International Scholarships can be found at:
Information on postgraduate fees, loans and awards ,including [alumni discounts] can be found at:
Additional mandatory costs
Students purchase materials for their own coursework.
Consumable workshop contribution of up to £100 is optional and contributes to materials used by students.
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.
- The University endeavours to deliver courses and programmes of study in accordance with the description set out in this prospectus. The University’s prospectus is produced at the earliest possible date in order to provide maximum assistance to individuals considering applying for a course of study offered by the University. The University makes every effort to ensure that the information contained in the prospectus is accurate but it is possible that some changes will occur between the date of printing and the start of the academic year to which it relates. Please note that the University’s website is the most up-to-date source of information regarding courses and facilities and we strongly recommend that you always visit the website before making any commitments.
- Although reasonable steps are taken to provide the programmes and services described, the University cannot guarantee the provision of any course or facility and the University may make variations to the contents or methods of delivery of courses, discontinue, merge or combine courses and introduce new courses if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Such circumstances include (but are not limited to) industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key staff, changes in legislation or government policy including changes, if any, resulting from the UK departing the European Union, withdrawal or reduction of funding or other circumstances beyond the University’s reasonable control.
- If the University discontinues any courses, it will use its best endeavours to provide a suitable alternative course. In addition, courses may change during the course of study and in such circumstances the University will normally undertake a consultation process prior to any such changes being introduced and seek to ensure that no student is unreasonably prejudiced as a consequence of any such change.
- The University does not accept responsibility (other than through the negligence of the University, its staff or agents), for the consequences of any modification or cancellation of any course, or part of a course, offered by the University but will take into consideration the effects on individual students and seek to minimise the impact of such effects where reasonably practicable.
- The University cannot accept any liability for disruption to its provision of educational or other services caused by circumstances beyond its control, but the University will take all reasonable steps to minimise the resultant disruption to such services.