Journalism - MA
Professional journalism theory and practice: news-gathering, reporting, newswriting, sub-editing and ethics for a changing media landscape.Take a look
In this section
Professional journalism theory and practice: news-gathering, reporting, newswriting, sub-editing and ethics for a changing media landscape.
NCTJ accredited Journalism course with a strong record of graduate employment in the news industry.
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About this course
In this section
This programme provides comprehensive training in the skills needed to enter the journalism profession internationally and is accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists for print, online and broadcast journalism. It is also part of the Northern Ireland Media Academy. Past students have won top awards in Ireland and the UK and hold senior positions in news organisations. The course incorporates the NCTJ Diploma, which equips trainee journalists with the knowledge and skills for professional entry level journalism.
Semesters 1 and 2; attendance can be 9-5 at least 3 days a week. Semester 3 is spent on placement, and completion of the dissertation.
- 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.
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Reporting in a Digital Age 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
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.
Media Law - Court Reporting
This module offers a critical, academic and practical introduction to the legal system, court procedure, restrictions on court reporting and contempt of court. The module will demonstrate how the relevant legal principles and codes of practice/conduct are applied in practice. It will feature class simulations to test the learner's ability to apply this knowledge in reasoned legal decision-making pertinent to their work. The module prepares students for the National Council for the Training of Journalists professional Court Reporting exam.
Reporting for Audio Media
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 Society
This module introduces MA Journalism students to current issues and debates in the study of news and journalism in the UK, Ireland and, locally, in Northern Ireland, providing them with the intellectual framework within which to think about and develop their MA Dissertation proposal. The module is not blended.
The module introduces students to the structures and operations of government, and to economy and economic development, in the United Kingdom (including Northern Ireland), Republic of Ireland and the European Union. There is also a focus on some of the major institutions of global governance such as the UN, WTO and IMF. The module will be delivered using traditional lecture format and assessed by a class test and a practical journalism assignment.
This module will allow students to undertake a sustained piece of independent work. 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
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
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.
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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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 7.0 . 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
Careers & opportunities
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Print, online and broadcast journalism.
Work placement / study abroad
A placement of up to 6 weeks in a newsroom.
Accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
ApplyHow 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 Maggie Swarbrick (email@example.com)
Interviews are usually held in early May. The closing date is February 28th. Late applications may be accepted until March 31st.
- September 2020
Fees and funding
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Scholarships, awards and prizes
Belfast Telegraph, Helen Scott Memorial prize to the student with the best shorthand results.
Additional mandatory costs
NCTJ accreditation and external examination fees, in the region of £330, to paid on acceptance of a place on the course.
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.
Course Director: Ms Maggie Swarbrick
Ms Wenli Xu
International Admissions Office
For more information visit
- 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.
Jayne McCormack, now at BBC NI
The reason I chose UU was that it was the only course here that got me the much-needed NCTJs as well as an MA, not to mention the proximity to home, top-class teachers with a wealth of contacts and the placement opportunities. I can say hand on heart it was the best choice I ever made. Worth the investment and the hard work, would do it again in a heartbeat.
Ciaran Bartlett BA Ancient History QUB, MA, PhD 2014
“You will learn the skills to have a serious shot at getting a job in media before you hand in your dissertation. You will make great professional contacts and have some of the best craic you'll ever have at Uni. Give it a lash. You won’t regret it.”
Niamh Ferguson, now at UTV
“During my summer work placement at Citybeat and Downtown Radio/Cool FM I was given the opportunity to act as a broadcast journalist. It was exciting to hear my voice being broadcast nationally for the first time. This course is hard work but it pays off!”