2021/22 Full-time Postgraduate course
Master of Arts
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Belfast School of Art
A unique, research-focused masters bringing together three of design's emerging specialisms – UX, Service, and Design Thinking – within one programme.
MA UX and Service Design provides a unique, research-led learning environment, allowing students to develop and advance key design and research skills at Masters level.
The course explores the emergent domains of UX Design, Service Design and Design Thinking.Following trends in industry, the content is design-led, with no instruction in programming/coding. The aim is to create a challenging, supportive environment, where students are asked to work collectively 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.
Group work is essential and central to the course in Semesters 1 and 2. Through such work, students will likely engage with external organisations, companies and broader stakeholders across society. In their final semester, students are encouraged to pursue multidisciplinary and cross disciplinary work – solely or in collaboration with fellow students within the wider University or by reaching out to form external partnerships. Staff are research active and experts in their fields.
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MA UX and Service Design is a unique, research-focused masters bringing together three of design’s emerging specialisms – UX, Service Design and Design Thinking – as part of a single educational experience.
The course responds to continuing changes in contemporary design practice by foregrounding human experience and social research approaches.
Teaching taking place over three semesters. Semester 1 focuses on principles and techniques. Then, Semester 2 sees students specialise. Lastly, in Semester 3 sees students work on a self-directed project.
There is a strong emphasis on group work and collaboration throughout. By connecting to external organisations, companies and wider stakeholders, it is expected that students will aim to expand horizons and push boundaries, exploring how design may contribute to real change in the areas of technology, leisure and daily-life.
MA UX and Service Design offers students a creative context in which to advance their existing knowledge and a space to develop new forms of practice based on a ‘reimagining’ of the possible.
MA UX and Service Design is delivered in full-time mode only, taught over one year.Students can leave with an PGDip after completing the first 2 semesters. Delivery is, for the most part, scheduled for two days, per week. We recognise the changing nature of the student population and wish to offer a programme 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.
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:
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.
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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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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 emergent paradigms of design practice in the context of a multidisciplinary, complex environment, especially those pertaining to the areas of interaction design, service design, and/or other design thinking-based approaches.
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 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 to produce a practice led and critically sound project proposal that generates the foundation for their Masters Projects.
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
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 area of focus for the student's Masters programme, whether interaction design, service design, or design thinking. The module realises key skills and knowledge concerning the management, documentation, evaluation and dissemination of the creative and practice-led research process in relation to these domains. Finally, it also 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 report.
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 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 interlinks the domains of: User Experience Design, Service Design and Design-Thinking. Students first explore aspects of each before selecting a personal focus during Semester 2.
The specific requirements for admission are detailed below:
i) Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree in design practice 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) Applications are welcomed from diverse backgrounds however where there is a discipline shift the applicant must present a coherent rationale for this shift and evidence prerequisite understanding and skills/experience (see below).
iii) Interview by portfolio and proposal. Portfolios must be digital but multiple file types are acceptable (e.g., .pdfs, .docx, .pptx, .jpegs, etc.). Portfolios may also take a variety of forms. For example, if applicants come from a non-design background (e.g., the social sciences), they may use the portfolio to demonstrate research competencies or outline a series of possible projects.
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 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 will be considered on an individual basis.
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MA UX and Service has wide employability prospects.
Through ongoing questioning and development during the course a student may identify themselves with a variety of outcomes such as:
Designer – Employed as part of in-house or agency teams, or in self-employment.
Design Researcher – Employed as part of in-house or agency teams, or in self-employment, or, in academic terms, leading on to a PhD and research fellowships.
Designer Leader – Leading to business leadership or Strategic Thinker within the creative industries.
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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:
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.
Course Director: Brian Dixon