Northern Ireland’s vibrant animation industry and community make it a highly desirable destination for study, networking and career advancement. This programme focuses on the three core components of animated production: Narrative, Character and Performance. Students will develop their skills in narrative construction, character development, animation and advanced production techniques, allowing them to explore the unique opportunities and challenges computer animation bring to storytelling.
Building on the success of the BDes Hons Animation programme, which is already impacting local and global industry with graduates being honoured at the Prime Time Emmy Awards for their “Contribution to the Emmy Award winning achievement—Outstanding Special Visual Effects” on the HBO series “Game of Thrones”, the MA Animation programme aims to further establish Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art as the regional, national and international centre of excellence in CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), Animation for education, research and industry.
Timing for Animation
Students develop their core skills in animation, developing a deeper understanding of timing and animation principles in action.
Design Research and Development
Students investigate theoretical, practical, contemporary, and cultural issues in Animation, Visual Effects and creative industries.
Character & Performance
Narrative builds characters whose performances drive the story. Students will develop a deeper understanding of acting, empathising with their character and building a relationship with their character’s audience.
Students will develop a broader understanding of computer animation pipelines and their implementation in a commercial production environment. From concept through animation, compositing and editing, students will develop the skills needed to see their projects through to completion.
Students will develop a body of work specific to their chosen area of animation production.
Attendance is available in part-time and full-time modes. Please contact us for more information.
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 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 near the start date and may be subject to 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 of attendance will often 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 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 Masters 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 via one method or a combination e.g. examination and coursework . 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 four learning outcomes, and no more than two 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 Masters 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 Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.
Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.
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 (20%) or Lecturers (55%).
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) by Advanced HE - 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 2021-2022.
High quality apartment living in Belfast city centre adjacent to the university campus.
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.
Since the MA Animation course will be accepting students both with and without prior animation experience, this first module will be flexible enough either to provide an initial framework from which an understanding of animation fundamentals will be developed, or to provide the space to revise, build and develop specialization. The content is therefore designed to contain a basic introduction to the essential elements of animated movement and studio production practices, which can be attempted either at a basic, intermediate or advanced level.
Acting for Animation
The aim of the module is to provide students with a specific set of technical and creative skills highly pertinent to the contemporary animation industry. The content therefore has a specific focus - the students must concentrate on the creation of convincing gestural human movement, both mechanical and expressive. To this end, the students will be asked to complete a set of exercises, rather than a project, so that they can break down the complexity of each task before applying it to their own work. This module will help academic progression by enabling the student more theory and skills development towards animation production. The student will be graded on their ability to complete each of the tasks put forward in each exercise.
This module will enable students to consolidate their animation skills in a semi-professional context. The presence of external agents creates a situation where students act as creative content providers for a client's brief. The students will experience and develop the ability to work in a team towards a creative goal. The students will also complete an individual development project demonstrating their understanding of animation practice, production and pipelines. This module gives students a targeted insight to the needs of the animation industry.
The purpose of this module is to enable the student to consolidate and demonstrate the knowledge and skills that have been acquired through the master's programme. It is therefore an open brief which will allow each student to prepare for the world of work. There will be significant time dedicated to seminars and tutorials to allow the student to get targeted feedback and develop their practice. Students will present their work throughout the module and should demonstrate a professional understanding of the animation industry and employment requirements.
Design Research and Development
Students complete this module having obtained a clear understanding of how to conduct a post-graduate level research. By introducing them different research methods relevant to their topic and research inquire, students will expand their knowledge in specialised areas through their self-directed research project.
Standard 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.
Applicants must hold a degree (with at least 2:2 Honours standard) or equivalent or demonstrate their ability to undertake the course through the accreditation of prior learning.
The specific requirements for admission are detailed below:
i) Applicants should normally hold a good honours degree in any Animation, Computer Science, Engineering, 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) Applicants may be interviewed along with the presentation of a body of work that can take the form of, but is not limited to, a portfolio and/or showreel 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.
This programme is designed to prepare students for a career in a range of animation related fields such as TV & Feature film animation and games animation. Recent graduates have found employment with animation studios such as Sixteen South, Paper Owl Films and Jam Media.
Fees and funding
Fees (total cost)
The price of your overall programme will be determined by the number of credit points that you initiate in the relevant academic year.
For modules commenced in the academic year 2022/23, the following fees apply:
NB: A standard full-time PGCert is equivalent to 60 credit points per year. A standard full-time PGDip is equivalent to 120 credit points per year.
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.
It is important to remember that costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges) and normal living will need to be covered in addition to tuition fees.
Where a course has additional mandatory expenses (in addition to tuition fees) we make every effort to highlight them above. 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 Wi-Fi are also available on each of the campuses.
There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.
Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as a part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs, as well as tuition fees.
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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.
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