2022/23 Full-time Postgraduate course
Master of Arts
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Belfast School of Art
Storytelling and skills building through animation production
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 brings to storytelling.
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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:
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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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 timing will be developed, or to provide the space to revise, build and develop specialisms. It is acknowledged that where technical skills acquisition is concerned, flexibility is the key to a successful postgraduate program. 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.
Assessment is based on two assessed outcomes, a group project, which will facilitate openness, creativity and peer to peer learning, and a set of animation exercises which can be approached at any level.
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 the students to consolidate the skills base that they have acquired elsewhere in the programme and apply them in a semi-professional context. The presence of one or more external agent is important in order to set up a situation where the students act as creative content providers for a client's brief. This is an invaluable part of the learning process, which results in a different, more dynamic working practice. The students will also experience and develop the ability to work in a team towards a common goal, within an agreed production framework. Finally, the students will study storyboarding and complete an individual project which will demonstrate their understanding of film language and key concepts such as staging and scene construction. This module enables academic progression to the major project module, giving new insight to the needs of the animation industry.
The purpose of this final animation module is to enable the student consolidate and demonstrate the knowledge and skills that have been acquired through the masters programme. It is therefore an open brief which will allow each student to prepare for the world of work. The number of lectures and formal lessons will therefore be reduced, compared to the previous modules. There will, however, be regular points of contact across the semester. In particular, since one of the main transferable skills to be acquired in the execution of a major project is time and project management, students will be asked to present their work in progress at two points, before the third and final presentation of the finished work to a jury of professionals at the end of the programme.
The completion of a final project will boost confidence, and consolidate animation skills. In this way, with the addition of classes on self-promotion (around the creation of a promotional pack, plus coaching activities) students will be fully prepared for their entry into the creative industries as a professional animator.
This module enables students to develop an understanding of post-graduate level research through a series of seminars, lectures, and tutorials. The exploration of different topics, contemporary issues, and research methods relevant to the students' discipline, aims to guide the students through their self-directed research to expand their knowledge in specialised areas through in-depth query and analysis. The module presents the students with the opportunity to present their research, ideas, and their identified problem within their discipline and area of interest as their first assignment. This enables students to receive constructive feedback from the lecturers in preparation for their second assignment in which they are required to write their first academic research proposal. This assignment could be tailored for a research project, a PhD, or a conference paper.
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 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 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.
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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.
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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.
Sarah Dargie, Course Director