Master of Architecture
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment
Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment
We are passionate about sharing with our students the vital role they each have now and as future professionals in promoting a sustainable future for all. We believe that sustainability is not the domain of one discipline or profession. It is the responsibility of all disciplines, professions, organisations and individuals.
That is why on each of our courses within the Belfast School of Architecture and the Built Environment you will learn about the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the contribution you can make now, and as a graduate in the Built Environment.
Read the course details below to find out more.
Architecture: The Best of Both Worlds - where science meets art.
The Master in Architecture is delivered as an inter-linked series of studio projects and related studies that lead you towards your final year design thesis. The projects run on a Vertical Studio structure across two semesters also known as the SuperStudio. The Vertical Studio approach is one in which all students are taught together across all year groups in distinctly themed Studios. The resulting cross-cohort model replicates the dynamics, opportunities and challenges inherent in an architectural practice.
The MArch explores architecture that responds to the complex and changing context of architecture and urbanism and the transformations taking place in current society.
The course team of academics, historians, practitioners, advisors, artists and researchers are committed to understanding and documenting our existing built heritage while proposing imaginative and alternative futures in both the urban and rural context that are socially and ecologically responsible.
An important part of this is to address the wider issues facing the profession and in providing a forum to investigate, challenge preconceptions, explore and fully engage the role of the architect in society.
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A CONTINUOUS JOURNEY
All the project work in the studio, and all the complementary academic work -such as the dissertation- are central to the holistic and integrated approach of the MArch. Students will be expected to relate and connect what they do across the different aspects of the course, which satisfies not only the Learning Outcomes and ARB/RIBA criteria, but which comes together in your own unique academic portfolio to showcase your ideas, knowledge and skills.
Year 1 of the MArch explores wider issues of architecture and how architectural thinking can be applied to a range of societal contexts. This is to widen the students perceptions, broaden debate and to consider issues at a wider scale than just individual buildings.
The overall intention of Year 1 is to progress from discussing wider global architectural issues to then progressively focus on a very particular context where you can explore different interpretations of what architecture means, before developing individual proposals based on rigorous investigation and research. The student will be required to compile their research and to share insights in a collaborative way.
Year 1 students will build on this exercise by undertaking an international study-trip to further inform your understanding of current issues and the relationship between project ideas and the urban/social context of the city in question. MArch students have previously investigated cities such as Boston, Berlin, Paris, Venice and Barcelona.
Year 2 of the MArch begins by exploring architectural ideas in a more oblique way than just starting a design thesis with a site and brief. These explorations will allow the student to cultivate potential ideas and research for their thesis project in a less linear way and which aims to enable them to position themselves relative to the wider culture and debates at an advanced level in the discipline of architecture.
These initial ‘conversations’ begin to open up debates and to focus on the value of individual positions, perceptions and narratives that are communicated through research-led making and drawing. Students are encouraged to experience a range of possibilities beyond the preconceptions of typical approaches to site analysis within the vertical studios.
After a series of initial projects, students move into the major work of the year – the thesis project. Thesis design documents are given out to act as a guide to enable the student to identify firstly what your project will be and to structure the shifting emphasis of the year from initial concepts and research through to a fully developed building design that is technically and poetically resolved.
The final year design thesis projects are all deliberately located in Belfast, to engage the city the School is rooted in. This allows a unique type of engagement with current issues and the changing urban nature of Belfast. This ‘city conversation’ is encouraged to highlight social needs, and urban aspirations in a city with such historically divided communities and social tensions. Projects can work in adjacent locations to build up an urban dialogue and aim to understand the different aspects and locations of the city. At the end of the year the projects are placed collectively on a city construct that show how they engage the overall city.
In combination with and alongside the vertical studio the Dissertation offers the student the opportunity to explore through personal research a specific theme, question or interest. This may relate (where possible) to the student's design thesis so as to allow consolidation of enquiry and effort and critical mass of exploration, but they can also make this an independent study if desired.
Students have the option to select a combination of text with another media output -such as objects, drawings, film, etc- as an alternative to the 10 000 word submission. This allows a material/media exploration that is possible within the Art School context.
The Master of Architecture is a full-time course based at the Belfast School of Architecture which is located on the Ulster University Belfast campus. You are normally expected to be in attendance Monday - Friday.
A typical week on the MArch includes time in the design studio and in tutorials, seminars and lectures.
The Master of Architecture programme uses a full range of teaching and learning scenarios. There are two main learning activities: Taught Study and Self-Directed Study
Taught studies include such activities as reviews (reviews of work, sometimes known in architecture as crits/critiques), tutorials (individual and group), seminars (staff and student led), workshops and demonstrations.
Self-directed study is carried out within the module timetable but without time-tabled staff contact. You are expected to carry out such activities as ideas development, research, designing, drawing, reading, writing etc.
It is central to the pedagogy of architectural education at Ulster that each student has dedicated studio space.
Group Reviews (crits / critiques):Reviews are held within design studio modules and are used to review work to-date. Students and staff discuss the work and ideas in a constructive and critical way. This interaction aims to improve communication skills and helps to develop critical reflection and the application of judgement to students’ work and that of their peers. It also allows students to check the progress within the module.
Tutorials (individual and group):Tutorials take place during studio projects. The teaching methods encourage you to adopt a knowledge seeking attitude, to build up confidence in your own ability to learn and to make reasoned judgments based on available evidence. In a number of modules the cascade model of Peer Tutoring is used whereby the more able members of the class assist those of lower ability levels. Students may be less inhibited in discussing difficulties with their peers than with their teaching staff. Tutorial sessions aim to check your achievement and progress. You are asked to prepare questions and issues related to your work before the tutorial and note down any suggestions made by the tutor(s) or your peers. Students can expect different options and viewpoints if two or more tutors are involved and particularly if it is a group tutorial with other students. The discussion should help you highlight your strengths and weaknesses so you can plan future action for improvement. The breadth of opinion will also help you to confirm and form your own personal direction as designers.
Seminars (staff and student-led):Seminars are a structured discussion between a group of students and a member of staff. The seminar is usually based upon a topic that has been previously prepared and circulated. The discussion can be staff or student-led and can be an assessable component of a module (self and/or peer assessment may be used). You are asked to prepare some questions or issues you wish to be considered by the other participants before the seminar takes place. You can also expect to prepare presentations for a seminar.
Lectures:Lectures are normally occasions where a member of staff or invited guest will speak on a particular subject to groups of students. A lecture is a means of communicating information. It helps in the understanding of concepts, theories and techniques. A lecture in the MArch is not a primary information source but an opportunity to show how arguments and explanations work, how to apply techniques and to hear the language of the subject. The use of aids, such as video presentations and computer data projection may be used to augment these presentation techniques. Presentations from guest lecturers, particularly from practicing professionals will enhance the student learning experience. Lecturers’ handouts may provide supporting materials that can be typically downloaded via the University’s web server or network.
Workshops and Laboratory Work:Workshops are typically organized for a max of 20 students. They are designed not only to disseminate information on a process or skill, but also to give you an opportunity to practice or further develop that process/skill. The use of laboratory work will be aimed at developing a sense of enquiry in students, a comprehension of the diverse nature of the construction and property industries and a spirit of achievement and originality. Laboratory work will support lecture content, emphasise safe working practices, investigative techniques and interpretation of results. Experimental work will relate more to practice and problem solving. In addition the laboratory-based environment is more supportive of group work and peer learning strategies, which are seen as valuable adjuncts to the teaching process.
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 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.
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 (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 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.
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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 introduces architecture students to the most current preoccupations within architecture, landscape architecture and urban design, and thereby enables them to participate in current debates and define their own area of interest. The module enables the student to define their own particular area of research interest and allows for the theme and structure for the dissertation and thesis projects to emerge and for them to be critically supported.
This module is designed to equip students with the necessary skills that are required for the undertaking of the design thesis in Year 2 and to foster a deeper architectural discourse for those returning from Part I experience. Students will undertake a series of exploratory investigations through which they will research, develop, test and articulate their own emerging architectural standpoint. Studio investigations will be centred on the architectural research, scholarship and practice currently being undertaken by architectural staff and encourage students to develop critical reading and debate skills, graphic skills and innovative, imaginative and radical approaches to design and its representation.
The craft of making buildings is central to the work of an architect. The knowledge of structural systems and choices for building, the understanding of material quality and the technical details of environmental design, energy conservation and use, weathering, acoustics and building performance framed by a sustainability agenda within an overall approach to architectural tectonics is the proper work of architecture. Together industry and buildings are typically responsible for up to 50% of a country's energy use. Energy efficiency is one of the main strategies which should be considered when attempting to preserve existing energy resources and reducing environmental impact.
All of that is, of course, necessary and urgent to address…but, what are the processes and tools that might empower ordinary citizens to make real change in their neighbourhoods and cities? What might be the first steps in the curving, looping, muck-shifting world of making buildings in a real place?
This module will demonstrate the ability to self define a research led design thesis of suitable complexity and originality, and which is informed by the application of advanced subject knowledge. It will evidence through the Academic Portfolio the ability to carry out relevant independent research, explore alternative design strategies, critically appraise and reflect on working methods and practices, and communicate these ideas using a comprehensive range of visual, oral and written media.
This module culminates in the achievement of the written dissertation. In this module the student will demonstrate a critical understanding of how a new contribution to knowledge is made through research. The dissertation will reflect the student's own particular theoretical interest in architecture or related subject areas and will be original, rigorously developed and clearly argued and presented.
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 have an undergraduate architecture degree giving exemption from the RIBA/ARB Part 1.
Applicants must hold a degree with at least 2:2 honours or equivalent.
Applicants should demonstrate a critical awareness of the profession and the discipline of architecture. Such is typically demonstrated (but not exclusively) through experience in architectural practice in accordance with RIBA/ARB regulations for practical training.
Applicants will be asked to submit an architectural design portfolio to support their application and may be invited for interview.
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.
International applicants should note that if they wish to undertake Part 3 (to lead to ARB registration as an architect and as an RIBA chartered architect) they must be successful in an application to ARB for their first architecture degree to be assessed by ARB as satisfying Part 1.
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Graduates from this course are now working for:
With this degree you could become:
MArch graduates from Ulster Unversity are working in many different practices both nationally and internationally on a range of exciting building and urban projects.
The knowledge gained during this professional degree (i.e. RIBA Part II) will not only support a wide range of employment opportunities in architecture practices, urban design bodies, architecture conservation organisations, and many governmental and private relevant institutions but also facilitate the route to a PhD level research.
Accredited by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) for the purpose of a Part 2 qualification.
Validated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at Part 2 level for the purpose of eligibility for membership of the RIBA.
There are several awards and prizes associated with the Masters in Architecture course:
ARD Mackel Prize
White Ink ‘Smart Thinking Award’
Specialist Joinery Awards
RSUA President’s Medal Awards
There will be additional costs associated with the course including purchase of drawing and modeling materials and associated equipment.
Each year in Semester 1 there is a School study trip to a destination outside of the UK and Ireland. Biennially this is a visit to the Venice Biennale with alternate years including cities such as Paris and Bilbao. The trip is self-funded by the student. Whilst it is not mandatory for students to attend it is encouraged as part of their wider educational experience.
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.
See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.
Mrs Helen Dowie, Course Administrator
Dr Martina Murphy, Course Director
Admissions Contact: Fiona Murphy
"My time as a MArch student at Ulster was a challenging and worthwhile experience. Through it I developed ideas, met great people and made fond memories on my architectural journey."
Kevin McPeake (MArch Graduate 2019)