User Experience and Service Design - MA

2025/26 Full-time Postgraduate course

Award:

Master of Arts

Faculty:

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School:

Belfast School of Art

Campus:

Belfast campus

Start date:

September 2025

Overview

Master the art of user experience and service design to create solutions that shape the future of user-centric experiences.

Summary

Imagine a world where every interaction with a digital product or service is seamless, intuitive, and delightful. The MDes User Experience and Service Design course is your gateway to mastering the art of creating exceptional user experiences across various digital platforms and services.

On the course you will dive deep into understanding user behaviour, designing content that captivates, and crafting services that exceed expectations. Through a blend of theory and hands-on practice, you will learn to use design thinking as a powerful tool to solve complex problems.

From wireframing to prototyping, you will have the opportunity to both develop and hone your skills in translating ideas into tangible solutions. In addition, you will explore the intricate relationship between technology and psychology, ensuring that every touchpoint resonates with users on a deep level.

What sets our program apart is its focus on real-world applications. Collaborating with industry partners, you can tackle authentic challenges, gaining invaluable experience that transcends the classroom.

The course is run by seasoned professionals and supported by industry professionals who are ready to guide you towards becoming visionaries in user-centric design and research.

By the end of this journey, you will emerge not just as a designer or researcher, but as a strategic thinker who can shape the future of digital experiences and services. Join us at Ulster University and embark on a transformative adventure where creativity meets functionality, and where your passion for design and research finds its true purpose.

Through ongoing development during the course, students are able to identify themselves with a variety of outcomes:

Become a Designer – Thrive as part of in-house or agency teams or as a self-employed creative.

Pursue Design Research – Join in-house or agency teams, or lead academic research as a PhD student.

Emerge as a Designer Leader – Propel your career towards business leadership or strategic thinking in the creative industries.

The MDes in User Experience and Service Design equips graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to excel in these roles. The program emphasises practical learning, collaboration with industry partners, and a research-focused approach that prepares students for the dynamic design and research field. Graduates benefit from cutting-edge thinking, practice-led learning, and exposure to diverse perspectives that enhance their employability in high-demand areas of design and research.

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.

About this course

About

Unlock the power of user-centric design and transform the way you approach problem-solving. The User Experience and Service Design MA at Ulster University equips you with the skills to create exceptional digital experiences that captivate audiences and drive business success.

Immerse yourself in the latest design methodologies, from user research and prototyping to service blueprinting and design thinking. Develop a deep understanding of human behaviour and learn to craft seamless, intuitive experiences that delight users at every touchpoint

In today's fast-paced, technology-driven world, exceptional user experience is the key to standing out from the crowd.

This course will give you the cutting-edge expertise to design innovative solutions that solve real-world problems and position you as a sought-after talent in the creative industries

Whether you aspire to lead in-house design teams, spearhead agency projects, or embark on an entrepreneurial journey, this program will equip you with the strategic thinking and design leadership skills to make a lasting impact

Become a driving force in shaping the future of customer-centric experiences.

Semester 1

Exploration and Enquiry (40 credits)

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 fields. The module combines presentations from professionals and researchers that provide a forum for peer discussion and debate.

The module cultivates self-directed, practice-led research and fosters sustainable, critical engagement with your creative work. It provides opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge and to consider initiating interdisciplinary or strategic partnerships.

Design Thinking (20 credits)

The Design Thinking module enables students to develop an understanding of user needs and challenge existing approaches through independent, innovative and disruptive thinking. This module will challenge students to question: the problem, assumptions, and implications, of their project work, allowing deeper investigation and critical evaluation of knowledge and understanding of the wider theoretical development of design as a discipline.

Semester 2

Specialist Skills Development (40 credits)

With a focus on theory and practical applications, students will expand their knowledge, and develop strategies and research methods for problem-solving, opportunity identification, innovation framing, prototyping, and testing. The module includes a concentrated period of practical research and peer critique, challenging students to explore contemporary issues and design solutions for social impact. It also prepares students to produce a practice-led and critically sound project proposal that generates the foundation for their Master's Projects.

Students will choose to study one of the following during the second semester

Design Futures (20 credits)

This module aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of design in the 21st century. From artificial intelligence and machine learning to sustainability concerns, designers face numerous and complex challenges. Through lectures, workshops, and research, students will learn about the latest developments in AI and other emerging technologies and how to apply them in the context of user experience and service design. By combining cutting-edge technology with a deep understanding of social and ethical implications, students will be equipped to create sustainable, ethical, and socially responsible products and services that make a positive impact on the world.

Creative Entrepreneurship (20 credits)

This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the role business plays within the creative industries. By focusing on developing students' entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship awareness, it seeks to ensure that they are equipped with the skills needed to establish sustainable creative practices.

Semester 3

Master’s Project (60 credits)

The Master’s Project provides students with 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 user experience, 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. 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.

Attendance

MDes User Experience and Service Design is delivered in full-time mode, taught over one year, and in a part-time mode over three years.Students can leave with a Postgraduate Diploma after completing the first four modules. 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.

Start dates

  • September 2025

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Attendance and Independent Study

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:

  • 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, 20, or 40 credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate courses 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. Teaching and learning activities will be in-person and/or online depending on the nature of the course. 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

    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 assessments. This feedback may be issued individually and/or issued to the group and you will be encouraged to act on this feedback for your own development.

    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, the assessment timetable and the assessment brief. 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. The module pass mark for undergraduate courses is 40%. The module pass mark for postgraduate courses is 50%.

  • 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 Masters degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

    Figures from the academic year 2022-2023.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 60% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (19%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (22%) 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 and learning support staff (85%) are recognised as fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) by Advance 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 from the academic year 2022-2023.

Belfast campus

Accommodation

High quality apartment living in Belfast city centre adjacent to the university campus.

Find out more - information about accommodation (Opens in a new window)  


Student Wellbeing

At Student Wellbeing we provide many services to help students through their time at Ulster University.

Find out more - information about student wellbeing (Opens in a new window)  

Modules

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.

In this section

Year one

Design Thinking

Year: 1

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.

Development Specialist Group Studio

Year: 1

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.

Exploration and Enquiry: Principles, Strategies and Tactics

Year: 1

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.

Creative Entrepreneurship

Year: 1

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

Masters Project

Year: 1

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.

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.

Entry Requirements

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 represent 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

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 and transferability

Exemptions will be considered on an individual basis.

Careers & opportunities

In this section

Career options

Graduates have an increasingly wide array of career options available, including User Experience Designer, User Experience Researcher, User Experience Design Researcher, Service Designer, Design Researcher, Digital Product Designer, Interaction Designer, and Strategic Designer.

In addition to working for design consultancies, graduates can find themselves working in a wide range of sectors including, financial technology, cybersecurity, healthcare, and public and private services.

Our course includes industry collaborations allowing regular access to local and international practitioners and design leaders. Visiting professionals have included designers and researchers from BBC, Google, Deloitte Digital, IDEO, Kainos, and many more.

Apply

Start dates

  • September 2025

Fees and funding

2025/26 Fees

Postgraduate fees are subject to annual review, 2025/26 fees will be announced in due course.

See our tuition fees page for the current fees for 2024/25 entry.

Scholarships, awards and prizes

Our students and graduates have been the recipients of many national and international awards and prizes.

Information on International Scholarships can be found at:

https://www.ulster.ac.uk/international/apply/scholarships/international-postgraduate-scholarship

Information on postgraduate fees, loans and awards ,including [alumni discounts] can be found at:

https://www.ulster.ac.uk/apply/fees-and-finance/postgraduate

Additional mandatory costs

Students purchase materials for their own coursework. 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.

See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up-to-date 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.

See the tuition fees on our student guide for most up to date costs.

Contact

We’d love to hear from you!

We know that choosing to study at university is a big decision, and you may not always be able to find the information you need online.

Please contact Ulster University with any queries or questions you might have about:

  • Course specific information
  • Fees and Finance
  • Admissions

For any queries regarding getting help with your application, please select Admissions in the drop down below.

For queries related to course content, including modules and placements, please select Course specific information.

We look forward to hearing from you.


For more information visit

Disclaimer

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Testimonials

"The User Experience and Service Design course at Ulster was the best decision I have made regarding my education. With real-world, practical experience, along with multiple opportunities for collaboration with industry professionals, I was able to step into the world of UX with a rounded and developed understanding of the industry. The lecturers within the course combined an understanding of previous education from multiple backgrounds with an introduction to new principles and industry standards, meaning regardless of your background, this course would benefit you.

Being able to take the skills from the course and apply them to my work has allowed me to secure a UX job within six months of graduating. Continuous development enables students to excel in fields like UX and service design by providing a comprehensive understanding of current industry standards and practices. This, along with the social connections created in the course with other students, lecturers, and companies, creates a priceless experience that I would recommend to anyone interested in UX, UI, and service design."

—Megan McCorry, UX Content Designer, Rapid7

"I have truly enjoyed my experience studying the UX and Service Design course at Ulster University. The program's emphasis on project-based learning has allowed me to gain valuable practical skills and immediately apply the knowledge acquired in real-world scenarios all while fostering a sense of ownership, leadership and collaboration working in teams.

I have also been genuinely impressed by the unwavering support and accessibility of tutors and professors. Their eagerness to assist students with any challenges or inquiries is truly commendable and plays a vital role in personal and academic growth. Overall, the program has been truly enlightening, and I am grateful for the invaluable experience."
Rachael Aluko, 2023 graduate

“The course provided an excellent introduction to UX and Service Design. The emphasis on getting real-world experience by working with real companies and the briefs they provided are fantastic. Also having companies come in and talk about the work they do is really important and sets students up to make connections and find jobs.”
—Diana Hiebert, UX Designer, Inclutech

“Having enjoyed working with the University's Interaction Design programme, we were excited to hear about the MA in UX and Service Design. At Big Motive we recognise the significant value this course can play in providing the talent pool needed to improve the vital systems and services that a thriving society depends on. We jumped at the chance to lead a live project and were blown away by the student's ability to apply their learning and experience to a complex service challenge in the public health space. We were thrilled with the creativity, thinking and output from the student teams and look forward to supporting the programme again next year."

—Damian Cranney, CEO, Big Motive