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Postgraduate study
Visual Communication (with Advanced Practice)

Visual Communication (with Advanced Practice) MA

The MA Visual Communication course focuses on communicating small and big data in visual ways – graphic design, visual communications, and infographics.


Course overview


This specialist programme reflects the dynamic contemporary practices within the creative industries. It stimulates you to create challenging solutions to real-world design issues to create innovators and leaders in the field of visual communication. You identify the key transferable skills to help you create or respond to career opportunities or undertake further research.

You consider branding, graphic design, illustration, marketing, user experience, new media and future technologies – exploring and visually representing important information. You explore scenario building, fore sighting and future proofing as important factors in establishing the direction of your work and potential developments in design, communication and cultural industries.This course prepares you, as a creative individual, for professional practice in developing new business ideas, products, systems and artefacts. And it provides a stimulating environment to support high-level enquiry into emerging and future aspects of creative practice, through individual and collaborative action. You benefit from existing work that staff are doing around interactive technology and social design.The one-year programme is a great option if you want to gain a traditional MSc / MA qualification. The two-year master’s degree with advanced practice enhances your qualification by adding a vocational or research based internship to the one-year master’s programme.A vocational internship is a great way to gain work experience and give your CV a competitive edge. A research internship provides you with the opportunity to develop your analytical, team-working, research and academic skills by working alongside a research team in an academic setting. We guarantee a research internship, but cannot guarantee a vocational internship. We will, however, provide you with practical support and advice on how to find and secure your own vocational internship position should you prefer this type of internship.

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Course details

The programme begins with group research projects, sharing information and references from diverse sources. Collecting and analysing information from a theme of common interest helps to develop your awareness of the subject from multiple perspectives. Stage 1 involves developing your professional skills, ideas, research, project work and provides you with the opportunity for co-working, partnerships and collaborations. Your interests are evaluated for their enterprise potential and innovative outputs are proposed. 

Stage 2 culminates in a feasibility study for a negotiated research project. Stage 3 enhances your learning through practice with the potential to spend one semester working full-time in industry, on a major research project, or studying or working abroad. 

Stage 4 enables you to direct and display your major project work, supported by regular tutorial contact and studio interaction. You show future ambitions and plans for the project including how it may be distributed or realised beyond the University. 

Course structure

Core modules

Critical Thinking and Theoretical Contexts

This module explores and interrogates key concepts and critical thinking in the 21st century. It promotes debate on developing themes within culture and the creative arts in theory and practice.

Through lectures you explore critical thinking and cultural philosophical approaches. Key issues are explored through talking and debating in seminars.

There are two assessments; a 20 minute presentation focusing on cultural theory in relation to your design practice and field of specialism, and a critical report that recognises design practice with respect to cultural and critical theory.

Design Research Methods

You learn a number of research methods and practices in order to carry out primary design research to identify solutions to real-world problems.

You cover investigations into practical design applications, strategic planning and theoretical speculations.

Through seminars you debate and discuss case studies and the practical application of research methods.

You are assessed on your research plan (20%) and a critical analysis of research methods appropriate to your own design practice, identifying how these are implemented within a design problem solving context (80%).

Enterprising Leadership and Project Management

You learn through seminars and student-led group work, with guest speakers providing real-world perspectives and expertise. You are assessed by a group portfolio, demonstrating innovation, inventiveness, an entrepreneurial mindset, leadership, creativity and project management. The portfolio contains a product development report and a group presentation detailing the process and findings.

MA Visual Communication Major Project

You will demonstrate the ability to create challenging solutions to real world design issues and to reveal your potential as an innovator and leader in the field of visual communication. Project work will arise from interests and concerns that have been established and researched, to some extent, but this will be a fresh challenge.

You will produce, direct and display your own visual communication project. The independent work as director gives necessary experience of working in a professional setting. Projects are expected to demonstrate enterprise potential and an understanding of future ideas and innovations. Your work needs to show potential for further extended study or application to visual communications, sensory design, experiential or performative outcomes.

Post Digital Practices

You gain insight of evolving technological developments for the visual communicator and consider self-sustaining and independent working methods. You will work in the context of the latest processes, methods and structures, but also consider and employ traditional practices in the crafting of your work. Contemporary norms and conventions are challenged, so you can produce and distribute your work through extended networks.

Digital skills and knowledge are augmented by the development of artisan batch-production and bespoke communications capabilities. Production and distribution, quantity, the multiple, edition sizes and the dissemination or circulation of visual communications are discussed and evaluated in studio practice.

Specialist Skills for Visual Communication

You will be encouraged to identify strengths, build confidence and assurance in your specialism. Your visual communication skills are then audited, evaluated and developed. Existing capability and established expertise are recognised and used for extending command of processes, materials, devices and applications appropriate to your professional aspirations.

Through a series of challenges, exercises, workshops and tutorials new skills are developed. A learning plan is established to determine skills, processes, materials and methods for your specialist area of interest and to manage your own professional development.

Visual Communication and Creative Direction

You will focus on visual and sensory communication processes and emerging studio practice in the design and art direction of creative project. You will apply communications skills and professional approaches to projects that challenge your capabilities. Independent working in response to a negotiated learning plan leads to design and art direction of projects that can lead to competition entries, client liaison or contribution to staff directed research activity.

Portfolio and studio mentored sessions and seminars engage critical discourse and peer interaction around subjects, themes and issues of common interest relating to current debates and practices. Materials, tools and technologies are explored in response to your own area of interest and in practical skill-sharing sessions and workshops. Evaluation of the most effective business and social media applications will also be recorded at this stage.


Advanced practice (2 year full-time MA only)

Advanced Practice in Science, Engineering and Design

Advanced Practice options

Research Internship: Develop your research and academic skills by undertaking a research internship within the University. Experience working as part of a research team in an academic setting – ideal if you are interested in a career in research or academia.

Vocational Internship: Spend one semester working full-time in industry. We have close links with a variety of local companies who can offer you the chance to develop your knowledge and professional skills in the workplace through an internship. Although we can’t guarantee you an internship, we will provide you with practical support and advice on how to find and secure your own internship position. A vocational internship is a great way to gain work experience and give your CV a competitive edge.


Modules offered may vary.


How you learn

At MA level it is vital that you take an active role in structuring your own learning, and engage with the relevant methods and underpinning theories of your discipline. 

Tutorials, seminars and workshops enable you to apply key learning principles to your day-to-day interactions. Individual support, provided by a personal tutor, is an integral feature of the learning and teaching strategy. 

Research is also an intrinsic part of your study. You need to find and make sense of a wide variety of information from books, newspapers, journals, magazines, websites, archives and many other sources, then analyse and discuss your findings to inform the creative process. Lectures and briefings introduce topics and impart key aspects of disciplinary knowledge, usually to larger groups. 

You develop your practical and professional skills with hands-on experience, informed by subject knowledge and critical understanding. Practical workshops introduce specific skills, followed by independent learning, project work, tutorials and critiques.

Critical reflection is key to all successful problem solving and is essential to the design process. You are expected to test and assess your solutions against design criteria which you develop in the light of your research.

How you are assessed

Your assessments are primarily in-course assessments – you submit work during the module rather than sit timed exams at the end.

Design modules are generally project based and primarily assessed through appraising your portfolio of work, often accompanied by a verbal presentation. Design work is largely developmental and you are assessed on your problem-solving process as well as the result, so it is essential you provide clear evidence of your development work.


Entry requirements

Applicants are normally expected to have at least a 2.2 UK honours degree, or equivalent qualification. A range of degree subjects are acceptable including subjects related to arts, design or other creative discipline. We also consider relevant experience or equivalent qualifications. Applicants may be asked to present a portfolio of work.
Students with a degree awarded outside the UK must also meet the University's minimum English language requirements.

Non-EU international students who need a student visa to study in the UK should check our web pages on UKVI-compliant English language requirements. The University also provides pre-sessional English language courses if you do not meet the minimum English language requirement.

For general information please see our overview of entry requirements

International applicants can find out what qualifications they need by visiting Your Country



Work placement

There may be short-term placement opportunities for some students, particularly during the project phase of the course. 

Career opportunities

When you graduate you have the opportunity to go on to a range of design-related employment, develop new enterprise propositions or receive project funding to take your ideas to market.

You can work across a range of professions within design and the creative industries such as a freelance designer, creative entrepreneur, designer maker or creative director. Further study at doctoral level is also an option.


Information for international applicants


International applicants - find out what qualifications you need by selecting your country below.

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Useful information

Visit our international pages for useful information for non-UK students and applicants.

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Professional accreditation

We are a member of the Association of Illustrators, a professional organisation that supports illustrators at all stages of their careers. You gain access to a wealth of supporting material, a business masterclass each year, discounted portfolio reviews and discounted entry to the World Illustration Awards. Find out more about the Association of Illustrators.


2023/24 entry

Fee for UK applicants
£4,770 a year

More details about our fees

Fee for international applicants
£9,000 a year

More details about our fees for international applicants

  • Length: September enrolment: 20 months. January enrolment: 2 years.
  • Start date: September or January
  • Semester dates

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Telephone: 01642 738801

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Telephone: +44 (0) 1642 738900

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