Art and Visual Culture MA
Alternative attendance modes for this course
View course-specific entry requirements
You should have a good Honours degree (usually 2:1 or above, or equivalent) in a relevant subject area. If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of at least 6.5 with 7.0 in writing (or equivalent). Applicants may also be asked to provide an example of previous written work as part of the application. The University offers pre-sessional summer programmes if you need to improve your English before starting your course.
This multidisciplinary, visual theory-based course is established around the belief that visual literacy and the impact of visual forms of thinking and working now play significant roles in society. The course introduces you to a range of historical and contemporary debates that inform the theories and practice of visual culture, and enables you to develop a conceptual framework within which to evaluate the role of the visual arts, and other forms of visual production, in contemporary society and culture.
You will acquire creative and professional research skills, such as the ability to work from exhibitions, art works and institutional archives, to be able to operate within different artistic and conceptual frameworks.
This Master's balances historical and theoretical debates in the field of visual culture studies with a rigorous interrogation of cultural practices across a range of topics, including: activism and popular politics; contemporary visual arts, capitalism and culture; globalisation and new media technologies; institutions and their archives; and the material culture of the city. The course also draws upon the cultural institutions and intellectual resources of central London, and has established contacts with other galleries and organisations for work placements.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course. For more details on course structure and modules, and how you will be taught and assessed, see the full course document.
This extended piece of research work is an opportunity for you to pursue a topic of individual interest, and is conducted through individual study and directed supervision. The module is designed to support and develop your independent research skills.
Visual Culture: Production, Display and Discourse
This module provides a wide-ranging introduction to the history and theory of visual culture by focusing on the production, deployment and discourses of art, particularly as these are theorised in the writings of artists themselves. Philosophical, aesthetic and theoretical perspectives are used to explore vision as a social and cultural process, and the circulation of art as a social, cultural and political process.
Visual Culture: Theoretical and Critical Perspectives
This module introduces you to the theoretical debates that have contributed to the field of visual culture studies, including consideration of the politics of representation, the reproduction of images, subjectivity and the body, new media, globalisation, and the discourse of the ‘other’. You will also focus on an examination of the ways that theories and objects may emerge through and conflict with each other.
Choose four from:
Capitalism and Culture
Beginning with Marx’s famous account of the commodity in the first chapter of Capital, this module explores a range of theoretical accounts of capitalism and examines their significance to the analysis of different cultural forms, including film, literature, and the contemporary visual arts. In doing so, you will consider changing conceptions of ‘culture’ itself, and its varying relations to ideas of art, modernity, production, the mass, autonomy, spectacle, and the culture industry.
Engaging the Archive
Through workshops and seminars, this module introduces you to practical and theoretical issues of using archives for the purposes of research or exhibition. With privileged access to the unique collections of the University of Westminster Archive, the module will enable you to examine: the principles of archival practice; how context, authorship, intentionality and audience participate in the construction of meanings of archive documents; the politics of the archive, including curatorial and artistic intervention, and the creation of alternative histories; the impact of digitisation, and issues of copyright and authorship.
This module will look at different curatorial strategies that organisations use, from group shows around a specific theme to solo artist's exhibitions, from historical shows to contemporary work, from traditional printed photographs hung in frames to art made for public spaces. It examines how exhibiting the digital image, on-line or as a networked image, presents many different concerns as well as opportunities.
Galleries and spaces studied on the module include The Photographers' Gallery, which is one of the first public galleries in the world dedicated to exhibiting photography as art, the Victoria and Albert Museum which was one of the first museums to ever collect photography and therefore has an unrivalled collection representing the history of photography, the Science Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
This module studies the ways that various forms of space are used in cultural life, and how they are represented visually, from architectural spaces, urban spaces, public and private spaces, inhabited and non-inhabited spaces to virtual spaces. The module examines relationships between space and place in order to explore how cultural forms are located in, and productive of, space. The module also includes a range of site visits.
Representing World Cultures
This module examines the issues and practices involved in presenting non-western cultures to a diverse audience through visual practices. You will look at how representation produces meaning, and consider the main frameworks that can help you understand how cultures are represented in a range of contexts. Key issues explored include: postcolonialism; globalisation; the relationship between photography and ideology; the ethics of representation; the birth of the museum; contemporary roles of western cultural institutions; and audiences as citizens and consumers. The module is run through seminars and workshops in London museums and archives.
Using a range of theoretical, historical, literary, cinematic, visual and other cultural texts, you will explore the idea of urban culture as it has developed since the mid-19th century. The module considers a variety of different representations of the city, and the ways in which they understand the specificity of urban experience itself. You will also explore the changing global forms and interrelations of ‘western’ and ‘non-western’ urban forms.
Work Placements in Cultural Institutions
This module aims to enable students to gain first-hand experience of working within a context relevant to their career objectives; to enhance the opportunities for translating theoretical and practical knowledge into professional skills and to encourage students to make beneficial connections within a professional context.
Graduates will be equipped for roles in the creative industries, including museum and gallery work, education, arts administration and marketing, or could pursue further study to PhD level. The course is also suitable for practising artists wishing to further their research.
Additional costs information
To check what your tuition fees cover and what you may need to pay for separately, see our What tuition fees cover page.
The MA in Art and Visual Culture prepares students for careers in the art and cultural sector as well as academia. The combination of seminars, workshops and field trips that the course offers equips students with sophisticated critical thinking skills as well as practical knowledge of how the cultural sector operates. As a result, many of our students have gone on to pursue successful careers as curators, artists, cultural consultants, events and communications managers, media arts project managers, editors and public relations specialists.
Many others have gone on to MPhil/PhD study in fields such as art history and visual culture, cultural studies and media. As part of the course students have an opportunity to take a work experience module, which involves placements in art and cultural institutions in London and a chance to build a career profile. We work with the university careers office to help students prepare for entering the job market.
Study in the city
If you study at the University of Westminster, everything that London has to offer is on your doorstep.
Our central London campuses are ideally located for the city's fantastic learning institutions including libraries, archives and museums, as well as opportunities for shopping, eating out, enjoying London's nightlife or just simply relaxing.
After choosing your course, one of your biggest decisions will be where to live, and we aim to make that choice as easy as possible. Whether you want to apply for our Halls of Residence or live in private housing, we can help you to find the right accommodation.
Fees, funding, bursaries and scholarships
In recent years the University of Westminster's scholarship scheme has been the largest university scholarships scheme in the UK, and our Scholarships Department won the Times Higher Education inaugural Award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students.
All students on courses of a year or more and who are registered for more than three modules will be allocated a personal tutor.
Your personal tutor will be there to support you from induction onwards, helping you to integrate into the University, academically and socially, at an early stage. They will be able to give you advice and support on academic and personal matters affecting your study, as well as developmental advice through regular individual and group tutorials.
Polylang is a University-wide programme through which you can study a language as a free choice module.
Personal advice and counselling
While most students overcome any problems with help from friends, family or a personal tutor, the University's free counselling and advice services are there if you need them.
With one of the UK's largest international student populations, the University of Westminster has plenty of experience in giving you the help and support you need to make the most of your time with us.
Study Abroad and Summer School programmes
Westminster's Study Abroad programme has been running for more than 15 years, and is one of the largest in the UK – each year we welcome hundreds of visiting students from universities all over the world.
If you are already studying outside the UK, the programme offers you the opportunity to study with us for one or two semesters, or for a period in the summer.
Sport and recreation
The University has extensive sport and recreation facilities, with a sports hall and gym at Harrow, a state-of-the-art gym at Regent Campus, and the University sports ground by the River Thames at Chiswick.
University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU) aims to make sure you have the best university experience possible by providing a range of activities and support, from sports clubs to society groups, educational advice and social events.
“Studying on the Art and Visual Culture MA at Westminster was a thoroughly rewarding experience. The course's modules were structured extremely well, enabling me to establish strong understandings of key theoretical concepts and texts in order to engage in pertinent debates about contemporary culture.
"I would highly recommend the MA to anyone who has an innate curiosity about the world we live in. You will not only be taught by knowledgeable, energetic tutors, but will have many thought-provoking conversations with a culturally diverse mix of fellow students. I can genuinely say I didn't want the course to end!”
Verónica Posada Álvarez
“During my year on the Art and Visual Culture MA, I gained critical thinking skills for the analysis of contemporary social and political issues through the investigation of culture. Moreover, living, working and studying enriched my experience as an international student.
"I have met incredible academics and fellow students at the English, Linguistics and Cultural Studies department, who gave me an opportunity to see the world from another perspective. Indeed, with the knowledge and skills that I obtained doing my Masters, I hope to keep contributing to the production of knowledge about Latin Americans in the UK.”
“As a student who does not have a former background in art or cultural studies, my own interests have been fully encouraged in the open-minded environment here and I felt guided and supported.
Academics and students from all around the world have inspired me to question critically, to practice creatively, and to research comprehensively.”
"I decided to return to university and study for a Masters as I felt a need to better understand the increasingly complex society we live in and explore my interest in art. I hoped to marry a better understanding of contemporary visual culture with an increased confidence in engaging with current debates to take me to the next step in my career.
"At Westminster, I was able to work interdisciplinarily, supported by enthusiastic tutors and developing my interests in human and animal studies and art and representational practises. The programme offered me a grounding in critical theory and philosophy, both current and historical, which has given me a strong foundation from which to examine Art and Visual Culture. I am confident it will prove a useful springboard to future learning and my career."
"After a few years of working in the creative industry, the Art and Visual Culture MA gave me the theoretical depth I was missing. The interdisciplinary design of the program covered a range of my interest fields - from contemporary art and literature to urban and digital culture. I now pursue a career in cultural insight and innovation research."
Visual Culture - why Westminster?
Social Sciences and Humanities
We offer an exciting breadth of activity across the Social Sciences, Law and the Arts and Humanities. We are one of the country's biggest providers of Modern and Applied Language tuition.