MA Documentary Photography

The University is world-renowned for the study of Documentary Photography and our alumni are extremely well regarded within the photographic community, winning awards, exhibitions and book publishing deals. With a focus on real-world engagement with social and political issues, this distinctive MA offers an exploratory and lively engagement with the subject. It is characterised by an expansive understanding of photography, encompassing networked imagery, data, archival material, audio and moving image.

You will predominantly study online with the option of having a more flexible and blended approach that includes access to facilities at the University of South Wales. There will be optional workshops and masterclasses both on campus in Wales and internationally. Peer to peer learning and networking will form an important component of the course.

You will be taught by experts in the field of photography and engage with international visiting speakers and our cohort of scholars undertaking PhDs in photography as part of our European Centre for Documentary Research (ECDR).

The aim is to develop a strong, expansive and sustainable documentary practice that unites rigorous critical thinking with a body of work that you can confidently exhibit and publish. The MA will provide a strong foundation for developing a career as an independent documentary practitioner within the photographic industry.

This course places an emphasis on the philosophical and theoretical implications of photography, as we believe it is important to help contextualise practice and enable clear communication to a variety of audiences.

Follow us on Instagram: MADocPhotoUSW

Follow us on Facebook: MADocPhotoUSW

Page image banner: ©Pedro Freitas Silva

2020/21 update: Blended learning approach for USW courses.

[Update excludes online-only courses].

The wellbeing and health and safety of our students and staff is paramount to us. We are committed to delivering all of our courses and services as safely as possible. Due to the pandemic, the methods and activities adopted for the coming year may differ from those previously published and may be subject to further change through the course of your study if such change is necessary due to public health concerns, health and safety guidance or in response to Government Guidelines. USW is committed to providing you with a fantastic student experience and a wealth of support, and you can hear how students have benefitted from this approach here: Learn more about blended learning.

Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
Full-time 1 Year September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B
Part-time 2 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B
Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
Full-time 1 Year September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B
Part-time 2 Years September Cardiff (ATRiuM) B

The MA in Documentary Photography course is available for part-time study, one to two days per week over two years. We believe that you need two years to fully understand your practice and to complete a long term project which you will complete during the modules.

The introductory modules are shaped around a lecture programme that covers the critical issues of contemporary photographic practice, and a seminar programme in which you will develop new ways of looking at your own practice alongside technical workshops delivered using up to date equipment.  

The final modules are structured to enable you to fully realise your ambitions for your work. A lecture programme and regular contact with teaching staff, along with seminars from visiting fellows and prominent practitioners, will assist you towards the production of a significant body of new work along with a key situating text. You are encouraged to develop the final production of the work in the form that is most relevant to the work such as exhibition, book dummy and website.

Study online.

No need to relocate, take a career break or apply for a visa. Study alongside and network with other students from around the world. All assessments are taken and submitted online and assessed by world-class academics. You will be able to complete the programme entirely online, without attending any of the workshops or masterclasses.

Access to facilities.

Optional access to facilities. This will be of benefit for ‘Home ‘ students and will include access to printing facilities, processing of film, scanning and access to our technicians.

Biannual masterclasses.

Optional opportunities at residential workshops with lecturers, fellow students and industry specialists, held either at Cardiff or other International locations.

Flexible and blended.

Learn flexibly from home, the workplace or on the move anywhere in the world. Accessing recorded, online material at any time.


Module structure

1.Reviewing Practice

During this introductory module you will explore distinct areas of contemporary photography while reviewing and reflecting on your own and fellow students’ work in progress.

2. Research and Practice in the Creative and Cultural Industries

This module seeks to explore, discuss and debate ideas, issues and practices in the creative and cultural industries. Through negotiation, you will develop a proposal for new work that will form the framework for further projects.

3. Researching Photography

An understanding of the history and theory of photography is pivotal to post graduate studies as is the ability of students to contextualise their work. This module will facilitate that process by exposing the student to a broad range of material from a diverse area of photographic and artistic environments.

4. Defining Practice

During this module you will continue to explore distinct areas of contemporary photography as a way to define your practice. There will be a focus on understanding the importance of collaborative practices.

 5. Professional Contexts

An outward facing module focusing on collaboration and connections with industry experts. There is a focus on networking, business practice, networking and the dissemination of work.

 6. Positioning Practice

An understanding of where to ‘position’ your practice is integral to becoming a successful, independent and innovative documentary photographer. During this module there is a focus on the moving image, publications and Webdocs.

 7. The Realised Document

Documentary projects can be seen in a broad range of locations and on multiple platforms. The most successful projects evidence passion, commitment to the topic and innovation in their production and output. The module will concentrate on the realisation of an individual project for assessment at the end of the module and explore the potential outcome of practical work in relation to audience, site and distributional form.

8. Critical Text

At Master’s level, it is expected that students are able to contextualise documentary practice via a written text that addresses the key issues and ideas raised by that practice.


Students will be taught via a range of university-taught modules. During this period you will learn the professional skills required to become a professional practitioner.

Alongside the modules you will undertake workshops with industry experts in moving image, culminating in the production of a short film, Webdoc development and the production of a publication of your own work.


Initially you will be assessed through the production of experimental work-in progress, with fully resolved work expected in later modules. Alongside your work you will be asked to develop a perspective through written texts, placing your work in its photographic and social context.

Qualifications and experience

Normally an Honours degree in a related subject is required. However, if you have solid professional industry experience rather than academic achievement, this may be acceptable for entry to study at this level through a process called Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

Portfolio requirements

Please provide evidence of a website or any other form of digital portfolio within your application. We are looking for an engagement with documentary photography or photojournalism with a particular focus on series of images rather than individual photographs. The portfolio should evidence your interests in documentary photography or photojournalism and demonstrate your desire to study Documentary Photography at Masters level at The University of South Wales.

English language requirements

The course welcomes international applicants and requires an English level of IELTS 6.0 with a minimum of 5.5 in each component or equivalent.

However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English, IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. 

For students not at this level, a range of intensive English courses recognised by UKBA are available at the university. These must be completed prior to entry on the award.

More information on our intensive English courses.

Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course.

August 2021 - July 2022 Fees

  • Full-time UK and EU: TBC

  • Full-time International: TBC

  • Part-time UK and EU: TBC

August 2022 - July 2023 Fees

  • Full-time UK and EU: TBC

  • Full-time International: TBC

  • Part-time UK and EU: TBC

Additional Costs

Students have access to a wide range of resources including textbooks, publications, and computers in the University’s library and via online resources. In most cases they are more than sufficient to complete a course of study. Where there are additional costs, either obligatory or optional, these are detailed below. Of course students may choose to purchase their own additional personal resources/tools over and above those listed to support their studies at their own expense. All stationery and printing costs are at a student’s own expense.



Funding to help pay for/cover tuition fees and living costs

Whilst you’re studying you’ll have two main costs – tuition fees and living costs. You can get a range of funding to help with these costs.

There are a number of ways to fund your postgraduate study. This can be through student finance, bursaries or help from grants, trusts and charities (see Alternative Funding), or a combination of all three.

Click here to find out more about funding your postgraduate tuition fees and living costs.


USW Alumni Postgraduate Discount 

The University of South Wales is offering a 20% reduction in tuition fees for all University of South Wales graduates studying a postgraduate course from September 2021 (this includes students starting their course in January/ February 2022). T's and C's apply.

Click here for more information about the USW Alumni Postgraduate Discount


Please apply through the appropriate USW channels with a portfolio of images that best represent your practice. Ideally these should be formed into a coherent body of work. All applicants are interviewed. However, as places are limited it is advised that you apply early to ensure that you have the best chance in securing a position on the course.

Apply directly to the University for this course.

Apply now 

Admissions statement 

USW's documentary photography masters is particularly popular among those wishing to pursue a career in documentary production and research, photographic exhibition, publishing, teaching or journalism.

Recent graduates have regularly exhibited their work and several now teach in higher education. A number are also undertaking PhD study.

The documentary photography course has an eminent list of alumni now working within the photographic industry, including freelance photographers and those who have set up their own businesses.

Graduates can also progress to a PhD or research degree.

Our Careers and Employability Service

As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.