MA Documentary Photography

The University is world-renowned for the study of Documentary Photography and this distinctive MA offers a contemporary and lively engagement with the subject, ranging from reportage to fine art. You will also engage with international visiting speakers and our cohort of scholars undertaking PhDs in photography as part of our photography research centre.

The MA Documentary Photography course challenges you to explore definitions of Documentary Photography by embracing a wide range of practices, while working through real world engagement with social and political issues.

You will be taught by world-leading photographers, writers and curators through a series of lectures, seminars and technical workshops which will encourage you to develop new ways of thinking about your practice.

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2020/21 update: Blended learning approach for USW 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 to study either full-time or part-time, meeting on one or two days per week. This means it is possible to undertake the course from a distance and alongside existing employment.

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 in’ state of the art’ studios by technical experts.

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: for example, exhibition, book dummy or website. This is a significant step towards moving out into the wider photographic industry.

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 delivered by industry and academic experts from a diverse area of photographic and artistic environments.

4. Positioning Practice:

An understanding of where to ‘position’ your practice is integral to becoming a successful, independent and innovative documentary photographer. During this module, as well as the continued development of your own practice you will acquire additional knowledge on how to best disseminate your projects.  There is a focus on moving image, publications and Webdocs delivered by external industry experts.   

 5. 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/s for assessment at the end of the module and explore the potential outcome of practical work in relation to audience, site and distributional form.

 6. 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, online 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 2020 - July 2021 Fees

  • Full-time UK and EU:  £9000

  • Full-time International:  £14100 

  • Part-time UK and EU:  £1000 per 20 credits

August 2021 - July 2022 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.

In the first instance please applying online with a selection 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.