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Materials, Anthropology and Design - MA

Course Description

The MA is for people with a personal passion for material culture, materials innovations, crafts, designs, heritage, and the cultural issues which they present. Some are social scientists rethinking the engagement of anthropology, ethnography and material culture; others are designers or makers exploring cultural and social issues.

Degree information

Students will study anthropological and material culture theory, apply social science and ethnographic methodologies to the problems of design, explore the technical, aesthetic and symbolic properties of materials, and examine how these interact with production technologies and consumption choices. They will develop understanding of how working with materials, crafts, and design helps us to rethink, understand, and critique socio-cultural issues in ways beyond other disciplines, and in cutting-edge anthropological ways.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of one core module (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits), a departmental seminar series and a research dissertation (90 credits).

Core modules
-Materials, Anthropology and Design

Optional modules
-Anthropology of the Built Environment
-Anthropology of Art and Design
-Mass Consumption and Design
-Anthropology of Cultural Heritage and Museum Anthropology
-Social Construction of Landscape
-Ethnographic Film
-Archaeobotanical Analysis in Practice
-Archaeometallurgy 1: Mining and Extractive Technology
-Archaeometallurgy 2: Metallic Artefacts
-Archaeological Glass and Glazes
-Interpreting Pottery
-Lithic Analysis
-Archaelogical Ceramics and Plaster
-Issues in Conservation: Understanding Objects

All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a dissertation of 15,000 words.

Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials. Several courses entail practical instruction, including visits to product design companies and trade fairs; archaeological field sites; Kew Botanical Archive and the British Museum. Assessment is through unseen examination, long essays, research methodology project and the dissertation.


The unique combination of scientific and social science training offers students career pathways in a range of areas including:
-Design research
-Design consultancy and policy
-Heritage and museums
-Materials consultancy: advising industry on different materials, old and new, and their technical and aesthetic properties
-Product marketing
-Fashion marketing and buying
-Academia (PhDs, lecturing)

In addition to analytic and ethnographic skills honed by the core academic training, graduates develop a solid grounding in materials and design literacy, communication and interpersonal skills, new ways of thinking about culture and society and presentational and studio groupwork skills.

Why study this degree at UCL?

UCL is a world leader in anthropological work, specialising in material culture, and also a pan-disciplinary leader in materials innovation and making. This MSc is the only specific design anthropology programme with a material culture emphasis, and the only one dedicated to seriously exploring materials and making in cultural terms.

The programme involves interdisciplinary engagements in: looking at materials expertise across London through visits to makespaces and materials libraries; a project for an external design client (in commerce, heritage, or the third sector); weekly high-profile academic speakers on material culture; and optional vocational seminars in spring. In some years we facilitate participation in conferences or workshops abroad.

UCL is located in central London, within walking distance to the British Museum and the British Library. UCL's own museums and collections form a resource of international importance for academic research.

Visit the Materials, Anthropology and Design - MA page on the University College London website for more details!

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Student Profiles

Entry Requirements

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

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