University of Chester

Programme Specification
Contemporary Photography FDA
2017 - 2018

Foundation Arts Degree

Contemporary Photography

Contemporary Photography (WVR College)

University of Chester

Warrington and Vale Royal College

Warrington and Vale Royal College

Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

2 years

5 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Art and Design

Art & Design, Foundation Degree Qualification Benchmark


Art and Design

Thursday 1st May 2014

The programme aims are to:

  • provide an educational foundation for a range of creative, technical and management careers in Photography
  • provide studies directly relevant to specialist areas of Photography in which students intend to seek employment
  • enable students to make an immediate contribution in employment
  • provide flexibility, knowledge, skills and motivation as a basis for future studies and career development
  • develop students’ ability in photography through effective use and combination of the academic knowledge and practical skills gained in different parts of the programme
  • develop a range of skills and techniques, personal qualities and attitudes essential for successful performance in professional working life.

Students graduating from the programme should have the following attributes, skills and abilities.

FHEQ Level 4

  • Employ both divergent and convergent thinking processes in investigation and enquiry in response to design problems. (AR4210, AR4211).
  • Demonstrate the ability generate ideas, concepts, proposals and arguments independently and or collaboratively (AR4211, AR4215)
  • Respond to briefs creatively demonstrating ability to generate ideas and utilise a range of materials, techniques and processes to realise outcomes. (AR4210, AR4211, AR4212, AR4214).
  • Demonstrate an awareness of historical, contextual, conceptual and ethical dimensions of photography (AR4215)
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the underlying concepts and principles associated with photography.

FHEQ Level 5

  • Respond creatively to  a range of client led briefs demonstrating competence and refinement of a range of photographic skills (AR5215)
  • Research, develop and realise responses to extended assignments (AR5210, AR5214)
  • Demonstrate their ability to undertake a critically informed study of an issue of photographic practice (AR5212).
  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding, both theoretical and practical required to develop photography as a profession (AR5213).
  • Knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles of photography, and of the way in which those principles have developed. 
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the limits of their knowledge and how this influences analysis and interpretation of that knowledge (AR5212)

FHEQ Level 4

  • Be able to evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems related to the study of photography (AR4210, AR4211, AR4212)
  • Be able to communicate the results of their study accurately and reliably, and with structured and coherent arguments (all modules)
  • Demonstrate an ability to present, evaluate, and interpret their own and others work, to develop lines of argument and make sound judgments in accordance with basic theories and concepts of photography (all modules) 

FHEQ Level 5

  • Effectively communicate information, arguments, and analysis, in a variety of forms, to specialist and non-specialist audiences, and deploy key techniques of the discipline effectively (all modules)
  • Ability to apply underlying concepts and principles outside the context in which they were first studied, including, where appropriate, the application of those principles in an employment context (all modules) 
  • Use a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis (AR5210)

Practical and professional skills are embedded throughout the programme 

FHEQ Level 4

  • The ability to experiment and develop competence practical photographic techniques and processes (AR4210, AR4211)
  • The ability to research, assimilate and articulate findings (all modules)
  • Personal reflection and evaluation (AR4210, AR4211, AR4212, AR4214)
  • Students will be able to research, source, select, manage and evaluate information (all modules)

FHEQ Level 5

  • The ability to manage an extended personal project (AR5210, AR5212)
  • The ability to research, experiment and refine practical photographic techniques and processes (AR5210, AR5214, AR5215) 
  • Critical personal reflection (AR5210, AR5214, AR5215)
  • The ability to work within a team (AR5210, AR5214)
  • Formulate an action plan for personal improvement, in the context of their work role and career (AR5213)

Professionalism is central to the educational aims of this programme. Although the programme itself is not directly linked to graduate memberships of professional bodies, the programme through the modules is delivered using best professional practice and current techniques.

 Level 4

Present a structured and coherent simple argument and be able to interpret and evaluate the underlying concepts and principles of the discipline. [All modules]

Level 5

Effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms. [all level 5  modules] 


The Foundation Degree programme is modular and conforms to the nationally recognised credit structure adopted across the university sector.  It comprises 2 levels of study and attainment. At each level, the student must gain 120 credits - that is 240 credits in total for the Foundation Degree.  The Certificate in Higher Education is an exit award for those students who have completed 120 credits at level 4 or above.

The programme conforms to the University Regulations with regard to the maximum length of the study, this being 5 years for the Foundation Degree and 3 years for the Certificate, unless an extension is granted due to illness or mitigating or exceptional circumstances by the Awards Assessment Board.

The programme consists of 11 modules:

Level 4:  There are six modules at Level 4, each at 20 credits.

Level 5: There are five modules at Level 5.  One module AR5210 Specialist Practice is a 40 credit module.

Each 20 credit module has an allocation of 200 notional learning hours.

The mode of study is full-time or part-time, with attendance.   

The course philosophy promotes photography as a dynamic contemporary visual practice that supports a broad range of applications. Students experience an experimental and creative environment in which to produce their work. A wide spectrum of approaches is encouraged - through various forms of subject matter including documentary, conceptual, portraiture and studio-based work. Students are encouraged to develop their own personal style and are helped by a team dedicated to the highest standards of practice. 

The underlying principle of the course is that all images are produced with thought as to their context and capacity to communicate to an audience.

At Level 4 the emphasis will be on the application of knowledge, skills and understanding; use of conventions in the field of study; use of analytical skills and selection and organisation of information. 

At Level 5 the emphasis will be on the application and evaluation of contrasting ideas, principles, theories and practices; greater specialisation in the field by study; and an increasing independence in systematic enquiry and analysis.



Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
AR4210 4 Introduction to Practice 20 Comp
AR4211 4 Exploring Creative Methods 20 Comp
AR4212 4 Presentation / Portfolio 20 Comp
AR4213 4 Industry and Practice 20 Comp
AR4214 4 Digital Foundation 20 Comp
AR4215 4 Historical/Contemporary studies 20 Comp
AR5210 5 Specialist Practice 40 Comp
AR5212 5 Critical Reflection and Research 20 Comp
AR5213 5 Photography as a Profession 20 Comp
AR5214 5 Context and Design 20 Comp
AR5215 5 Communication 20 Comp

  • 120 credits Certificate of Higher Education
  • 240 credits (including 120 at L5) Foundation Arts Degree



UCAS Points Required: 80 points  from Level 3 qualifications
For example: A levels; BTEC Extended Diploma; Access to HE Diploma; NVQ3
In addition, GCSE English at Grade 4/5 or C equivalent is desired or be willing to work towards this qualification

Where possible an academic or vocational reference will be required to ensure suitability for this level of programme. 

Students who do not meet the above admissions requirements will be considered for entry if they can demonstrate that they have relevant vocational experience, motivation and personal qualities appropriate for foundation degree level work.

A significant proportion of applications are received from mature students often returning to education after a significant break. These students who  may not meet the above admissions requirements will be considered for entry if they can demonstrate that they have relevant vocational experience, motivation and personal qualities appropriate for foundation degree level work.

All applicants to the course will be expected to attend an interview with a member of the programme team and present a portfolio of photographic work.

The design and structure of the FdA Contemporary Photography programme reflects the Subject Benchmark for Art & Design 2008, Foundation Degree qualification benchmark 2010 and the Higher Education Qualifications Framework 2014 – all available on    

The module learning outcomes have been developed to address the relevant subject benchmarks and the descriptors for level 4 and 5.    

In developing the programme the designers acknowledge the Art and Design statement which specifies that graduates in the subject will acquire knowledge and understanding of the critical and contextual dimensions of their discipline, master the communication and information skills, and develop the critical awareness required to learn and articulate their learning in this area.

Employers have been identified and consulted on the design of the programme. Employers will also regularly review the Foundation Degree, through the college’s annual course reviews forums and the HE Quality Programme Group, to ensure that it meets the needs of the Industry. Most students will do a work placement module, however where this is not possible students will undertake interviews with photographic practitioners. All students will be involved in live briefs. 

In accordance with the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (August 2008):

Foundation Degrees are be  awarded to students who have demonstrated:

  • knowledge and critical understanding of the well-established principles of their area(s) of study, and of the way in which those principles have developed. (This is achieved through completion of their reflective journals and in modules AR4215 Historical/Contemporary Studies and AR5212 Critical Reflection and Research)
  • ability to apply underlying concepts and principles outside the context in which they were first studied, including, where appropriate, the application of those principles in an employment context.  (This is achieved in modules AR4213 Industry and Practice, AR5210 Specialist Practice and AR5213 Photography as a Profession)
  • knowledge of the main methods of enquiry in the subject(s) relevant to the named award, and ability to evaluate critically the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems in the field of study.  (This is achieved through completion of their reflective journals and in modules AR4215 Historical/Contemporary Studies and AR5212 Critical Reflection and Research)
  • an understanding of the limits of their knowledge, and how this influences analyses and interpretations based on that knowledge. (This is achieved through completion of their reflective journals and in modules AR4215 Historical/Contemporary Studies and AR5212 Critical Reflection and Research)

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:

  • use a range of established techniques to initiate and undertake critical analysis of information, and to propose solutions to problems arising from that analysis. (This is achieved in all modules through reflective journals and critical analysis within sketchbooks).
  • effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms to specialist and non-specialist audiences, and deploy key techniques of the discipline effectively (This is achieved through all modules on both levels but in particular, the Professional and Contextual Studies modules, and the Communication modules). 
  • undertake further training, develop existing skills and acquire new competences that will enable them to assume significant responsibility within organisations. (This is achieved in all modules through the continuous acquisition and development of skills)

And holders will have:

  • the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and decision-making. (This is achieved in all modules and is evidenced in sketchbooks and reflective journals) 


Learning within Photography programme is an interactive process and students are expected to adopt the role of a reflective practitioner. Throughout this process students will engage in critical thought, independent learning and creative problem solving.

Most students’ learning will take place in a studio environment or independently on location, with structured tutorial sessions timetabled through the semesters. Tutors will monitor, assess and evaluate work in progress and assess completed projects. Students will also be expected to take responsibility for the management of their independent study time.

Most modules at each level of study are assessed through practical submissions. This will usually be accompanied by an evaluation that offers a contextual and critical insight into the students’ practice. This union of theory within practice allows the student to direct practice and learning towards areas that they find the most relevant to themselves and to their vocational aspirations

A variety of learning and teaching methods are employed:

  • lectures to deliver key areas of supporting and background knowledge, including the history and development of photography, photographic theory and contextual background of contemporary photographic practice.
  • demonstrations (for example camera and lighting techniques processes both traditional and digital and specialist software)
  • workshops (for example, tutor-led workshops on specialist techniques and processes. Also critical thinking, writing essays reports, research methods, design development and presentation techniques
  • tutorials, both one-to-ones and in groups [small groups and the whole class] where students receive individual and peer formative feedback
, student-led presentations, seminars, and group discussion (for example, presenting self-directed academic research)
  • independent study undertaking research, design development, case study analysis, technique and processes investigation and refinement).
Reflection and problem solving
  • visits will be employed where appropriate during the course to enhance the programme, including group location shoots, visits to exhibitions, universities and photographic studios
  • visiting lecturers will be employed to enhance a range of modules including AR5213 Photography as a Profession and AR4211 Exploring Creative Methods.

Level 4: Learning is predominantly tutor-designed and guided, and students are offered opportunities for individual initiative within this framework, which provides groundwork in subject-specific and transferable study skills and encouragement to communicate accurately. 

Level 5: Learning design remains largely tutor-guided and students are encouraged to work in collaboration with tutors and fellow-students.  There is opportunity for consolidation and development of appropriate study skills and for experiencing a range of appropriate methods for tasks in hand.

Assessment within the programme has been designed to respond to the different aims of the Foundation Degree, firstly to provide appropriate assessment for those who would not normally access higher education, and secondly to prepare students for the world of work where reports and presentations will be used rather than time constrained assessments and essays.

The assessment strategy for the programme is designed to progressively develop learners who may have widely differing study skills on entry for the academic rigour of the Foundation Degree programme. Underpinning knowledge will be assessed by formal time constrained assessment and by vocationally relevant and work focused assignments in both years. Both years have an element of group project work. The inclusion of live project briefs within the modules in both years reinforces the vocational nature of the Foundation Degree. There is formative assessment of work throughout each module in order to offer the students feedback on how to improve. This is achieved through one-to-one tutor and group/peer feedback    


The Foundation Degree in Contemporary Photography aims to develop the students’ skills directly related to the needs of the Creative Industries in the region whilst recognising transferable and multiple skills that are required in today’s working environment both locally and nationally.

 The Foundation Degree responds to the employer needs by equipping students with the combination of the vocational skills, academic knowledge and transferable skills increasingly demanded by employers.

 Graduates will have experienced all major areas of photography, giving them access to a wide range of  specialisms whilst also adding the opportunity for them to move into different areas as employer needs develop.

Warrington and Vale Royal College supports all our students, we treat them with respect and have due regard for their privacy and wellbeing, regardless of: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.


Students undertake day trips locally (Manchester, Liverpool) and optional residential trips to London and overseas (for example Paris, Berlin). There are also visiting lecturers who give lectures and workshops in specialist skills (for example, public relations and marketing, costume) 

The programme has strong links with the North West photographic industry, which includes:-

  • Visits to major photographic studios.
  • Employer lead skills workshops, delivered both in the college and employer studios.
  • Presentations by both commercial and independent photographers, covering subjects including, architecture, still-life, fashion, book publishing, exhibiting and business planning.

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