University of Chester

Programme Specification
Design MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts



University of Chester

University of Chester

Kingsway Campus, Chester (full-time and part-time)


Raffles College of Higher Education, Singapore (full-time only)

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year (for full-time masters programme), 2 years (for part-time masters programme)

6 Years

Triannual - January - July - October




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Art and Design

Art & Design

Masters Degree Characteristics


Art & Design

Wednesday 10th December 2014

The MA in design aims to:

  • Develop and extend design practice and enquiry - through which students can deepen their critical and contextual knowledge, enhance and/or extend their expertise and develop as independent, lifelong learners;
  • Encourage a deep understanding of critical ideas and subject their design practice to rigorous scrutiny, negotiating contexts that will lead to new insights and/or relating emerging and new theories to their design practice;
  • Enable students to develop their design practice - integrating techniques, skills and knowledge from other related or converging design specialisms;
  • Enable students to give their design practice a sharpened focus and intent, developing and refining their approaches to questioning and enquiry;
  • Promote new levels of self-confidence that will enable students to extend the ambition of their design practice and to practice as designers in a professional context or to continue as practice-based design researchers into doctorate level study.

Successful students will demonstrate an advanced knowledge and understanding of the theoretical principles and cultural contexts that underlie design research practice. Developing a sophisticated understanding of research methodologies, a critical awareness of current issues and developments in the field, and how these inform advanced design practice.

Postgraduate Certification:

  • An advanced understanding of practitioners, theorists and design research practices at the forefront of the subject, along with their historical and cultural contexts. (AD7502, AD7506)
  • A sophisticated understanding of design research methodologies and the analytical, critical and reflective principles that underlie advanced design practice. (AD7502, AD7506)

Postgraduate Diploma:

  • How to deploy advanced design theory informing models of design inquiry and resulting research methodologies for advanced design practice. (AD7503, AD7504)


  • A comprehensive understanding of how key concepts and positions at the forefront of the discipline inform individual research or advanced scholarship within and beyond subject specialisms. (AD7505)
  • How sophisticated models of design research translate within the contexts of professional design practice and an understanding of the stakeholders involved. (AD7505)

Successful students will be able to critically evaluate and challenge current research and developments in design. Evaluate the context of the designer within individual research and advanced scholarship. Demonstrate the skills to analyse, evaluate and reflect on design research methodologies and where appropriate propose new hypotheses.

Postgraduate Certification:

  • Critically evaluate and contest design models and the boundaries of existing bodies of design knowledge, and where appropriate offer new hypotheses. (AD7502, AD7506)

Postgraduate Diploma:

  • Demonstrate the critical, analytical and reflective skills required in order to form ideas and execute complex design projects that, where appropriate, challenge current design practices. (AD7503, AD7504)
  • Demonstrate autonomy and originality, identifying individual strengths and needs, through reflective practices and the recognition of the influence of the designer within design research practice. (AD7503, AD7504)


  • Articulate, apply and critique sophisticated theoretical design discourses within advanced scholarship at, or informed by, the forefront of the discipline. (AD7505)

At each exit award students will be able to demonstrate:

Postgraduate Certification:

  • Skills and techniques pertinent to advanced design inquiry including sophisticated research methods and investigative design practices. (AD7502, AD7506)

Postgraduate Diploma:

  • The ability to engage creatively, critically and with reflection in the implementation of appropriate theoretical models, processes and working methods for design research projects. (AD7503, AD7504)


  • The ability to act autonomously in planning, implementing and communicating advanced design projects at a professional level. (AD7505)
  • The ability to produce original design practice that demonstrates a critical awareness of professional contexts and current issues at the forefront of the design discipline. (AD7505)

At each exit award students will be able to demonstrate:

Postgraduate Certification:

  • Apply a wide range of evidence in demonstrating the ability to study independently, set goals, manage their own workloads and meet deadlines in research, design artefacts and written work (AD7502, AD7506)
  • Communicate to specialist and non-specialist audiences the critical analysis of information and experience, the formulation of independent judgements, and articulate reasoned arguments through reflection, review and evaluation. (AD7502, AD7506)

 Postgraduate Diploma:

  • Demonstrate the capacity to interact effectively and communicate advanced design practices with other stakeholders through collaboration, collective endeavour and negotiation. (AD7503)
  • Professionally articulate ideas, project intentions and results comprehensibly in visual, oral and written forms through a sophisticated understanding of appropriate design models, processes and working methods. (AD7503, AD7504)
  • Formulate reasoned responses to the critical judgement of individual scholarship by others as evidenced in design artefacts, written work and oral examination. (AD7503, AD7504)


  • Professionally communicate advanced design practice at the forefront of the design discipline to audiences in a range of situations related to design practice and/or design education. (AD7505)

The programme is based on the relationship between design theory and design practice allowing designers to understand critical discourses and to subject their work to robust scrutiny devising design research contexts that will lead to new insights and an invigoration of their practice. Potential contexts/subjects for design practice could encompass a range of design disciplines in 2D, 3D and 4D practices and will vary over time depending on the practice, theory and research profiles of the staff in the department.

Formal contact involves structured study, face-to-face and on-line seminars, student presentations, and presentations by visiting designers and other significant speakers. In addition, students are allocated a personal tutor and arrange tutorials at a time that is mutually convenient to both parties. The department is very aware of the obstacles and non-academic challenges that postgraduate students have to face and overcome and that these challenges require a very flexible approach whenever possible. Whilst students have full access to the Department's specialist facilities and equipment together with its technical support, it is expected that students on the programme will also have their own studio/workspace.

The programme's combination of design research methods and specialist practice modules underpin key aspects of advancing individual practice through design research, discourse, practical investigation, analysis, reflection and communication. The first 60 credits of the programme facilitate the contextualisation of individual practice through design research methods, contexts and advanced practice.

Research Methods in Art & Design - 20 credits

Advanced Design Practice - 40 credits

The following 60 credits then build the formalisation of design research, project management, effective design collaboration and the communication of advanced design practice to relevant audiences.

Collaborative Design Practice - 20 credits

Advanced Design Project - 40 credits

The final Masters Major Project module then provides an opportunity for graduates to undertake a significant self-initiated design project with contextual research report consolidating personal design interests and theoretical discourse.

Masters Major Project including a written component [supervised] - 60 credits


Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
AD7502 7 Advanced Design Practice 40 Comp
AD7503 7 Collaborative Design Practice 20 Comp
AD7504 7 Advanced Design Project 40 Comp
AD7505 7 Masters Major Project 60 Comp
AD7506 7 Research Methods in Art & Design 20 Comp

Successful completion of:
60 level 7 credits leads to the award of Postgraduate Certificate;

120 level 7 credits including the Advanced Design Project, leads to the award of Postgraduate Diploma in Design;

180 level 7 credits including the Advanced Design Project and the Masters Major Project leads to the award of Master of Arts in Design.

All applicants to the programme will need to demonstrate during the admissions procedure a level of competence appropriate to the requirements of the programme through a portfolio review and interview.

Candidates will normally hold a minimum 2:1 honours degree or equivalent professional or academic qualification in a Design related subject. Applicants with non-standard qualifications will be considered by the department in conjunction with the Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions' Services in accordance with the precepts and procedures set out in the University's Quality and Standards Manual Handbook on the Admission of Students.

Students are considered on an individual basis and where any appropriate relevant work experience will be taken into consideration. Students with non-UK qualifications should consult the Admissions' Tutor or the International Office at the University.

Following a successful portfolio review and interview, applicants will be made a conditional offer that is tailored to their current mix of qualifications yet to be taken and the levels involved.

Please note that the starting months for Raffles College of Higher Education, Singapore, are January and July and mode of study is full-time.

The starting month for Kingsway Campus, Chester, is October and mode of study is full-time or part-time.

Opportunities for APL and AP(e)L Claims

The Accreditation of Prior (experiential) Learning [APL and AP(e)L] are possible and will be granted in accordance with the University's procedures. As all the modules on the programme are core, AP(e)L can only be given for specific, matched modules.

The programme accords with the QAA subject benchmark statements for Art & Design and the Masters Degree Characteristics available on the QAA website ( Although the subject benchmarks are primarily intended for undergraduate study this programme builds on and extends subject knowledge in alignment with the Framework for Higher Education (FHEQ) generic level descriptors for a Masters degree. The programme learning outcomes have been aligned to the respective level 7 descriptor from the FHEQ as well as to the appropriate parts of the subject benchmarking.

Central to the programme is the recognition of subject benchmark statement 3.11 that "At its core, design involves both analysis and synthesis, and is frequently solution-focused, culminating in the creation of design outcomes as prototypes, models or proposals. It is equally concerned with all aspects of material culture across a wide range of interrelated sub-disciplines. There is no single definition or methodological approach to the discipline, and there are no limitations in terms of interdisciplinary relationships." Developing a systematic and comprehensive knowledge of design informed by a range of methodological approaches and critical theory from across the interrelated sub-disciplines is at the heart of the programme.

Key aspects of the programme in advancing individual design practice through design research, discourse, practical investigation, analysis, reflection and communication are aligned directly to MA characteristics and elements of the subject benchmark. The programme is constructed to systematically develop the student's knowledge and critical awareness at the forefront of design, developing originality in the application of this knowledge and how to evaluate and critique methodologies and communicate conclusions. This is consistent with the FHEQ taught postgraduate level, where graduates demonstrate "an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the discipline informed by current scholarship and research, including a critical awareness of current issues and developments in the subject". Through this a graduate will have "the ability to apply research to professional situations, both practical and theoretical" and "solve problems in creative and innovative ways". The graduate will also be able to "communicate effectively, with colleagues and a wider audience, in a variety of media".

Learning and Teaching:

The methods of learning and teaching on the programme are activity-based and recurring in order to support the development of key attributes and skills. They enable students to: become independent learners, to take responsibility for their learning as well as support the learning of their peers, to help them understand what is needed in order to improve their work/practice, and to offer a variety of learning experiences that help to develop skills in research, analysis, evaluation, making informed judgements, reflection and communication.

Initially students will be encouraged to discuss and evolve their design practice and practical work through the use of research methods that contextualise theory, frameworks and skills at the foreground of practice. Then the formalisation and communication of design research projects alongside collaborative creative practices encourages the externalisation of a student’s practice. The Major Masters Project then facilitates the development of a major piece of individual practice and its communication to an appropriate professional design audience.

Generally, modules will aim to integrate practice and theory through an interactive setting. Lecturers, technical instructors, practicing designers, researchers and industry-relevant practitioners will have varying involvement in the delivery of module content where possible. Learning opportunities will take place in both large and small group settings via seminars, tutorials, tutor and/or student-led discussion, individual and/or group tasks and activities, and individually directed and structured study. Site visits to design practices/studios and relevant industry practices will take place where appropriate. Subject to staff availability students will be able to arrange additional individual academic tutorials with subject specialists.

The modules at Level 7 typically consist of between 2 to 4 hours of contact time per week (or its equivalent over the year). Academic staff will be assigned to a module under the oversight of a Module Leader and/or the Programme and Subject Leader. It is important students recognise that a significant amount of the learning time will involve them identifying and managing the essential tasks, as well as effectively managing their time and their own as well as the University's resources. To this end they will be supported in their development of project and time management skills. As students are learning by doing they will be expected to regularly undertake practical work, read essential and some recommended texts as well as journals and periodicals, investigate primary and secondary sources in their research; prepare so that they can offer input in taught sessions, presentations and any small group collaborations/seminars; and, carry out, complete and submit on-time all the required assessment tasks/activities related to their current modules.

Assessment and Feedback:

Feedback is available on all summative work and each module has opportunities for formative feedback on design practice and draft reading of essays and reports. University level support is also available via the Study Skills Unit which provides online and face to face support.

A range of formative and summative assessment modes are employed and include design artefact(s)/outcomes, academic papers, reports, sketchbooks, workbooks, journals, proposals, literature reviews, project plans, poster presentations, and presentations including oral examinations. Generally, assessment focuses on critical thinking and the acquisition and application of design research skills thereby supporting a broadening critical perspective of design theory applied to design practice. All study will be assessed through a combination of practical and/or written work as detailed in the module descriptors. Students must pass all summative assessed components of each module.

Assessment, whether summative or formative aims to: clarify and focus students' on what is important to learn (which in turn will become the basis for defining and structuring the learning environment), clarify the academic standards required and how they are assessed, integrate learning from the different modules; and offer students sufficient formative feedback.

Formative feedback will be used at strategic points throughout a module where it may not benefit students to be summative assessed, for example with coursework where a holistic view of projects and/or tasks is important to their learning. This will ensure that students have a clear idea of their progress within a project, whilst offering the opportunity to develop and/or evidence learning gained from earlier work.

During the first part of the programme students will be assessed on the effectiveness of the initial development of their research skills-including research mapping, interdisciplinary exploration and reviewing literature-theoretical knowledge generated through design practice and communication skills. Next, knowledge and skills will be assessed in the context of a broader understanding of collaborative design practice and design research project planning, management and communication.

Methods of assessment are directly linked to the learning outcomes of the modules and thereby to the programme. The programme learning outcomes (PLOs) incorporate the knowledge and skills required to undertake further/postgraduate study or enter into the variety of careers which value the transferable skills and qualities gained from an education in design. All skills, specialist and transferable, are incorporated into the PLOs. Each module descriptor states the learning outcomes that are to be evaluated in each component of assessment. These assessments test the student's capability and achievement against the declared and articulated standards for the learning outcomes involved. Individual project briefs and formative feedback sheets will give greater detail to the levels of achievement with specified criteria. Currently there are six bands at postgraduate level. Each of these bands has an articulation of a generic standard for each of the PLOs.

In general, assessed activities/tasks are designed to provide a broad platform for students to demonstrate that they have achieved the module outcomes across a wide ranging set of increasingly challenging contexts.

Re-assessment in Design

Reassessment activities for failed components of, or, for whole modules shall be equivalent and comparable in character to the original task(s). Normally students will undertake re-assessment task(s) without attendance. Any group-based project, including presentations, will be replaced by an appropriate individual task. Both practical and written re-submissions are to be submitted for the appropriate reassessment period with candidates called to the institution to undertake any oral examination required.


As the subject specialist skills in design are themselves a mix of knowledge, skills development, exposition and knowledge of and from practice, successful postgraduates will have the ability to: critically analyse and evaluate apply knowledge in a wider context; explore, define and resolve issues/problems, initiate as well as complete projects, and present coherent (research/ positions/ exploration/ experimentation/ ideas) concepts in a range of appropriate media that relate to a given audience. These transferable skills make design students attractive to a wide range of mainstream employers, employers in the creative economy and design practitioners.

Typical career paths and further postgraduate study

Potential areas for employment for successful, motivated postgraduates progressing from the programme are considerable given the wide range of creative economy businesses locally, regionally and internationally. The MA programme is intended to develop employable designers who can work within the many areas of the professional design domain. It is also intended to develop graduates who could alternatively and realistically seek employment in other design-related aspects of the creative, cultural, entertainment and industrial sectors, or who can undertake additional postgraduate/doctorate study or research in a related subject.

Design is a broad discipline, encompassing many subjects and possible careers for those who are determined and flexible after gaining their Masters degree. A significant number of design postgraduates also secure employment in design-related roles such as design managers, buyers or in design related businesses such as the printing industry.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.


General Information

An induction period is provided. Sessions encompass the structure of the programme and introductory lectures on matters such as making the transition to Level 7 study and key skills. Students will have library induction sessions and a specialist Art & Design librarian is available in LIS.

The Student Support & Guidance Service provide support for students who encounter any difficulties with their learning.

The Department of Art & Design fully endorses and adheres to the University's established Personal Academic Tutorial scheme. All students on the MA programme are allocated a personal tutor and students are responsible for seeing their personal tutor regularly. The personal tutor assigned to a student will follow the student throughout the programme and will advise on aspects of academic development and progress. The tutor assists with both academic and non-academic matters - for the latter, referring students to the relevant specialist teams/services within the University.

In addition to the personal tutorial regime students who wish to discuss matters may book a tutorial with a member of staff subject to availability. As one of the programme's educational aims is to encourage student involvement in their learning as well as that of their peers, students should not see these sessions as means of replacing attendance at timetabled modules. Students will receive written feedback on their work and may also make an appointment to see the relevant lecturer regarding any work submitted.

Students will be provided with a student handbook detailing the structure of the programme and the relevant regulations.

Careers' Advisors have been allocated to the Faculty of Arts & Media.


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