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May 29, 2008
Film Studies Degrees in the UK
With one of my roles being to help guide students towards suitable courses in content, delivery and and facilities I have decided to create this posting to help future students currently applying for UCAS to gain from current student experiences. This will help to formulate good penetrating and critical questions at open days and interviews. With undergraduate degrees getting gradually more expensive it is very important for potential students to make the right choices.
Some of this is down to careful choosing of degree courses to apply to by sixth-formers. There is little point in applying to film studies courses in universities such as Warwick or King's College London which emphasise a strong academic and theoretical approach, if you want to make films. Hands on moving image making courses which combine some theory with a lot of hands-on practice are likely to be better for some people. But don't fall into the old trap of dividing theory and practice. Often you find lecturers pointing out that the best practitioners are also good at the theoretical material. This is known as praxis. It is worth considering the point that these more practically oriented courses are often less demanding when it comes to A level grades.
Why is this? Not all courses translate into the same future earnings power. With the costs of higher education now being placed on the student you need to take a value for money approach to courses. Will the course you are thinking about get you a career that will pay back your loan and get you settled into life in the future in a comfortable way. It is up to the University you are applying to to provide solid evidence of this. Look for good quality careers guidance on sites which are offering courses you like the look of. University of Warwick has a specialist careers adviser working on Arts and Cultural Management and Media. There is a web page of careers advice and relevant links provided for registered students. University of Kent also has a helpful page (see link in the Webliography). You also need to be thinking about two key issues:
- What the other students attitudes are like. Are they going to be aspirational and want to get on?
- If many people think that these courses are easier are you going to have such good career prospects?
Remember decisions you take now can stay with you a long time. If you have doubts about the course better to leave going to university for a year and improve your grades so that you get into a course that you are more confidant will deliver what you need. Remember you are looking for a qualification that will suit you in 40 years time as you progress throughout your life. But remember sometimes you can't progress beyond a certain point if you don't have the necessary qualifications and underlying skills that go with these. The higher level skills of synthesis and analysis that go with that more 'academic' qualification will get you further in life. More academic approaches which can seem more distanced to begin with can get you further. These higher level skills make sure that you are more flexible within the labour market. No pain no gain! They are part of what the social theorist Bourdieu called cultural capital. Make sure you get plenty of this in the CV bank. If you need some practical skills you can always collect them later on, and many you can familiarise yourself with in your own time. The amount of material on YouTube proves how many people are doing just this.
Undergraduate Degrees Only
Please note the list of film studies courses linked at the top of tis entry above only refers to universities offering undergraduate degrees. There are a vast range of postgraduate degrees available. The needs of postgraduate students are usually quite different to undergraduates and the experience of undergraduate work allows potential postgraduates a chance to make more informed choices. This is a point made well by the Guardian in its 2009 University Entry Guide published on May 13th:
Our aim is to provide a guide for first-time students. That means we concentrate on teaching and not research ratings, which count heavily in other league tables. A postgraduate guide might look very different. (How to Read the League Tables: Guardian)
The list of courses above is not a critical one and makes no comments on the content of courses or upon the quality of delivery. With Universities increasingly needing to attract new students and retain those that they have recruited there is a lot of competition between them for the best students. Recently the Times has run stories of how Kingston University has been encouraging their students to give really high quality feedback about their experiences. This will improve their ratings and push them up the league tables. This story is about Southampton Solent from a few years ago. It should be noted that this is no sense a comment on the current state of affairs at the university, it does emphasise the importance of being aware of what is going on in the course you are applying to.
Problems of Costs and Time While Doing a Course
Remember too, it is now possible for people to study for part-time degrees. This means that you can work or do something else as well. The Open University is a good place to look for starters. Various Film and Media studies courses can be taken there.
Film Studies Joint or Interdisciplinary Degrees
Some Universities offer just film studies courses but they can be part of a joint honours degree programme which might include History, Sociology, Art History, Geography, Italian, French, English, German, American Studies, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Latin American Studies, European Studies Drama, Hispanic Studies etc.
Depending on the nature of your degree the list below provides you with a lot of popular options for career choices which involve films and cinema:
- Arts Administrator
- Cinema Manager
- Cinema Programmer
- Editorial Assistant
- Film & Media Policy Development
- Film Festival Organiser
- Film/Video Producer
- Information Assistant
- Librarian, Special/Academic
- Media Planner
- Picture Researcher
- Presenter TV/Radio
- Teacher (HE/FE)
- Television Researcher
- University Teacher
Organisations which Employ Film Studies Graduates include:
- Advertising/Marketing organisations
- Arts Organisations - national & regional
- Civil Service Departments
- Commercial Galleries
- Craft & Design Institutions
- Film/Television production companies
Thinking of doing a Masters Degree in film afterwards? Check this Guardian brief guide
Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware!
You take a lot of time to choose a mobile phone or an item or some clothing so take time to consider carefully what it is you want from a film studies degree. A degree cost a lot, if you do the right one it is well worth it, just make sure you choose well and don't be rushed. Better to wait a year and improve the grades and go to the right one. Can all universities legitimately make the claim that this unamed one does on its website:
So whether you’re passionate about investigating film, or gaining hands on opportunities to express yourself creatively, our degree in Film Studies is the right choice for you.
Marketing blurb is marketing blurb. Learn to read between the lines and try and talk to students who are prepared to be constructively critical. There is little point in speaking to somebody who whinges all the time they are probably a loser! Nobody is interested in offering a bad course, the key issue is suitability. Thinking about courses gets you to think about yourself.
This will be updated from time to time with useful links to recent articles about film / media studies in the UK
Melanie Newman: Good or bad taste - it's in the can. 11 May 2007 THES
The Fulbright Commission film and Media Studies Courses. With the pound at a good rate against the dollar course in the US might be worth thinking about. This pdf is from 2005 and the prices will need updating.
The BFI Media and MultiMedia Course Directory looks a very useful first stop
The What Uni site for Film Studies which uses student ratings with some explanations when you click on the initial comments. As the one I looked at was universally positive it may be better to use some salt! People don't tend to knock what they have committed to for a long time. Use these sort of things as methods of extracting some useful questions to ask when you visit and shortlist institutions.