Photography degrees in the UK are aimed to prepare students for a career in photography and the creative industry. As well as the artistic, creative and technical side of photography such courses often also include the commercial side of being a professional photographer.
While there is likely to be an emphasis on digital media, many photography degrees also include traditional analogue photography. Additionally, some of the only BSc degrees in photography (such as those at the University of Westminster) in Europe provide a range of technical and scientific career options in additional to those related to commercial photography. Other degrees which might include photography include media and film degrees.
Universities offering degrees in Photography
Photography degrees (rather than photography options in a fine art degree) are rather specialised and the degree programmes have emerged at the newer universities. The best courses are taught by practicing photographers, and the newer universities are more flexible in allowing them to continue to practice professionally rather than requiring that they be research active academics.
- The BA Photography  at the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University [www.anglia.ac.uk] delivers student performance in the upper regions of undergraduate national standards (External Examiner, 2011). The course offers the opportunity of studying photography within the dynamic and stimulating environment of Cambridge School of Art and students are encouraged to develop their own individual visual language. Our facilities include free camera and lighting hire, photographic still life and general purpose studios with constant and studio flash lighting, mac and video editing suites with up to date industry standard software, b/w darkroom, colour analogue darkroom and experimental exhibition space. Students have access to work experiences through our online newsletter, which also features suitable competitions, festivals and exhibitions. Students exhibit their work locally and nationally. For more information and news please look at our blog or go to our website.
- Coventry University has a BA Honours degree in photography. They say "This exciting new course will impart the skills necessary to meet the challenges posed by the latest developments within photographic technology. The course combines the practical and critical study of photography with a strong emphasis on new technologies and enterprise."
- University for the Creative Arts (UCA) offers a range of photography courses at degree and postgraduate level including BA (Hons) Photography at UCA Farnham (offered as a 3 or 4yr course) and BA (Hons) Photography (Contemporary Practice) at UCA Rochester. As well as highly specialist and industry standard facilities for photography, UCA claims a strong teaching team of professional photographers, artists, curators and writers as well as excellent industry links and regular talks and tutorials from visiting lecturers. Their website says “Our photography courses have a distinguished record and produce award-winning photographers. They offer you the opportunity to study photographic practice, theory and history in the broadest possible context...At UCA you can also study photography alongside moving image based courses.” Read more
- University of Brighton has a BA Honours degree in Photography.
- The Glasgow School of Art has a fine art BA course in photography. Their web site says "Established in 1982, it was the first programme of its kind in Europe to award a BA(Hons) Degree in Fine Art Photography and has produced successive generations of successful graduates"
- The London College of Communication (part of University of the Arts Londonhas a BA in photography -- they say "This well-established BA Photography degree offers you direct access to the experience of talented hands-on photography tutors. The course encourages you to generate visual ideas and teaches you the techniques to put them into practice. In a developing image market, transferable skills such as these are recognised as essential career tools for photographers." read more on their web site]
- The University of Westminster claims a strong tradition in photography. Offering some of the earliest courses in photography in the world (in the 1839) they also delivered the first uk degree course in photography in the 1960s. They continue to deliver well-respected BA and BSc degrees in photography (they are the only university delivering BScs in the subject in the UK). The photography department website details a number of specialist Photography degrees including, BSc Clinical Photography, BSc Photography and Digital Imaging Technologies, BA Contemporary Media Practice, BA Photographic Arts. They claim "Photography teaching is delivered on one of the finest and most fully equipped facilities in the country."
- The University of South Wales has specialist BAs in Documentary Photography , they say "Ours is an internationally renowned and highly successful course built upon the traditions of documentary and editorial photography. We benefit from a high profile series of international visiting lecturers, fellows and graduates. The course draws additional support for seminars and masterclasses from the renowned European Centre for Photographic Research, based within the school." They also have a BA in Photojournalism which is more media focused and concentrates on the skills needed to work in the news and film industry. They also have a more traditional and general course . They say "The programme has quickly established a position of embracing contemporary photography in all its guises. It acknowledges that certain boundaries in terms of artistic and commercial applications have been blurred to a point of non-distinction, and it is in aspects of publishing and the citing of the photograph as well as how the art world generally now contextualises the photographic image, that is our main and prevailing rationale. We allow our students to feel connected to this way of thinking, making and talking about photographs whilst still allowing the degree of experimentation and cross-fertilisation that is typical of an art-school experience."
- The University College Falmouth has a BA in photography -- from its own description "Falmouth is widely recognised as one of the UK's leading centres for the study of photography. Here you'll learn from highly experienced tutors and high-profile visiting lecturers from a wide range of photographic disciplines - including fine art, commercial and documentary contexts - providing you with industry know-how and the skills required to create a portfolio of work that will help launch your career. ", Falmoth photography web site
- Manchester Metropolitan University has a BA in photography, from their own website it is "broad based and aims to support the development of creative independence using photography as a starting point"
- The University of Cumbria From their their website "This established course is highly regarded for the strong and individual practice of its students and graduates, who work with contemporary photography, made through the fine art, documentary and commercial processes."
- The University of Bedfordshire has a Digital Photography & Video Art BA Hons course. For detailed course info see [their web site] see also [Students' wiki pages]
- Nottingham Trent University has a BA Photography/Photography in Europe Course. A highly respected and award winning course offering exciting choices for students who wish to specialise in art practice, documentary, fashion and European photography. You'll work with tutors whose expertise spans a wide range of photographic practice and research, as well as learning from a diverse array of visiting lecturers.
- Southampton Solent University has a BA (Hons) Photography Degree. The course encourages the development of independent creative photographic practice with strong integration of practice and theory, giving students opportunities to continue an independent practice and go into industry. More details on their website and their tumblr page
For many photography degrees a portfolio is required in addition to normal UCAS entry requirements. Most courses require a foundation year, level 3 NVQ or sufficient experience, and the passing foundation year will often guarantee a place on the BA. The foundation year will concentrate on practical photographic technique.
UCAS Form & Personal Statement
The syllabus varies between institutions so it is best to check your options first to see if they suit your interests.
- Typically a first year will see you explore various areas of photography combined with theory lectures. This will include analogue methods if the institution has the facilities, alongside digital manipulation.
- A second year usually will be about exploring your own field in photography and finding a unique or influenced style.
- Third year involves a dissertation and refining your practice.
Dependent on your higher education institution you may be able to have time up to a whole academic year abroad studying. Often throughout you may be expected to provide work for exhibition or book publication.
Life as a Photography Student
Graduate Destinations and Career Prospects
There are many opportunities for a graduate of photography, including but not limited to:
- Specialist freelance photographer e.g. fashion, landscape, architecture, street, wedding, wildlife, school
- Photographic assistant
- Technician e.g. photo labs, darkroom
- Visual artist
- Creative Arts Uni Course Forum - thinking of applying for photography courses at uni? Asks your questions here.