Postgraduate study

Film Directing MA

Awards: MA

Study modes: Full-time


Funding opportunities

Programme website: Film Directing

This programme takes a practice-based collaborative approach to studying for an award in Film Directing (Documentary) that integrates practical film making with analysis of contemporary practice.

You will make a creative documentary or non-fiction film that defies genre definition and pushes the boundaries of narrative, using limitations in a creative way. You will develop these through group seminars and tutorials.

You will work in an integrated framework that helps you question the form of your film and enables you to find the right language for your storytelling.

We encourage ways of working that foster the exchange of ideas, with inspiration from international film making practice through:

  • the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI)
  • support from our team of documentary practitioners

Our tutors are top professionals currently working in the industry as:

  • directors
  • producers
  • editors
  • sound designers
  • cinematographers

We work closely with the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI), the University’s internationally-acclaimed research centre in documentary film making. Our experience in the industry encourages us to adapt our use of technologies to the current situation, using best industry practice and safe guidelines for filming.

Graduate films do well internationally, regularly winning BAFTAs, RTS Awards and awards at international festivals. Our students and graduates have also received an Oscar nomination and an Oscar shortlist.


Creative Skillset (logo)

MA/MFA Film Directing has been awarded the Creative Skillset Tick, a rigorous assessment process conducted by experts working in the Creative Industries.

The Creative Skillset Tick is the industry kitemark of quality, awarded to practice-based courses which best prepare students for a career in the industry.

Screen Academy Scotland is one of only 3 Screen Academies in the UK along with the National Film School and London Film School.

This programme is project-led and delivered through:

  • seminars
  • individual tutorials
  • lectures

It integrates practical advice on filming with a contextual awareness of contemporary film practice.

Your work is initially organised around micro-films that enhance your awareness of film language and your technical skills. At the same time you will research and develop an idea which you will film in the second semester, using whatever means are available to you.

You will prepare and shoot your graduate film, backed up by camera, sound and edit workshops - alongside project support from a tutor - before it is edited and finished with input from group crits and tutorials.

You may also attend or volunteer with Edinburgh Film Festival and the Edinburgh Pitch, to observe and engage with key players from the international documentary world.

  • Students on the MA programme will complete a short documentary in their one-year course.
  • Students on the MFA programme (2 years) make one short documentary and develop a feature documentary film through directing scenes, a trailer and writing a long treatment.

Our students often go on to tour their short films round international festivals from their MA, or find ways of making a completed feature documentary through international co-production after graduating from the MFA.

  • challenge boundaries, encourage original thought, and develop intellectual and critical approaches to making films

  • combine the contemporary energy and discipline of current creative approaches to film practices with the professionalism of industry practices, in order to produce innovative and grounded work

  • facilitate the interrelationship between different cultural traditions, traditional and emerging screen technologies, and classical and non-traditional cinematic genres and conventions

  • ability to take risks with established forms of narrative

  • understanding of contemporary international documentary practice

  • practice based knowledge of the tools to make a short original documentary film from conception to completion

Our students go on to a wide range of roles, including:

  • producer
  • director
  • writer
  • production or location manager
  • researcher
  • editor
  • assistant director
  • cinematographer
  • journalist

Graduates have found work directing for the BBC and making work internationally for top broadcasters and film funds.

Related fields include:

  • advertising
  • community films
  • academia
  • film development agencies

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

Normally a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject area. You should have technical skills in filmmaking and experience in directing.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application.

Your portfolio should:

  • include a link to one finished film, which can be any form but must be subtitled in English

  • demonstrate technical skills in filmmaking

  • demonstrate experience in directing

Your portfolio should not:

  • include more than one film

  • be a showreel

If your submitted film is fiction you must include in your personal statement why you wish to make documentary films.

If you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we may still consider your application on the basis of your portfolio and/or relevant professional experience.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2022/23:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 08 November 2021 20 December 2021
2 14 January 2022 15 March 2022
3 08 March 2022 28 April 2022
4 23 May 2022 26 July 2022

(*Revised 25 November 2021 to add information on application deadline rounds.)

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. You won't be able to submit your portfolio immediately, but you'll receive an email prompt within a few days of submitting your application that will explain how to upload your portfolio. You should upload your video to a website of your choice (eg YouTube, Vimeo etc) and add the link to the portfolio upload section of your online application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU