Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

BA Photography

UCAS code: W640

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Edinburgh College of Art

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing BA Photography

This programme takes a broad-based view of the medium of photography in the context of contemporary art and encourages students to experiment with a wide range of working methods and create diverse outcomes. Our approach to photographic practice combines critical thinking with technical expertise to pose new questions about the role of image in the contemporary context and push the boundaries of how images are created and conceptualised.

Studio-based explorations, which are at the centre of your learning experience on this programme, take place with reference to the contributions of relevant historical and contemporary practitioners whose work you will be exploring and discussing in detail. Through a combination of set and self-initiated projects we support you to create a personal approach to both digital and analogue photographic processes and outcomes, in order to produce work which is vibrant in the current society and can adapt to rapid change. These are skills that can be also easily transferred to creative contexts of other kinds beyond the limits of how photography functions within contemporary art contexts.

Year 1

Each of our four-year BA (Hons) programmes in Art shares common elements of study during the early part of Year 1. All Year 1 Art students work together in the first semester.

During Year 1 you will experience a wide range of art practices including painting, photography, sculpture and intermedia art and we introduce you to studio practice, workshops and all the types of teaching you will experience in the four years of your study. For example: what a project brief is for, what a crit is, how a seminar works, what to expect from a tutorial, what feedback is for and how you use it.

We introduce you to key visual culture texts, methods and methodologies of art theory and practice. As the year progresses you have project options to enable you to specialise in the subject most appropriate to your work. In semester two students make decisions about which programme they wish to study supported by feedback and advice from staff.

In Years 1 and 2 your choice of option courses allows you to, in effect, construct a suite of courses that reflect your interests and enhance your main study. The choice of optional courses in Year 1 comprises a total of 40 credits, nominally made up of two 20-credit courses, which can be taken from within ECA, or across the wider College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences - subject to availability.

Subsequently you will develop your creative, technical and intellectual abilities through participation in presentations, installations and exhibitions, as well as enhancing your learning by being exposed to a wider range of methods and knowledge beyond the confines of the studio.

Year 2

In Year 2, you will be introduced to using multiple approaches to work, encompassing expanded ideas and methods of image capture, both digital and analogue.

Students undertake a number of projects throughout this year. These introduce core working methods pertinent to contemporary art practice for photographers, with strong emphasis on accompanying research and developing an understanding of image-making within specific contexts. This is to ensure that you learn to consider photography as a practice located within the field of contemporary art and encourage you to ask informed questions about what photography can be and how far it can go. To support this, you will be assigned a subject tutor and also have the opportunity to engage with a range of visiting artists.

You will be also introduced to a range of technical skills and will receive technical support more generally, in order to develop autonomy, engage in new experiments and make your own discoveries.

In Year 2 there are a total of 40 credits of option courses available. We offer a range of option course within the School of Art and there are many more option courses from across the wider University to choose from - subject to availability.

Year 3

As your technical and critical proficiency develop, you will be encouraged to place your work within definable contexts, and discuss and present it accordingly. Your research will mature through a more focused area of personal interest and a growing individuality of approach. Regular presentations of student work place great emphasis on how an audience reacts to an artwork, encouraging you to sharpen your awareness, and develop artistic responsibility and contextual understanding. During this year, students also have the opportunity to develop project for non-art spaces, and exhibit their work out-with the University.

In Year 3, some students spend one semester studying abroad in a range of universities in Europe and USA with which we have set up exchange agreements. If you are interested in this option, you will need to submit an application early in Year 2. There are administrative and academic members of staff who can help you go through this process.

Year 4

Towards the end of your study you will undertake major self-directed projects, in which you will be given the opportunity to explore and research your subject matter in depth, make personal observations, explore your interests and interpret themes.

Year 4 culminates in the submission of student work for the Degree Show where previous photography students have exhibited an impressive range of work ranging from analogue printing to installation pieces, film, video and multimedia productions.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2020/21)

Our facilities

Students benefit from studio-based learning in purpose-built workshops and studios for intermedia, painting, photography and sculpture at Lauriston Place, along with the exhibitions and events associated with a vibrant art college.

Some lectures and seminars will take place in George Square and surrounding areas. You will have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities.

The University is currently developing the Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) estate and facilities to further support our flexible, stimulating, supportive and sustainable learning and research environment for students and staff.

Further information is available on the ECA website.

Study abroad

The School of Art offers exchange opportunities with partner institutions across the world.

Adding an international dimension to your programme allows you to become immersed in a new culture, make new friends, expand your working knowledge of another language and realise a degree of self-reliance, which future employers will regard as an asset. Exchanges usually take place in Year 3.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

Most teaching and learning on compulsory courses is through involvement in a range of experiential projects, situated in a studio environment; option courses taken across the wider university will vary in delivery method.

Conceptual, material and technical issues are explored through seminars, workshops, lectures, tutorials and critiques. Research, critical thinking and study of the visual, intellectual, social and professional contexts that shape creative practice are regarded as essential to your development. This often involves participation in exhibitions, performances and site-specific projects.

As well as learning through group situations, from Year 2 onward, you will also be allocated a studio tutor with whom you will have one to one tutorials on a regular basis.

How will I be assessed?

We conduct continuous formative assessment throughout the year, to give meaningful feedback and encourage experimentation in the studio and beyond. Assessment can take the form of project work, participation in group events and presentations and written submissions.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme details (2020/21)

Our programmes have strong industrial pathways to ensure the most successful and meaningful careers for graduates. We boast a vibrant alumni network and strong links with the cultural and creative sector across Scotland and beyond. The University Careers Service offers exceptional support throughout your time with us.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Additional requirements


Applicants will be asked to submit a digital mini-portfolio to provide evidence of artistic aptitude and potential, this will form an important part of the selection process.

Portfolio guidance

Important dates*

  • 1 December 2020: mini-portfolio submission site opens
  • 29 January 2021: UCAS has extended their application deadline to 6pm UK time on Friday 29 January. We have therefore moved our deadline for all UK applicants to the 29 January as well.
  • 9 February 2021 at 12 pm (midday) GMT: mini-portfolio submission deadline. This deadline has been extended in line with the UCAS date.
  • 30 June 2021: final deadline for UCAS applications from applicants from outside the UK and Ireland.

BTEC/UAL Diplomas

Applicants studying Pearson BTEC Level 3 Nationals in Art and Design will be considered for entry with the following:

  • Pearson BTEC Extended Diploma with DMM.
  • Pearson BTEC Diploma with MM plus one A Level at A (or DM plus B at A Level).
  • Pearson BTEC Extended Certificate / Subsidiary Diploma with D plus two A Levels at B (or M plus AB at A Level).

Applicants studying the University of the Arts London Level 3 Extended Diploma in Art and Design will be considered with Merit.

*(Revised 25 September 2020 to add mini-portfolio deadlines. Revised 12 January 2021 to extend application and mini-portfolio deadlines.)

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Entry to the second year is available. Successful completion of a Foundation Diploma (at Merit grade), a relevant HND or equivalent is required. Applicants will normally be expected to have undertaken these qualifications in addition to having met the entry requirements (Highers, A Levels, IB etc). In some of our less competitive degrees it may be possible to consider applicants presenting ABC (or equivalent) or above at A Level. These must have been achieved in one set of exams, at first attempt.

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

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

English language requirements

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BA Photography

Additional costs

Your materials costs will vary, depending on your programme of study and the materials used to make your work. Some programmes will offer fieldwork.

There is no additional contribution required for the teaching costs involved, but for the residential fieldwork and individual field-based projects, you are usually required to cover accommodation, subsistence and the costs of travel to the fieldwork location.

Your actual student contribution depends on the programme involved and the courses selected.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding