MPhil & PhD in Visual Anthropology

  • Length
    3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time
  • Department

Course overview

The Department of Anthropology offers supervision in a wide range of areas at MPhil and PhD level.

The MPhil/PhD in Visual Anthropology can be achieved through two main strands:

  • research projects that centre on the study of visual cultures, such as various forms of media representation or art
  • the use of specific visual methodologies as a central feature of the research project itself

The programme focuses on the visual as a vital and defining factor in the research project as a whole.

Additional practical training can be provided, alongside some access to department audio-visual equipment and facilities, but we generally expect MPhil/PhD candidates to have an appropriate level of practical visual production skills and to be largely self-sufficient in this area.

MPhil/PhD students are currently carrying out visual projects in Mexico, India, Argentina, Lebanon, Israel, and the UK.

Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths

How to choose between MRes and MPhil/PhD

Normally research students register for the MRes in order to complete the requisite training for carrying out a doctoral research project. You then transfer to MPhil status after completing your MRes dissertation in September (or in your second year if you are part-time).

However, if you already have a substantial background, it is possible to register directly for the full-time MPhil, provided the Department and your future supervisor(s) agree. MPhil-registered students do exactly the same research training as MRes students, but they present a student dissertation in May, in order to fast-track to fieldwork or other forms of data-collection.

Whether you start registered as MRes or MPhil, upgrading to PhD status takes place at a later date.

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Prof Sophie Day


First year

In the first year, the emphasis of the visual anthropology training is on key themes and issues within the sub-field, particularly in relation to your own work. You develop your own research project over the year through the production of several small-scale visual projects. Guidance and feedback on visual and academic work will be provided in the weekly visual practice seminars and through supervision meetings.

In the week before the beginning of the academic year in mid-September there is an Induction Programme for all new research postgraduates at Goldsmiths. You will be introduced to College and Departmental facilities and procedures, and attend workshops on what is involved in doing a research degree.

For the first year you are normally registered for the MRes. It is a training year, in which work on your own research project is coupled with general training in Anthropological and Social Science Methods - run both within the Department and by the Goldsmiths College Research Office - as follows:

  • Methods in Anthropological Research (20 weeks x 2 hrs)
  • Research Design (20 weeks x 2.5 hrs)
  • Quantitative Methods in Social Science
  • Department of Anthropology Research Seminar

You may also take other modules depending on your specific training needs, such as learning a language, or auditing an MA course, either in the Department or elsewhere, of particular relevance to your research project. You are also encouraged to attend seminars in other parts of the University of London, attend conferences, and go on outside modules such as those organised by GAPP (Group for Anthropology in Policy and Practice). There are Departmental funds to enable you to attend such events.

At the end of the first year, MRes students present a 15,000-word dissertation in September, which discusses in depth their proposed research topic and the relevant literature. Students registered for the MPhil present a 10,000-word dissertation in May. You need formal approval from the Department before you can start your fieldwork or other forms of data-collection.

Fieldwork and writing up your thesis

Whether you are doing fieldwork down the road or data collection on the other side of the world, it is important that you submit regular reports to your supervisor/s. At the end of the data-collection period when you return to the Department, you join the Writing-Up seminar, which meets weekly to discuss students' draft chapters.

Some time after you return from data-collection (after about 8 months for full-time students, and 16 months for part-time students) you are required to present a detailed thesis outline and 2 draft chapters for consideration by your Advisory Committee. Students normally upgrade to PhD status at this point. You are expected to complete a PhD in 3-4 years (full-time registration) or 4-6 years (part-time registration). An MPhil thesis is shorter and should be completed within 3 years (full-time) or 4 years (part-time). Some students move between full-time and part-time modes. For example, they may do their training on a part-time basis and then seek funding for a year's full-time fieldwork, reverting once more to part-time mode for the writing-up period. We are happy to encourage such flexibility.


Thesis (including film or photographic portfolio) and viva voce.


Anthropology at Goldsmiths is ranked 6th in the UK for the quality of our research**


Investigate a variety of fascinating areas that have real relevance to modern life.

As a department we’re interested in pushing the discipline forward. We’re known for pioneering new fields including visual anthropology and the anthropology of modernity. And we tackle other contemporary issues like urban planning, development, emotions and aesthetics, and new social movements.

Find out more about the Department of Anthropology.

**Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings

Skills & careers

Our PhD students have taken up academic posts in anthropology as well as related fields all over the world; some have joined NGOs or GOs and taken employment as researchers, teachers and in broadcasting.

Entry requirements

Most direct entrants to the MRes or MPhil already have a first degree or an MA in Social Anthropology. If you don't have this, you should normally do an MA, or you may be able to take a qualifying year conversion course.

There is little difference between the taught Masters and the qualifying year, except that the qualifying year is not a qualification in itself and involves no dissertation. If you achieve the required standard, you can apply to register for the MRes or MPhil/PhD.

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us.

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the written test and no individual test lower than 6.0)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.

How to apply

You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system. 

Before submitting your application you'll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
  • Contact details of a second referee
  • personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
  • Details of your research proposal

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

Before you apply for a research programme, we advise you to get in touch with the programme contact, listed above. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting.

Before you start at Goldsmiths, the actual topic of your research has to be agreed with your proposed supervisor, who will be a member of staff active in your general field of research. The choice of topic may be influenced by the current research in the department or the requirements of an external funding body. 

If you wish to study on a part-time basis, you should also indicate how many hours a week you intend to devote to research, whether this will be at evenings or weekends, and for how many hours each day.

Research proposals

Along with your application and academic reference, you should also upload a research proposal at the point of application. 

This should be in the form of a 2-5 page statement of the proposed area of research and should include: 

  • delineation of the research topic
  • why it has been chosen
  • an initial hypothesis (if applicable)
  • a brief list of major secondary sources

How detailed a research proposal are we looking for on the application form? 
Obviously what you put on the form and exactly what you end up researching may be rather different, but in order to judge whether or not to offer you a place, the Department needs to know whether you have the broad outlines of a viable project. This means:

  • a project that is both worthwhile and interesting, but not over-ambitious
  • a project that can realistically be achieved within the confines of PhD on a full-time (4 years typically) or part-time (6 years maximum) basis
  • we need to be sure that you have thought about it carefully and are fully committed to the research
  • we need to be sure that you understand what is involved in doing a PhD
  • your research proposal should give us enough information to be able to interview you (if you are in the UK) or reach a decision as to whether to admit you if you are not based in the UK

When to apply 

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for external funding from one of the Research Councils, make sure you submit your application by the deadline they've specified. 

Selection process 

Once we receive your application form, it is forwarded to the Postgraduate Convenor, who normally sets up a formal interview with two other members of staff with relevant expertise. You may wish to contact the convenor as well.

At the interview you will be asked about your academic background and to elaborate on your plans for research, and you can also ask questions.

Find out more about applying.

Fees & funding

Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

Find out more about tuition fees.

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