Choosing a Masters Program in the UK

This blog is part of my Study Abroad series.

After deciding that I actually wanted to study in the UK, I started researching programs. In the beginning, I did a lot of exploratory research just to understand what was out there and what options there were. I had a vague idea that I wanted to do something in digital design, writing, or behavioral economics.

Research, definition of what I wanted

When I started I was looking for “UX Design Masters in the UK” and eventually figured out that most universities don’t call it “UX Design” but “Human Computer Interaction” instead. Before I figured this out, I was researching a lot of different majors and strains. I looked at the masters programs they had in Oxford and Cambridge because it seemed so idyllic to go to school there. However, my quest to do something cutting-edge, technology-driven, didn’t fit well with these schools. Most of the most promising programs are located in London. Not to mention that my budget didn’t fit very well with those programs either.

I also wanted to make sure that the major I chose would be an investment in my career. Where something I absolutely loved and was willing to shell out a ton of $$$, because I would be paying out of pocket.

How to find schools and programs that are good

When it comes to finding a good school, it really matters that the program is good. The school might be great, but have a missing curriculum in a certain area. Program websites can be helpful in understanding if the course is a good fit, but not if the program has a good reputation. To find out, you have to “go out on the streets” and hide on community platforms to find answers. Those that particularly helped me in my research are: TheStudentRoom, Quora and the beloved Reddit.

Not all schools issue student visas! I found out about this because the University of Bath had an intriguing human-computer interaction program, but after further research I realized that they don’t sponsor international students for visas. Be sure to check this out before you go too far down a rabbit hole for any school. Most schools sponsor visas (at least those I looked at), but there are a few that don’t.

Most Masters programs in the UK last 1 year, but some are longer. This also has an impact on the price of the program. In the US, many programs last 2 years, which made it a little easier for me to study abroad in the UK.

You save money if you enroll directly through the school. Sometimes there are programs that offer study abroad programs, but they will charge you extra on top of the tuition for their help. If you’re feeling brave, get out there and sign up!

How I Made My Final 3 Roster

I looked at my criteria:

  1. Price: I didn’t want to spend too much more than I would have spent on a master’s program at home
  2. Location: I wanted to live somewhere nice.
  3. Program reputation
  4. Program content: Was what they taught areas I wanted to study? In UX design, there’s a ton of variety in the type of content they teach. In some schools it is more of a software engineering program with a spin, in others it is almost a graphic design program. I did a lot of research to find the one I wanted to enroll in.

In the end, I only applied to two universities near London. I knew I wanted to be somewhere central so it would be easy to travel without being directly in the city itself.

Sample Spreadsheet

Below is an example of the spreadsheet I created to analyze and track my choices. If you study UX design programs, comment below and I can clarify any comments I made. I did little to no editing on this, but just copied and pasted it into this blog because I’m lazy.

** I converted the cost of books tuition to USD using Google. Because of this, the prices could be higher or lower, as they were based on the conversion rate on Google that day.

University Town Tuition fees for a Masters Deadline Other ratings
(My favorite so far) Kingston University – User Experience Design London $19,270 Applications for September 2022 open in October 2021? was accredited by the British Computer Society (BCS), more focused on hands-on design, prototyping, test training, etc. Includes an online wallet.
City University of London – HCI London $28,412 Information Architecture and Design Focus
Master in UX Design – University of the Arts London London $29,684 Design focused, need wallet to enter
Birmingham City University – UX Design Birmingham (lots of sights/close to Coventry!) (2h bus ride to London) $17,085 A hands-on approach to learning and teaching will underpin each of the course’s main modules, ensuring that you gain ‘hands-on’ experience in developing the necessary skills used in industrial environments.
IADT – UX Masters Dublin $18,868 June / October
Loborough: UX design Leicestershire $25,000 More design-focused, awards for design
(Most highly recommended) UCL University: Master in Human Computer Interaction London $37,218 March 12, 2021 the UCL Interaction Center (UCLIC), a global center of excellence in human-computer interaction
Not my favorite / not recommended
Goldsmiths in London – Masters in UX Engineering London $20,062 ??Can apply for 2022 now Engineering focused
Swansea University – HCI – Research Masters Wales $23,064 Research oriented!
Brunel University – Digital Service Design London $25,622 More theoretical, less practical, no design course
University of York–HCI york $30,164 recognized by the Institution of Engineering and Technology for partial completion of the CEng, and by the BCS for partial completion of the CEng and CITP Further Learning.
BATH: Master in Human Computer Interaction Bath $31,178 IT-focused, does not accept international students!
University of Birmingham – HCI birmingham $33,109 Computer Specialty / Machine Learning / AI / Computing, etc.
University of Nottingham (computing major) Nottingham ?? (computing orientation)
University of Lancashire Preston, Lancashire (near Manchester) $17,213 Doesn’t look as good from the design training or computer training it offers
U.W. Seattle😦 $16,590
Non-UX degrees
Staffordshire– Digital forensic investigation Staffordshire $19,270 13 months
Oxford – Masters in Creative Writing (I’ve heard reviews say it’s not worth going into debt to get it) Oxford $48,000 January 2 years (that’s 24k per year)
Oxford – Social Data Science 😦 not really what I want to do… Oxford $34,506 January 10 months
IADT – MA in Screenwriting Dublin $18,868 June / October
London Film School – MA in Screenwriting London $19,017

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