Critical and Cultural Theory MA

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2023
Delivery type
On campus
12 months full time
24 months part time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a humanities or social science subject
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
UK fees
£10,750 (total)
International fees
£22,250 (total)

Course overview

Student in art gallery

This postgraduate degree takes a philosophical, theoretical and historical approach to cultural studies, exploring the work of cultural criticism, reception and production through new critical perspectives, interdisciplinary insights and a vast spectrum of applications and opportunities.

We draw upon the major traditions of cultural theory, including semiology, deconstruction, feminism, psychoanalysis, and Frankfurt School theories of the aesthetic, the media and technology. This training enables you to shape your thinking critically and develop your interests in a rigorously analytical context.

These theoretical and historical perspectives allow us to tease out the critical charge embedded in the notion of culture itself, and the transformative potential of creative and critical work in the arts and humanities.

Close reading and textuality are at the heart of this Masters degree, encouraging you to think critically about issues of modernity and postmodernity, the postcolonial, subjectivity and sexuality.

Diverse and dynamic

This course began in 1987, when an interdisciplinary MA in Cultural Studies was founded at Leeds. From the outset, the course emphasised the theoretical, philosophical and historical aspects of work in cultural criticism, reception and production. The name was changed to better reflect this approach, and it continues to draw students from across the humanities who are thinking about and working with a broad range of objects and genres including literature, film, visual arts, performance, music and philosophy.

Cultural studies emerged as a discipline in the mid-20th century as a critical, scholarly response to the social movements of the time – anti-colonial struggles, the civil rights movement and feminism – and as a rigorous study of the relations between culture and class.

The School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies has an ambitious interdisciplinary purpose, an active fine art community, a critically and politically engaged social history of art degree and a dynamic museum studies course. While this rich context is one of its defining characteristics, this degree is not limited to a consideration of art and aesthetics. Our approach is also informed by other cultural forms, such as text, music and popular culture and critical traditions – from literary criticism and semiology to sound studies and new thinking on technology, gender, and the posthuman.

The School houses parallax, published by Taylor & Francis, an internationally distributed journal of cultural theory and analysis.

Course details

You will study compulsory and optional modules.

The first compulsory module, Cultural Theory, offers an introduction to key paradigms, focusing on theories of the commodity, language, discourse, subjectivity and sexuality.

The second compulsory module, Cultural History, explores the genealogies of contemporary theory in relation to a longer tradition of cultural criticism that emerged, with modernity itself, in the 18th century. Emphasis is given to practices of close reading, the question of textuality and the case study.

You will develop an understanding of the ideas of ‘commodity’ and ‘commodity fetish’ that are central to the study of consumer culture, as well as issues around language, sign and discourse, and subjectivity. You will put this into the context of the development of cultural studies, focusing on thinkers from Rousseau and Kant to Fanon and Spivak. You will use film and other texts to explore these ideas.

In each semester, you will also have the opportunity to specialise when you choose from a range of optional modules.

You will take two compulsory modules in advanced level research.

The skills you will develop, combined with the specialist knowledge built through your optional modules, will ultimately be focused in your dissertation ― an independent and self-devised research project, which you will undertake with the guidance of your supervisor.

If you choose to study part-time, you will study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.

Course structure

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Critical and Cultural Theory MA Full Time in the course catalogue

For more information and a full list of typical modules available on this course, please read Critical and Cultural Theory MA Part Time in the course catalogue

Year 1 compulsory modules

Module Name Credits
Cultural Theory 30
Advanced Research Skills 1 5
Advanced Research Skills 2 5
Cultural History 30
Cultural Studies: Dissertation 50

Year 1 optional modules (selection of typical options shown below)

Module Name Credits
Africa Displaying / Displaying Africa 30
Derrida and Deconstruction 30
Reading Sexual Difference 30
Jewish Museums and the Display of Cultural Difference 30
Independent Directed Study (for full-time students) 30
Unfinished Business: Trauma, Cultural Memory and the Holocaust 30
Movies, Migrants and Diasporas 30
Postcolonial Feminisms 30
Procuring Representation: Contemporary Art, East Asia, Gender 30
Anthropology, Art and Representation 30
Humanity, Animality and Globality 30

Learning and teaching

To help you benefit from the expertise of our tutors, you will be taught using a range of teaching and learning methods. These include seminars, film screenings, lectures, online learning and tutorials.

Independent study is also a crucial component, allowing you to form your own ideas and develop your research and critical skills. The University Library offers free classes and resources on topics such as academic integrity and plagiarism, public speaking, searching for information and structuring essays.

Leeds University Library is a world-class resource and holds a wide variety of archive and early printed material in its Special Collections which are available for use in your independent research.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


Assessment methods will vary depending on the modules you choose. However, among others they may include essays, in-course assessment, group and individual presentations, poster presentations and portfolio or e-portfolio work.


Entry requirements

You’ll need a bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) or equivalent qualification in a humanities or social science subject, such as History, Literature, Languages, Art History, Philosophy, Sociology, or Media or in a practice-based Arts subject where your degree included a significant proportion of historical and theoretical studies.


Our admissions team are experienced in considering a wide range of international qualifications. If you wish to discuss whether your qualifications will meet the necessary entry criteria, contact the School’s admissions team.

You can also check the accepted qualifications for your country or region.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

We also offer online pre-sessionals alongside our on-campus pre-sessionals. Find out more about our six week online pre-sessional.

You can also study pre-sessionals for longer periods – read about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.

How to apply

The ‘Apply’ link at the top of this page takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Documents and information you need

  • Your degree certificate and transcripts, or a partial transcript if you’re still studying.
  • Two academic references.
  • A personal statement in response to the questions asked in the supporting statement section of the application form.
  • Evidence of your English language qualifications if English is not your first subject.
  • You may also choose to submit a CV.

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures receives very large numbers of high-quality applications and regrets that it cannot make offers to all of its applicants. Some particularly popular schools may have to reject many that hold the necessary academic qualifications.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Admissions Policy 2025

This course is taught by

School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies

Contact us

Taught Postgraduate Team



UK: £10,750 (total)

International: £22,250 (total)

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

Part-time fees
Fees for part-time courses are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans, scholarships and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.

The School offers a Head of School Excellence Scholarship (International) for international applicants.

Career opportunities

You will develop your critical and cultural awareness and expand your subject knowledge in theories and histories of culture. In addition, you will graduate with sophisticated research, analytical, critical and communication skills that will put you in a good position to succeed in a variety of careers.

Many of our graduates have also continued with their research at PhD level and secured external funding to support them – including AHRC scholarships. Some of our former research students are now developing academic careers in the UK, Europe, Asia, USA and Australia.

Our graduates have careers working as curators and education staff in museums and galleries, as well as in journalism, publishing, arts marketing, public relations, university administration and teaching.

Reach your potential

Hear more about the School and Faculty support you can access from our employability lead, Anna Douglas.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.