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Master of Design

Master of Design

Level 9

Take your passion for design to the next level with UCOL’s Master of Design degree.

A photograph of a student working on a design software
Quick info

Level: 9

Locations: UCOL Whanganui

Duration: 18 months, full-time

14 Feb 2022 - 25 Nov 2022 (Sem 1 & Sem 2)
13 Feb 2023 - 23 Jun 2023 (Sem 3)

Domestic Fees: *
$8239.00 (Sem 1 & 2) + $4046.50 (Sem 3) Scholarship info

International Fees:*
$25,000.00 (Sem 1 & 2) + $12,500.00 (Sem 3)

Additional Fees
Compulsory course costs may apply.

* Fees are indicative only, and are inclusive of the student services levy and GST (goods and services tax). The fee shown is for one year of study.

UCOL's highly skilled lecturers deliver the art/design theory and original academic/applied research required for you to create advanced projects of your choice in either time-based/print-based design, object design/visual arts or fashion/textile design.

Master of Design graduates will excel in a range of industries such as galleries, fashion houses, graphic design studios, film and television, printing and publishing, web design, art studios, set design and much more.

Candidates for this programme must undertake and complete a written thesis based on their research initiatives and prepare a body of work for final exhibition. They must possess an exceptional degree of motivation and a strong enthusiasm for art/design.

 Career & Study Outcomes

Graduates of UCOL's Master of Design will be able to:

  • Understand the historical, social, bi-cultural and multi-cultural context in which they work
  • Provide evidence of effort and application in successfully completing the learning outcomes
  • Apply knowledge, research skills and attitudes learned through problem solving projects in selected areas of design
  • Understand the importance and use of a design theory and methodology as a way of working
  • Show evidence of exploration, experimentation and applied innovation through research
  • Have considerable experience in the operation of hardware and software
  • Positively evaluate their own work and that of others
  • Negotiate commitments and meet deadlines
  • Apply an integrity of approach to materials, process and intention

Graduates will be suitably equipped to work in a variety of roles in the design based industries, including:

  • Advertising
  • Consultancy
  • Art/Design education
  • Art/Design studios
  • Fashion Studios
  • Galleries and museums
  • Set design and styling
  • Television and video production
  • Printing, publishing and illustration
  • Research and development
  • Self-employment
  • Graphic design
  • Textile design
  • Visual communications
  • Website design
  • Object and craft design
  • Practicing artist
  • Doctoral study

To find out more about possible job prospects and salaries, see Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Occupation Outlook for Designers and Artists and Photographers.

 Course Information

This programme comprises 180 credits, of which 120 credits are at Level 8 and 60 at Level 9. 


Advanced Methodologies for Design Research (30 Credits)

On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Establish and articulate a philosophical orientation for their research and propose a research design and methodology supported by a rationale for the design choice;
  • Write and present a research proposal for approval;
  • Identify, evaluate and respond to key ethical and cultural considerations within the
    field of study;
  • Undertake a contextual review of the extant and seminal literature to identify or position a research question.

Development Studio (30 Credits)
On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Critically evaluate specific areas of interest for concept research and articulate objectives and ideas for future projects;
  • Explore inter‐disciplinary and/or multimedia approaches;
  • Undertake rigorous exploration of an extensive range of sources and technical applications and technologies relevant to their practice;
  • InvestigateExplore and define the link between research practice and an appropriate industry/ community context;
  • Demonstrate professional studio practice in the documentation of idea development and technical exploration.

Creative Thinking (30 Credits)
On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Initiate rigorous intellectual analysis and critical reflection of their own work and that of others;
  • Articulate creative thinking methodologies appropriate to the context in which they work;
  • Articulate a considered position in relation to their field of enquiry or professional practice, with a focus on both current and future practice;
  • Apply creative thinking methodologies to developing unique solutions to industry challenges or opportunities;
  • Critically evaluate and professionally document research relevant to their creative practice.

Studio Project (30 Credits)
On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Advance and refine concepts for research and art/design projects as appropriate for industry/ community, professional and academic outcomes;
  • Undertake extended exploration of inter‐disciplinary and/or multimedia approaches to solve problems and achieve design solutions;
  • Document the investigation and creative development process used to make specified project work;
  • Compile and present a finished portfolio, exhibition or show.

Dissertation and Implementation (60 Credits)
On completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply a methodology appropriate to the research enquiry;
  • Refine and resolve a research enquiry that is positioned within an identified context;
  • Produce a fully resolved body of work extending from praxis and demonstrating mastery within a specialist field;
  • Document the research project and critically reflect on the methodology and creative process used to reach the final outcome;
  • Create opportunities for community or stakeholders to meaningfully engage with completed works.

 Student & Staff Profiles

 Industry Connections

  • UCOL's School of Creative Industries (includes programmes and expertise from Wanganui School of Design) is a Corporate Member of the Designers Institute of NZ (DINZ)
  • Our students and graduates have taken out top prizes in the Designers Institute of New Zealand's (DINZ) BEST Awards many times over the years.
  • UCOL has an impressive range of industry stakeholders in the fields of animation, web, publication, video, game design and illustration.
  • Our students undertake real-life industry projects in a wide-range of design industries each year through internships.
  • UCOL's School of Creative Industries graduates work at Weta Digital, TVNZ, Digital Arts Network, Charactaz Animation, Saatchi and Saatchi and more.

 Learning Facilities

UCOL is home to a New Zealand Institute of Architects (NZIA) heritage award winning building located on Taupo Quay and features modern spacious studio suites with industry leading technology and equipment.

 Domestic Entry Requirements

To be eligible for entry into the Master of Design, applicants must have graduated with a Bachelor’s degree, or a similar qualification in art or design, having achieved a minimum B‐ grade average over their highest level 120 credits of their qualifying degree, or be able to demonstrate equivalent skills and knowledge.

Applications must be made on the standard UCOL Student Application Form and provide information on relevant experience, academic qualifications and academic record. 

Applicants may be asked to provide a portfolio of original, developmental and finished work.

Selection critera:
Applicants are selected in order of receipt of their completed enrolment application and all entry requirements have been met. Each candidate will be required to submit a professional portfolio and a research proposal.


The portfolio of work needs to demonstrate graduate level engagement with design activity. Portfolios can take a number of different formats and each will be considered on a case-by-case basis. They can be submitted either in hard copy or digital format and could contain any combination of the following:

  • Time-based design 
  • Print-based design
  • Photography 
  • Visual arts and illustration 
  • Original film or video
  • Web design and/or development
  • Game design and/or other interactive media 

Research Proposal

  • Statement of your research question and your objectives
  • Other key questions and sub-questions you want to address in the research
  • The research methodology you will use and your reasons for using these particular methods
  • How your research is important and what gaps you hope to fill within current knowledge
  • Identification of current developments in your chosen research topic
  • A realistic time plan for carrying out all your research
  • A short list of references to key articles and texts included in the application


For more information about NCEA Credits see UCOL's NCEA explained page.

 International Entry Requirements

In addition to the Domestic Entry Requirements, the following applies to international students.

English Proficiency Entry Requirements:
The minimum entry requirement for international students is IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with no band score lower than 6 (or equivalent, including TOEFL).  IELTS scores used must be taken from a single IELTS Test Report Form (i.e. combining scores from more than one test is not permissible). UCOL is a TOEFL iBT testing centre.      
Under 20 years of age
For international applicants under 20 years of age who do not hold NCEA, International Academic Qualifications Entry Criteria apply.

 Advice & Guidance

Work experience/industry project
As part of your studies you will undertake industry oriented design or art projects that address the needs of the project client.

Your personalised timetable will be available just prior to classes starting, and will comprise a weekly commitment of:

  • 12 hours of lecturer supported learning in class
  • 26 hours of self-directed learning (your own time spent working to complete your assignments)

Application checklist
It will make the process easier if you prepare the following before you apply:

  • National Student Number (NSN) (If you don't have a NSN, you may request one from NZQA, or you can supply a verified copy of your birth certificate, passport or Whakapapa statement.)
  • Evidence of your highest level of academic achievement (and evidence of prior learning, if applicable)
  • Evidence that you meet the entry requirements of the programme
  • Check if you're eligible for additional support or a scholarship. If you're 19 years or younger, you may be eligible to enrol in one of our free Youth Transition programmes.

Note that you will need to provide any verified documents in person, via post or email.

Recognition of prior learning
Up to two-thirds of the qualification may be credited via recognition of prior learning.  In exceptional circumstances, this amount may be increased by the Faculty Board of Educational Improvement. To find out more, contact UCOL.

 Additional Costs

Please note that there are additional costs associated with the Master of Design as follows:

  • 32 GB USB flash drive - Approximately $16.00 from Warehouse Stationery
  • Allow up to $800.00 for specialist art and design supplies (dependend on personal preference)


The programme is approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority under the provisions of the Education Act 1989, and Universal College of Learning (UCOL) Trading as Universal College of Learning (UCOL) is accredited to teach it.