User Experience Design - MSc
The MSc User Experience Design course will provide you with in-depth theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical experience in designing, developing, and evaluating digital products across a range of platforms and state-of-the-art technologies....
Studying with us in 2021/22
It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.
Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.
The MSc User Experience Design course will provide you with in-depth theoretical knowledge and hands-on practical experience in designing, developing, and evaluating digital products across a range of platforms and state-of-the-art technologies. The course places a strong emphasis on the development of professional technical skills that are in high industry demand and will position you well for careers around the field of user experience (UX).
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What's covered in this course?
The course has been designed to support graduates from a wide range of disciplines (including those with technical and non-technical backgrounds) who wish to specialise in the area of user experience (UX) and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The key topics taught on the course include interaction design (techniques for user-centred design), front-end development (using industry standard development environments), visual design (creating interfaces with strong aesthetics), accessibility (methods for supporting inclusive design), and usability testing (collecting and analysing data via user evaluations). You will also have the opportunity to consider and create user experiences for technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, eye gaze tracking, speech interfaces, mid-air gesturing, haptic systems, and brain-computer interfaces.
The course philosophy is focused around industry and research-led activities, supported with assignments that are closely aligned to the development of essential knowledge and technical skills used in practice. You will therefore have the opportunity to work closely with academics, researchers, and industry partners on real-world project briefs thus supporting you in developing a strong portfolio of work (which is essential for gaining employment in this field). The course will also provide opportunities to collaborate with academics based in the School of Computing and Digital Technology’s Mixed Reality and Human-Computer Interaction research group to work on cutting-edge research projects.
Graduates from the User Experience Design course will be well placed for industry roles that are in high demand including front-end developers, user experience designers/developers, information architects, usability consultants and UX researchers, web designers/developers, and interaction designers. The course will also position you well for undertaking further academic study and research through pursuing a PhD degree.
Why Choose Us?
Highly employable graduates - Our graduates are well placed for industry roles in User Experience Design.
Industry-focused and research-led - The course philosophy is around preparing you for industry. You will have the opportunity to work with academics, researchers, and industry partners on real-world project briefs.
Develop a specialised and professional portfolio - You will be supported to develop a strong online portfolio of work which is essential to gain employment in this sector.
Excellent industry partnerships - Our links with leading organisations (e.g. BBC, Jaguar Land Rover, GlaxoSmithKline, Imagination, Konica Minolta, IBM, Microsoft) present opportunities for working on industry defined and mentored projects.
A first Degree (2:2+) broadly related to User Experience Design (including Computing, Mathematics, Engineering, Business, Marketing, Psychology, Art and Design, etc.), with an interest in the technological/scientific approaches to User Experience Design.
Fees & How to Apply
- UK students
- International students
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 12 months
- £8,800 per year
- Full Time
- 18 months with Professional Placement*
- £9,700 per year
- Part Time
- 24 months
- Show fees
- Year 1 (80 credits) £4,000
- Year 2 (100 credits) £5,000
Fees for Part-time students
This course can be studied on a Part-time study basis. The cost per year of study is based on credit requirements for that year as shown here.
Starting: Jan 2022
- Full Time
- 12 months
- £8,800 per year
- Full Time
- 18 months with Professional Placement*
- £9,700 per year
Starting: Sep 2021
- Full Time
- 12 months
- £13,200 per year
- Full Time
- 18 months with Professional Placement*
- £14,520 per year
Starting: Jan 2022
- Full Time
- 12 months
- £13,200 per year
- Full Time
- 18 months with Professional Placement*
- £14,520 per year
Access to computer equipment
You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.
You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.
All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.
Access to Microsoft Office 365
Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.
You will be able to download SPSS and NVivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.
Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.
Free access to Rosetta Stone
All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.
Media consumable items (optional)
This course requires the use of consumables.
Excess printing (optional)
Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.
All module key texts will be in the University library, but in limited numbers. You may choose to purchase a copy.
Placement expenses (optional)
If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.
Professional Placement option*
The Professional Placement option will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.
You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.
Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.
Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.
Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:
Your passion and motivations
Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?
Why this course?
Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.
What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?
Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.
Relevant academic or work experience
Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?
You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.
Get more information on writing personal statements.
Course in Depth
The term “Human-Centred Design” refers to a set of processes focused around developing products and services with an emphasis around key identified target audiences. This module will therefore focus on combining theoretical concepts around user experience design with practical hands-on approaches used widely in industry and academia to create effective interactive experiences.
You will learn about the user-centred design process and design thinking strategies that place a core emphasis on creating products, applications, and services for “people”. In particular, you will learn techniques for gathering and understanding a target audience’s requirements and methods for undertaking rapid low-fidelity prototyping.
A particular focus will be placed on gaining practical experience around how to design, conduct, and analyse usability studies through utilising a variety of evaluation techniques and then incorporating key findings back into the design process. You will apply this knowledge to collaboratively design and evaluate a digital prototype using industry standard tools.
This module complements the “Visual Interface Design” and “UX Development” modules where you will work towards designing and developing a high-fidelity version of your chosen concept. The low fidelity designs that you create in this module will therefore be taken forward to inform the design of your high-fidelity prototypes.”
This module will introduce you to industry-leading frameworks, libraries, and platforms that are commonly utilised to develop front-end user experiences.
In particular, you will gain knowledge around different development methodologies that are adopted and utilised in industry and academic environments. Theories will be discussed and practical applications will be analysed for their suitability for deployment.
You will use the knowledge and skills gained during the module to individually develop the front-end user experience for an interactive application (utilising a library/framework introduced in earlier sessions). This application will be based around the concepts you develop in the “Human-Centred Design” and “Visual Interface Design” modules.
Furthermore, you will gain knowledge and experience around different system unit test approaches to help ensure that your work is robust and free of critical errors.
This module, closely aligned with the module Human-Centred Design, will provide you with the fundamental knowledge and skills to conceive, develop, and present compelling visual solutions for interactive digital products.
You will examine and explore the key paradigms of visual communication as applied to the delivery of user experiences in digital devices, establish processes for the generation and development of engaging and understandable visually-led user interfaces, and learn approaches for turning digital prototypes into high-fidelity designs.
Beginning with an introduction to the application of design principles within this specialised area and moving on to fully develop design prototypes established within the Human-Centred Design module, this module will furnish you with the ability to work in interdisciplinary teams to fully realise and communicate your concepts.
This module will focus on the importance of inclusive design, accessibility, and assistive technology in the context of user experience design. In particular, the module will introduce the types of impairments and disabilities that can influence how people experience digital technologies (including physical, visual, cognitive, and auditory).
You will also gain a deep understanding of the wide range of assistive tools that people with different impairments typically utilise when interacting with digital systems (eye gaze tracking, switches, head tracking, speech recognition, etc.) and the impact this has on the design of user interfaces and experiences.
Moreover, the module will focus on the challenges associated with designing and evaluating systems that are accessible for everyone (i.e. universal design). You will also have the opportunity to design, develop, and evaluate accessible digital solutions that address particular accessibility needs.
The development of higher level research skills is a key focus for the module. This, alongside a technical underpinning, reinforces the overall course philosophy in being designed to provide the specialisation needed for a research career.
This module will explore the research methods and tools to enable you to define methods for research, translate technical theory to a reasoned test methodology, interpret your results and to distinguish trends leading reasoned and informed findings.
The module will enforce practice-led knowledge and applied internationalisation via industry standardisation. It will also draw from the module team’s active involvement in applied engineering research bringing strong links with the international research communities.
Advanced and immersive interface systems, for example Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), Eye Trackers, and depth sensors are becoming commonplace within the field of human computer interaction. These systems present innovative and exciting design paradigms, but also introduce many challenges to their successful adoption. Having a mastery in the design and development of experiences using these novel systems and understanding the potential they hold for future user experience design is paramount.
The module will focus on the use of immersive and advanced interactive systems from a user-based perspective. You will gain highly sought-after skills to enable you to be competitive in the strong immersive and advanced technologies job market.
You will develop core understanding to design for novel interfaces, sensors and display systems. You will also explore advanced interaction methods using these devices and focus on analysing and evaluating the design considerations these systems propose, for example; system specifications, interface considerations, sensor ranges interaction paradigms and sensor tolerances.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and research-informed Level 7 project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. In agreement with your supervisor, you will decide upon your topic which will take the form of a practical outcome (artefact) with accompanying contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be aligned to the programme you are studying and informed by the research strategy of your school, and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.
Course Strengths and Opportunities
The MSc User Experience Design course provides several unique strengths and benefits:
1. An inclusive approach to student recruitment presenting you with opportunities to work with peers from a variety of backgrounds (i.e. Computing/Engineering, Arts and Humanities, Business and Marketing, etc.)
2. The opportunity to work and contribute to cutting-edge research projects utilising innovative technologies (particularly in the areas of virtual/augmented reality, accessibility, and assistive technology)
3. Wide access to state-of-the-art technologies and well-equipped work spaces that can be utilised for project work
4. The chance to work on industry defined and mentored projects developed through the School’s existing links with leading external organisations
5. The adoption of a spiral curriculum promoting cross interaction between different modules, facilitating the development of substantial project work that can be incorporated into specialised individual portfolios
The course will explore the key theoretical issues associated with Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and their application in creating and evaluating user experiences across a range of platforms. A practical learning and teaching approach will underpin each of the main modules on the course ensuring that you gain “hands-on” experience in developing the necessary skills utilised in industry environments.
The learning and teaching in the first semester will focus on building broader fundamental knowledge in the field to ensure that all students have a common understanding of key topics. These areas include human-centred design, UX development (using Bootstrap, Angular, etc.), and visual interface design. You will choose a key application theme to work on across the whole semester which each module will inform from a different (but complimentary) perspective.
For instance, the Human-Centred Design module will focus on processes for understanding and identifying user requirements, interaction design, information architecture, low-fidelity prototyping, and the evaluation of early design concepts. Low-fidelity designs created as part of this module’s assessment will be taken forward and utilised in the Visual Interface Design module. This module will teach fundamentals around key graphical and visual concepts (e.g. typography, colour theory, visual design process, etc.) which will be used to inform the production of assessed high-fidelity designs based on the low-fidelity prototypes.
These high-fidelity designs will then be incorporated into the UX Development module assessment which will focus on the application of front-end development frameworks, libraries, and platforms. The skills developed during this module will therefore be used to implement the designs produced during the other two complementary modules. One of the key outputs of the first semester will therefore be a substantial project that has been explored and developed across each of the key modules.
The second semester will build on this foundation through developing research and user evaluation skills (including experimental design and statistical data analysis), exploring the importance of inclusive design (e.g. developing solutions that are accessible for people with a range of impairments), and investigating how to design user experiences across advanced and immersive technologies (such as virtual and augmented reality). This will make you aware of future innovations in the field and will ensure you are prepared for designing experiences using emerging hardware and interactive technologies.
You will also undertake a more substantial individual research project where you will have flexibility in choosing a specialist skill or area you would like to focus on. For instance, if you are more interested in graphics and visual design, you will be able to focus on innovative projects in those areas. Alternatively, if you are more interested in technical front-end development projects or statistical analysis, you will also have the opportunity to specialise in these areas. This flexibility will enable you to build your identity within the sector and to position yourself for the UX jobs market.
Assessments will be comprised of a mix of individual and group work where you will be required to present coursework through a combination of oral presentations, formal reports, and demonstrations of products. This will enable you to develop broader professional skills required in industry and academic environments (i.e. working effectively in teams, clearly communicating complex concepts, time management in working towards multiple deadlines, etc.), as well as providing an opportunity to develop your design thinking and critical reflection skills.
Our strong collaborative links with industry and leading academics also support the practice-based philosophy of the course – in particular, the assessment strategy aligns with industry design briefs (set by industry partners and research groups) and will be focused on enabling you to develop a tangible prototype or artefact at the end of each module (that can be placed in a portfolio of work). This is an essential focus of the course as a professional online portfolio of work is crucial in the UX field for improving the likelihood of securing employment within the sector.
The production of a portfolio over the duration of the course will therefore be mandatory, although it will not be formally assessed. Support will be provided throughout the course (via workshops and one-to-one personal tutoring) to assist you in building a personalised online body of work that emphasises your strengths, interests, and preferred specialism within the field.
The teaching team has close links with large leading industry organisations (BBC, Jaguar Land Rover, GlaxoSmithKline, Imagination, Konica Minolta, IBM, Microsoft, Native Instruments, etc.), third sector partners (e.g. Sense), and SMEs (e.g. Holosphere, Ultrahaptics, etc.). The course will also offer industry engagement through the use of guest lectures from industry experts and masterclasses led by practitioners working in the field. Furthermore, there will be the opportunity for you to align your coursework with active research projects at the university, thus enabling you to work on cutting-edge research with academics who specialise in their field of study.
Enhancing your employability skills
The primary aim of the MSc User Experience Design course is to provide you with the skills and experience required to work professionally in the User Experience (UX) sector. This field has grown substantially over the past decade as organisations have increasingly recognised the necessity and importance of optimising digital user experiences to meet their target audiences’ key requirements.
This, in turn, has led to increasing demand for practitioners who are skilled in working collaboratively within multi-disciplinary teams to design, develop, and evaluate digital products and services (across a range of platforms and technologies). This demand for UX expertise is also strong within major global sectors and markets (media, finance, education, health, etc.), as well as across larger established organisations, start-ups, SMEs, and the third sector.
The MSc User Experience Design course has therefore been designed and tailored to support you in developing key skills that are highly-sought after in industry, thus enabling you to be competitive in the growing UX jobs market. In particular, through the course you will study modules (informed by industry experts) that will enable you to develop highly sought-after skills using industry standard platforms and technologies.
Moreover, we will support you throughout the course in developing a specialised and professional online portfolio of work which is essential for gaining employment within this sector. We will also prepare you for a career by equipping you with a range of transferable skills, such as complex problem-solving expertise, the ability to analyse in a careful and considered manner, and working as a team member.
Our excellent partnerships and working relationships with leading international organisations (e.g. BBC, Jaguar Land Rover, GlaxoSmithKline, Imagination, Konica Minolta, IBM, Microsoft, Native Instruments, etc.) will also present opportunities for working on industry defined and mentored projects. These opportunities will further help you in building an outstanding portfolio of work and to mark yourself out as a highly employable graduate.
OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.
It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.
Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.
The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.
Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:
Facilities and Staff
We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £340 million on new learning facilities. This course will be taught at Millennium Point at the City Centre Campus.
As a student at the School of Computing and Digital Technology, you have access to networked laboratories equipped to industry standards and running the latest software, giving you the best possible introduction to the technologies you will encounter in the world of work.
Dedicated facilities are provided for systems analysis, computer networks, programming in a wide range of languages, artificial intelligence, modelling and visual programming, e-commerce and .net environments, and business intelligence, as well as supporting the application areas of mechatronics, games technology, electronics and computer forensics.
The laboratories are well-equipped for all our computer networking courses, as well as specialist areas for practical work such as voice-over internet protocol (VoIP), forensic and ethical hacking technologies, wireless and mobile technologies and radio frequency identification technologies to name but a few.
Software development and computer programming
There are a number of open access, software development and computer programming
laboratories that can be used to develop systems and programmes, including database management systems such as MySQL, to name but a few.
Our embedded systems laboratories are used to develop real-time systems, such as specialist hardware training and development resources, and industrial-standard software development and simulation tools. These include microcontroller software and robotics design and development, to name but a few.
Electronic systemsTo underpin the basic principles of electronic systems, we have a well-equipped laboratory of general and specialist test and measurement kits, including powered prototyping development boards, dual power supplies, frequency generators and counters and digital multi-meters to name but a few.
Our successful development of forensic computing has led to a specialist forensics laboratory that is fully equipped with essential hardware and software for this sensitive area of study. The laboratory includes high-spec PC’s with built-in multi interface Tableau write blockers, EnCase and FTK computer forensic software and steganography detection and analysis software, to name but a few.
Dr Chris Creed
Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction
Dr Creed specialises in the area of Human-Computer Interaction and has extensive experience in leading collaborative technical projects exploring the use of innovative technologies. His core research interest is around the design and development of assistive technology for disabled people across a range of impairments. He also leads the HCI Research Group and the MSc User Experience Design course.
Dr Creed is currently leading on several research projects around HCI and accessibility such as investigating new interface techniques for facilitating creative work via gaze/speech interaction (supported through an Adobe grant), exploring the development of inclusive AR/VR experiences (funded by a Facebook "Consider Everyone" research award), making coding more accessible for people with physical impairments (which has received support from a Microsoft “AI for Accessibility” grant), and investigating the potential of wearable technology to support young people with special needs (e.g. ADHD) within residential care (funded through InnovateUK).
Prior to joining BCU, Dr Creed worked at the University of Birmingham for 12 years in both the School of Computer Science and the Digital Humanities Hub. He was the Principal Investigator on the AHRC funded D2ART project that explored the potential of digital technologies (e.g. eye gaze tracking, mid-air gesturing, facial expression switches, etc.) to support and transform practice for professional disabled visual artists. He was also the lead academic investigator on the AHRC CATH funded LEAP project that examined the accessibility of interactive experiences (e.g. large multi-touch tables) in public spaces.
Dr Creed's research is multi-disciplinary in nature and has been conducted in close partnership with national charities, disability arts and accessibility organisations, special needs colleges, large arts/cultural partners, and disabled people. Dr Creed also has significant experience in working directly with industry and SMEs on multiple collaborative projects across a wide range of sectors.More about Chris
Robert Sharl is a Senior Lecturer in Visual Communications in the School of Visual Communications at Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design. He is also Deputy Director for the MA in Visual Communication, and Course Coordinator for the University’s partner course in Visual Communications at the School for Higher and Professional Education (SHAPE) in Hong Kong. He joined the University in 1999.
Robert Sharl is changing the way that industry and the School of Visual Communications collaborate. Instead of having external businesses being a plug-in part to the students’ timetable, he puts the University to be at the centre of creative activities in the city. It means that major events, such as the Flatpack Festival – a film festival that is held in Birmingham, are integrated into the curriculum.
“In the last couple of years, we have started to structure our courses around the external communication with industry. It is a great benefit to both our students and the course. We are structuring our course around the commercial and professional world, ensuring that these events are central to what we do. It means that students can document aspects of the festival or event, as well as interview practitioners or assist in it.”
Before he was a lecturer, Robert ran a consultancy business that focused on digital, online and interactive media. He helped to develop the first cyber café in the city and was instrumental in making the Custard Factory the first public building in the UK permanently connected to the Internet. He worked as a consultant for Digital Central, helping music industry professional’s access funding for projects. He is working on a number of projects with Hong Kong photographer, Kwan Chun In.More about Robert
Dr Ian Williams
Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Digital Media Technology
Ian is an Associate Professor and head of the Centre of Digital Media Technology (DMT). He earned his PhD from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2008 in low level feature analysis in biomedical images. He leads research in Computer Vision and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with a key emphasis on creating novel methods for improving the Quality of Experience for users of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).
Dr Williams’ has authored many publications in leading international journals and global events and he currently sits on the scientific and technical committee for the IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR), the IEEE Conference on Games (CoG) and acts as a reviewer for many conferences, journals and funding organisations including, IEEE Transactions on Visualisation and Computer Graphics (TVCG), IEEE Signal Processing Letters (SPL), the Elsevier Journal of Computer Vision and Image Understanding (CVIU) and the EPSRC.
Anthony is a Senior Academic in the School of Digital Media Technology.
Originally an applications specialist for a software house Anthony was initially involved in the development of interactive business systems before becoming a senior technical consultant involved in systems integration and implementation of networked office systems technology.
Joining the university in 1990 Anthony taught application development, business systems and computer networks before focusing on the use of internet systems and multimedia technology.
Anthony joined the School of Digital Media Technology in 2009 from the School of Computing to develop further uses of multimedia technologies for business and in teaching.More about Anthony
Dr Maite Frutos-Pascual
Lecturer in Digital Media Technology
Dr Maite Frutos-Pascual specialises in Human Computer Interaction (HCI), usability, user analysis, interactive systems and sensor data analysis and integration.
Dr Frutos-Pascual gained her PhD in Computer Science with her work about the analysis of visual attention and its application in adaptive intelligent systems based on serious games. She graduated with honours at the University of Deusto, Spain, where she worked as a researcher on ICTs for health, mainly on human computer interaction, sensor data integration and user interaction analysis.
Dr Frutos-Pascual's recent work has focused on interaction in mixed reality environments using hand tracking, sensor systems and user interaction analysis. Dr Frutos-Pascual has her work published in different international journals with JCR (Q1, Q2) and A* ranked international conferences. She is currently supervising PhD students in Augmented Reality and Assistive technologies areas.More about Maite