MA Narrative Environments

On this course you'll design visitor experiences and events for museums, brand, urban and community environments and work in small multidisciplinary teams to tell stories through text, image, sound and physical space. You'll benefit from strong industry links that provide live, funded projects, mentors and placements.

This course is part of the Spatial Practices Programme.

Scholarships, Awards and Funding available:

MA Narrative Environments Bursary

Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarships:
Home/EU | International
Jane Rapley Scholarships

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,000 are now available for eligible UK and EU students. A full list of eligibility criteria and information on applying can be found on the postgraduate loans webpage.

The Story So Far by Amy Wallace, MA Narrative Environments, Central St Martins by John Sturrock, 2013
The Story So Far by Amy Wallace, MA Narrative Environments, Central St Martins by John Sturrock, 2013

Reasons to apply

  • MA Narrative Environments enables you to pursue your studies whilst also undertaking part-time employment, internships or care responsibilities. You are expected to commit 30 hours per week to your studies; your taught input will normally be scheduled over a maximum of two to three days per week during term time. 
  • Collaborate in a multidisciplinary team of architects, communication designers, media designers and writers to design complex and engaging environments that would not be possible to develop on your own.
  • Learn from leading industry figures affiliated to the course. Get a mentor, in the creative industries who can give you real world advice; do a placement or internship in a design company, an architect’s practice, a museum or a related business or government organization; get a sense of the global market for jobs in narrative environments.
  • Undertake live projects as part of the course with affiliates such as Arup, Cisco, Selfridges, Arts Council England, Southbank Centre, the National Trust and the London Festival of Architecture. Meet thought leaders and inspirational practitioners.
  • Try a wide range of projects from city branding to public engagement and social innovation that help you to define your future career in either the commercial or cultural creative industries or indeed in PhD research.
  • Contribute to the cutting edge of new design theory as it is applied to professional practice; clarify and define your own values and position as a creative practitioner.


Course Leader

Patricia Austin

Course Location

King's Cross, London

Study LevelPostgraduate
Study ModeFull time
Course LengthFull time: 2 years (60 weeks)
Home/EU Fee

Tuition fees for 2017/18: £5,050 per year. Please note that fees for second year of study will be subject to inflationary increase.

£500 per annum discount for all students who have completed a PG Dip/Cert or an undergraduate course including Grad Dip/Cert, at UAL.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

International Fee

Tuition fees for 2017/18: £12,860 per year.

£500 per annum discount for all students who have completed a PG Dip/Cert or an undergraduate course including Grad Dip/Cert, at UAL.

You can pay course tuition fees in instalments for this course. 

Use our Fees and Funding Calculator to estimate how much your studies may cost you in your first year, and what funding may be available to you.

Start DateSeptember 2017
Autumn Term DatesMonday 25 September 2017 – Friday 8 December 2017
Spring Term DatesMonday 8 January 2018 – Friday 16 March 2018
Summer Term DatesMonday 16 April 2018 – Friday 22 June 2018
Application Route

Direct application

Content and structure

MA Narrative Environments is part of the Spatial Practices programme. The course combines storytelling with experience design, interaction design, museum studies, exhibition design, event design and communication design. You will develop and install interventions in cultural and corporate settings as well as making critical urban interventions in the public realm. You will undertake site and social research, visiting spaces, observing, filming and talking to visitors and inhabitants. You'll also produce proposals and make and test these in situ.

Distinct disciplines contribute to the postgraduate programme. Developing a new science centre, for example, draws on architects, curators, destination consultants, 3D designers, communication designers, interaction designers, time-based media designers, scenographers, writers, retailers and project managers. We value all.

About the course

  • MA Narrative Environments lasts 60 weeks structured as two consecutive periods of 30 weeks each (i.e. two academic years) in its 'extended full-time mode'.
  • MA Narrative Environments is credit rated at 180 credits, and comprises 2 units. Unit 1 (60 credits) lasts 20 weeks. Unit 2 (120 credits) runs for 10 weeks in the first year and 30 weeks in the second year.
  • Both units must be passed in order to achieve the MA, but the classification of the award of MA derives from your mark for Unit 2 only.
  • You are expected to commit 30 hours per week to your studies, within which, your taught input will normally be scheduled over three days. MA Narrative Environments has been designed in this way to enable you to pursue your studies, whilst also undertaking part-time employment, internships or care responsibilities.

Unit 1 Methodology and Scope of the Design of Narrative Environments

This unit is an intensive introduction to the methodology and scope of the design of Narrative Environments taught through team based practical projects. You'll attend workshops on research, collaboration and presentation techniques, and lectures and seminars on narrative and spatial theory.

Leading UK and international practitioners will attend studio crits and give talks on professional practice. You'll be allocated mentors who will provide further insight into particular professional roles and conventions.

Unit 2 Challenging, Originating and Repositioning Narrative Environments

This is designed to enable you to become a self sufficient, critical practitioner, with clear career aspirations and confidence to pursue your goals.

The Unit begins with a bridging project that prepares you to move from responding to design briefs onto devising your own self-directed brief. The bridging project is followed by studio, museum or business placement that gives you first hand insight into professional practice and informs your Major Project Proposal and your career direction.

Through your Major Project Proposal you'll produce an original, engaging and meaningful narrative environment. You'll assemble your own team to evolve and produce a complex and multilayered user or visitor experience that critiques and challenges conventional practice. The content, structure and submission requirements are agreed through discussions and debate with your peers and the course tutors.

After you have submitted your Major Project you write a Critical Report that reflects upon and evaluates your Major Project and your plans for a future career.


Course Leader: Tricia Austin

First Year Architecture Tutor: Sarah Featherstone
Second Year Tutor: Stuart Jones
Second Year Tutor: Ingrid Hu
3D Design and Public Engagement Tutor: Xavier Llarch Font
Museum Specialist and Historian: Kevin Flude
Interaction and Sound Design Tutor: Stuart Jones
Design Psychologist: Rakhi Rajani
Associate Lecturer: Jona Piehl

Visiting Professor: Peter Higgins

Communications and Graphics Assistant: Sara Strandby


MA Narrative Environments extends and enhances your employment opportunities in sectors such as exhibition, event, retail and interpretive design, visitor centre development, curating, scripting and creative direction, film and TV production, architecture, new media and interaction design, brand development and design for corporate environments.

The postgraduate course also addresses the need for advanced research in spatial practices. It provides a grounding in design research and intellectual, scholarly debate that can lead you to MPhil and PhD research degrees.

MA Narrative Environments has excellent links with renowned practitioners across the spectrum of narrative design. Professional fields include: interpretive design; production; architecture; interaction, media, graphic and communication design; brand communications; museums and galleries; planning and management.

Companies and institutions that are affiliates and sponsors of MA Narrative Environments include:

  • Arthesia HD, Switzerland
  • Arup Innovation Unit
  • The British Museum, London
  • Event Communication, London
  • Eyebeam, NY
  • FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) London
  • The Freud Museum, London
  • Glasshouse Community-led Design, London
  • G.T.F, London
  • Hidden Art, London
  • IDEO London and Shanghai
  • Imagination, London and NY
  • Land Design Studio, London
  • LDJ lighting design, Yorkshire
  • MET London and Hong Kong
  • Metaphor, London
  • Participle, London
  • Ralph Appelbaum Associates London and NY
  • Selfridges, London
  • the Serpentine Gallery, London
  • The Science Museum, London
  • The Speaker's Corner Trust
  • Southbank Centre, London
  • Stanton Williams, London
  • Tate Modern, London
  • United Visual Artists, London
  • Wolf Olins, London
  • The Wellcome Trust, London.

For details of the wide range of careers support provided for students, please visit the Student Jobs And Careers section.

Entry requirements

MA Narrative Environments entry requirements are: Honours Degree, or equivalent learning, and ideally at least one year of professional experience.

Relevant fields are: architecture, exhibition, graphic, interior, performance, retail, spatial, theatre, 3D, multimedia or interaction design, museum studies or curatorship, writing, and design management. Precise qualifications and experience needed vary according to your field.

  • Designers: a degree in 2D or 3D design or equivalent experience.
  • Curators and museum studies graduates: a degree in museum studies or equivalent museum experience; or a degree in another subject, at least two years' experience in a full-time museums curatorial position, and associate membership of the Museums Association.
  • Architects: a degree and RIBA Part I, or equivalent.
  • Writers and humanities graduates: a degree or equivalent experience.

For further advice on entry requirements contact Tricia Austin, Course Leader, on +44(0) 20 7514 8535, email

English language requirement

All classes are conducted in English. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend you send us an English language test score together with your application to prove your level of proficiency. If you have booked a test or are awaiting your results, please clearly indicate this on your application form. When you have received your test score, please send it to us immediately. The standard English language requirement for entry is IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in any one paper, or equivalent. For further information visit the Language Centre website.
Applicants who will need a Tier 4 General Student Visa should check the External English Tests page which provides important information about UK Border Agency (UKBA) requirements.

What we look for

The MA Narrative Environments is aimed at graduates with some experience of architecture, curatorship, writing or design who want to grow their expertise within the cultural and commercial sectors. We seek resourceful, talented and ambitious individuals who work well in multidisciplinary teams.

The college's strong international profile is reflected in the broad cultural mix of our students and our international studio placements and exchanges.
Student selection criteria

MA Narrative Environments applicants will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • A BA qualification or equivalent level of skills and knowledge in your own discipline and preferably some examples of post college work in your particular field
  • Evidence of interest and use of stories and storytelling in your working process
  • Work demonstrating engagement with narrative in a spatial context, whether that is a real or virtual space
  • A reflective and critical approach
  • Experience and preference for teamwork
  • Self motivation, ambition and a commitment to the postgraduate programme



How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application form.

Before you apply, we recommend you take some time to read the following details about the application process, including guidance on the extra information we will ask you to provide.

Required information for all postgraduate course applications

You will need to enter the following information in the online application form:

  • Personal details (including full name; date of birth; nationality; permanent address and English language level)
  • Current and/or previous education and qualification details
  • Employment history
  • Referee details (this course requires two references, at least one of which should be an academic or professional reference).

Before you can submit the form, you’ll also need to agree to the terms and conditions for how we process your data – these are explained in the form.

Extra information required for applications to this course

Once you have submitted the form, you will receive a confirmation email that includes links to where you should submit the extra information we require for the selection process:

Personal statement

Your personal statement should explain what role the course would play in your personal and professional development and where you aim to locate yourself within the cultural and commercial industries.


Please note, you can submit text and as many website links as you need to, but the portfolio form does not allow you to upload files.

Your portfolio should demonstrate your practical and conceptual skills as well as your working processes. The content of your portfolio will depend on your field of expertise as follows:

Designers should include:

  • 20 images of visual work
  • Examples of moving image work if appropriate
  • Developmental research material
  • Samples of written work.

Curators and museum studies graduates should include:

  • A link to a detailed professional CV with project descriptions
  • Documentation of work where possible.

Architects should include:

  • Your degree project
  • Two other projects featuring concept drawings and process work that demonstrate your own concerns
  • Drawings, designs, visualisations and photographs of models appropriate to your experience and background.

Writers and humanities graduates should include:

  • A publications list or CV detailing recent projects (e.g. screenplays, scripts, art direction, articles from journals or newspapers, short stories, novels)
  • Details of membership of professional organisations (e.g. Writers Guild, NUJ)
  • At least three samples of work.

Start your application now

Applications can be submitted throughout the academic year.

Deferred entry: Entry can only be deferred in exceptional circumstances. Please contact us before submitting your application if you're considering applying for deferred entry.

The application form can be saved as you fill it out, so you don’t need to complete it all at once. You will also have the chance to review all the information and make any necessary amendments before you submit the application form.

We will send you emails as you progress through the application process, so do check your inbox (and junk folder, just in case). These emails will contain important information about your application, and links to the online forms you should use to submit the extra information required.

What happens next?

We read and consider all application forms and personal references. Please note we give particular attention to your study statement and references.

Subject to your meeting the entry requirements and consideration of your application form, preliminary selection is based on your study proposal, documentation of work and supporting information. You may then be invited to attend an interview. You'll be asked to bring a portfolio of your latest work. For candidates applying for external funding, interviews will be scheduled prior to funding body deadlines.

Can't attend the interview?

If you're a home/EU or international applicant unable to attend for interview, the MA Narrative Environments Course Leader would hope to discuss your application by telephone.

In the case of applicants unable to attend for interview and unable to discuss their application by telephone, a decision regarding the offer of a place on the course will be made on the basis of a review of the application materials. We keep notes about decisions made following the initial application review and the interview process.

Selection is by two members of staff (normally the Course Leader and one other), and offers of places are made on the basis of our selection criteria. Applicants are informed of the decision via either the Student Administration or the International Office.

Open days

Open days are a great opportunity to meet staff and students and to find out at first hand about courses, teaching and student life. Visit the open day section for dates to book your session. Bookings can only be made online, not by phone or email.

Course projects

MIXEDNESS: A narrative media space on mixed identities and perceptions


MIXEDNESS is a narrative media space to be hosted in gallery 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning in Herne Hill, South London. It consists of three audio-visual installations articulating and reflecting back the experiences of mixed-race people in London. This project aims to make people think about the racial aspect of their identities and its implications, especially those who imagine that race is not a matter of concern.

While the UK, in the past, experienced racial intolerance and tension, it has become a cosmopolitan and open multicultural society, with London being the locus of this change. Today, mixed-race people are often seen as indicators of modernity, multiculturalism and diversity.

The exhibition challenges the common response ‘Aren’t we all mixed anyway?’, and creates a tangible platform to consider why some people identify as mixed-race. MIXEDNESS offers insights into the complexity of mixed-race identities, and initiates a dialogue about how race constructs identities.

Who was involved:

  • Elliott Burns, Project Consulting
  • Mariam Abdurahman, Graphic Design
  • Sam Toller, Voice Acting Direction
  • Marianna Poppitz, Scriptwriting Assistance
  • Kontraer klang, Sound design

The British Museum

British Museum

In November 2014 the British Museum worked with first year MA Narrative Environments students to develop an alternative scheme for their Room 3 Object in Focus series. This programme of temporary exhibitions provides the Museum with an opportunity to experiment with new display techniques and to try out innovative ideas.

The subject of the exhibition was The Meroe Head, a stunningly well-preserved bronze head from the 1st century AD that once formed part of a statue of the Roman Emperor Augustus. Discovered in present-day Sudan in 1911, it is one of the Museum’s most treasured objects.

The multi-disciplinary project team (Alice Barsottini, Tom Butler, Julie Howell, Julia Mariani, Dan Morrison and Lea Nagano), developed a design scheme that sought to challenge the Museum’s view of the curated object and provide the visitor with a counterpoint to the rest of their Museum experience.

In the scheme, the standard museum object – the plinth – was repeated throughout the space: at different heights, in clusters, and suspended from the ceiling. As well as embodying the rise and fall of power across history, these plinths also provided the surfaces for supporting information such as text, images and maps, and a seating area directly in front of the Head (itself on a plinth in the centre of the space.)

A subtle soundscape throughout the room featured the sounds of wind, of marching and of rioting, corresponding to the images and text presented, and mimicking the sounds that the Head might have heard while underground. An animation projected onto the entire back wall showed grains of sand and earth trickling and blowing together to form the scheme’s title, “Witnessing Power”, before falling away.

All these elements worked together to create a dramatic and immersive encounter with the Head, a space entirely different from the rest of the Museum. As the last room on the way out for many visitors, this proposed scheme for the Meroe Head in Room 3 acts as a reminder, as you leave the British Museum, that all things rise and fall, and each object in the Museum is just a moment in time. 

This was a hugely successful collaboration between The British Museum and MA Narrative Environments, and discussions about joint future projects are underway.

The London Boat Show

London Boat Show

In 2014 the London Boat Show, one of the world’s top 10 boat shows, challenged MA Narrative Environments students from CSM to curate its January 2015 event at ExCeL London, sparking a change in the design and execution of its live events. 

Building on the Show’s history and heritage the brief was to change people’s perceptions of the event.  The students were asked to develop and visualise an overall concept for the look and feel of the CWM FX London Boat Show and to indicate how this story could be unveiled throughout the event.  The remit also looked at the entire visitor experience, involving attendees from pre-show right through to post event.  The aim of the 2015 event is to surprise visitors, intrigue them, interact with them during the Show and importantly encourage immediate recommendation to friends and family.

Three student teams each presented strong concepts to the judging panel and the winning team was Anna Dalmasse Trias, Yi-Chun Chen and Kuang-Yu Cheng who have studied architecture, international business and interior design respectively. They were tutored throughout the project by mentor Adam Scott, from the world leading Experience Design agency FREEstate. 

Tricia Austin, Course Leader of MA Narrative Environments said: “The project was a unique learning opportunity to work on such an incredible live brief. The students embraced the vast scale of the event and global reputation of the CWM FX London Boat Show. They devised a compelling concept that aligned future weather with technical and scientific innovation”.

Many thanks to the whole tutor team who included Xavier Llarch Font, Michelle Salamon and Amy Wallace.

The Museum of the Future exhibition at the OCAT Shenzhen Creative Festival 2013-14

MANE was invited to show the project the Museum of the Future beside exhibitions of work from five of Europe’s leading design colleges, and the work of design researchers from Europe and China. The exhibition focused on the relationship between design education and research. Four multidisciplinary teams of postgraduate students envisaged the future of four London museum spacesThis resulted four different animations/ videos that express four different scenarios for the Museum of the Future. The original project was kindly sponsored and delivered jointly with Arup Foresight + Research + Innovation.

Chaos At The Museum

Chaos at the Museum, the first in the series of international forums on Re-envisioning Exhibition Design brought together thought leaders, strategists and practitioners from the USA, Asia and Europe to address and inform the evolving discipline of exhibition design. Chaos at the Museum, convened participants with divergent views from all sides of the exhibition spectrum to create a design-centric forum for debate, analysis, and future collaboration and exchange. The focus of the summit was what’s working and what’s not in the realm of design for visitor participation.

Narrative Cities Exhibition, a collaboration with China Academy of Art

Twelve MANE second year students teamed up with their counterparts in China. Each MANE student, whose work involved an urban narrative, showed a storyboard of their Major Project visitor experience while the Chinese students showed their team graduation work on design for city experiences. The students also exchanged emails commenting on each other’s projects. This dialogue was also displayed as a second layer of narrative. The show was in the Powerstation of Art, equivalent to the Tate Modern in London.

Rainham Hall project sponsored by the National Trust

Three multidisciplinary teams of MANE students were selected to participate in this “live” project sponsored by the National Trust. The students researched the history and social context of Rainham Hall which will open for the first time later this year; they contributed to the National Trust’s visioning for the property; and they developed three site specific interactive visitor experiences that have been adopted by the National Trust as part of the programming for Rainham Hall. The students focused on storytelling, community engagement and sustainable business models that can thrive and evolve in the regenerated London Borough of Havering.

Industry collaborations

Working with paying clients on live briefs will give you valuable commercial experience which may mean your work being taken forward for production or, if so desired, in the purchase of your intellectual property. All paid projects are conducted within a carefully developed legal framework, which includes student agreements to protect your work and help you realise its commercial value. 

Recent client projects in the Spatial Practices programme include: London Borough of Camden | National Trust | Arup | Mindfolio | New World Development | Grange Hotels | Oasis | Hot Spots Movement |  Redbridge Council | Southbank Centre. Find out more about the Ochirly client project

Once you’ve graduated, you may be picked as part of a small team to work on a live creative brief, organised by our Business and Innovation department, under the supervision of an experienced tutor. This can be a valuable first step in working professionally in a chosen discipline and has resulted in graduates being hired by clients.

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