VFX (PG/masters) in UK, help needed!


Hey all,

First of all little info abt me - I am from India & in this sep. my B.Sc Animation course is getting completed, i did my specialization in Lighting & Texturing. Now I’m interested in joining a good UK University to do PG/masters in VFX and/or Post Production course.

Now I have few questions, Please answer them because i’m really confused -

  1. Could you provide me a list of UK Government approved good Uni/colleges which offer PG/masters in VFX and/or Post-Production, so that i could narrow down my options. I know about BU (but it would be very difficult to get into).

  2. What is the job scene there?? Are there plenty of FX studios, so that i could apply after the course??

  3. Also i heard that UK have policy to extend student visa, so that students can find job too, is it true?? If yes what will be the extended time period?

  4. Last, I know admission time for this year is over, so suggest me what things should I include in my portfolio, will it be any good to include life drawing/sketching, i’m kinda noob in drawing?? wat else should I study as I got time till Augest next year ( I know Maya, after effects, PS, adobe premiere well…& have little knowledge in realflow, z-brush)??

Please reply guys…

Thanks alot for your help!

  1. NCCA Bournemouth, Herts and Teeside are the hot choices. There may be more but post graduate study as an international student you really want one of those three for it to be worth while.

Also a word of caution, if I remember correctly there are two Bournemouths the one you want is NCCA.

  1. There’s a lot, not enough for everyone but people who are capable seem to get their foot in the door.

  2. Unsure, i think i’ve seen that though.

  3. Best work typically. Considering its post graduate you’ll most likely need to show a short or be expected to have a reel


Thanks for recommending us Wozzie, but Hertfordshire doesn’t (at present) have a Masters in VFX, we only have a BA in VFX. If hdrockzz wants to study VFX at post graduate level I would recommend NCCA Bournemouth or University of Kent.

London has a lot of VFX houses, but demand for roles in them is always high - lots of the entry positions go to European (non UK) students, so the competition is stiff. If you are really good, you will almost certainly get a job, it’s just a question of getting good enough.

Regarding the question about VISAs, the UK government (at present) allows students to stay for a one year period after completing their studies in order to look for work.

Regarding a portfolio, I would suggest some examples of VFX - compositing 3D models into some film footage would be a very good start. Also some tracking/ match moving / rotoscoping work. You may or may not be required to show drawing skills for a course, however most companies want to see some evidence of traditional artistic skills in addition to digital ones, but if you are applying for a more programmer orientated role that may not be required. I would recommend developing art skills as they are always useful. If you want to work in VFX in London you would be wise to learn a node based compositor, Nuke seems to be the current favourite package.


Thanks a lot Wozzie & moidphotos for your advices :slight_smile:
As moidphotos has already informed, Hertfordshire doesn’t have Masters in VFX. Then I looked up into Teesside’s site & couldn’t find any PG course related to VFX/post production (correct me if i am wrong). Uni. of Kent doesn’t look good to me. And as i already knew about BU, i contacted them & they sent me their prospectus, BU’s course looks really great & detailed. So for now, only BU is in my list…
Also thanks for the info. on visa & portfolio moidphotos, i’ll try to keep in touch with you…

Plz guys answer [i]Part [b]A, [/b][/i][i]Part [b]B[/b][/i] & [i]Part [b]C[/b][/i] below - 
1) So are there any other Uni/colleges in UK offering VFX/post production course at Masters level (i'll apply to BU next year, i just wanna know other options too)???
2) Can you guys suggest any other Uni around the globe too (i am just curious to look at the curriculum)

Finally i made a list of softwares which i'll be practisicing now, plz suggest me if i took any wrong software or missed important one -
a) Maya - as 3D package
b) Nuke -  Node based compositor (also suggested by moidphotos)
c) Boujou - for matchmoving, tracking (suggested by my faculty)
d) Realflow - for dynamics, fluids
e) Zbrush

Any advice on how to start making portfolio,anything which should be done before applying?? Or any other suggestions :slight_smile:
Thanks guys for taking interest & replying here :bowdown:


The only other post grad course that does decent VFX that I know of is the National Film And Television School - there may be others though, I’ve never needed to look for one :). I’m sure there are other universities elsewhere on the planet that are good for VFX, but I only have knowledge of the UK’s universities.

Regarding software, you might want to check if the MSc at Bournemouth is still taught in XSI, because I seem to remember that it used to be.

I don’t know what Bournemouth will want in a portfolio; I don’t work for them and never have - you should email them and ask. The ideas I wrote before are the sort of things we like to see in an applicant’s portfolio for our BA in VFX, so they may or may not be valid for Bournemouth.


Sorry I tend to lump all our courses together, our courses come under so many different titles its hard not to just treat them all the same. Animation or VFX most graduates will find themselves heading in the same direction and I imagine the courses cover a lot of the same ground.

Most of what I know about the standard of UK universities and courses comes from 6 months of looking into options for undergraduate study and being very disappointed. I wasn’t so much recommending courses I was recommending universities implying if you can find what you want to do at one of these go for it, if not you’re going to have to gamble.

These courses in the UK are in a very strange position because the UK is somewhat divided on what university is for. You have those who believe that university should be exclusively for the very brightest (or richest) people in the country to study academic subjects (though their definition of academic is quite bizarre as it’s loose enough to include subjects like medicine which is as vocational as it gets) and you have people who believe that university is nothing more than an institution of higher learning and anything taught at a university is by default academic.

Bournemouth and Herts I believe fall into the latter, they structure and teach their courses in a way that will make you a better artist and prepare you for the industry. The university I’ll be going to (TVU) seems to be caught in the middle, while certain elements are in place parts of the course make no sense and will not make you a better artist or prepare you for anything in the industry the only reason I can think of why they would teach some of these modules is for “academic” credibility.

This is actually fairly common.

I could give you a list of 40 or 50 universities in the UK which claim to teach something resembling what we want however the reality is very different. People don’t constantly mention Bournemouth and Herts because they just beat the competition by a whisker they mention them because in truth there isn’t much competition at all.

I brought up Teesside earlier because I’ve seen some very good work coming from there and have heard their facilities are apparently tip top but if you’re driven all you need is the time and tools to learn on your own. The fact that some Teesside graduates put out good work and the university is meant to have pretty good facilities doesn’t really say anything about the quality of teaching which may be fantastic or non-existent.

It’s very hard to gauge the quality of a course without experiencing it first hand and even then you need to acknowledge that you’re the student. It’s kind of unsettling to hear people talk about what they want to do and study whilst turning their nose up at the things they should or need to do be it art skills or scripting.


@ moidphotos - Thanks a lot for the advice, i checked with BU’s site & found out about the softwares they use/teach. List is pretty much same as mine :).

@ Wozzie - Yeah you are right, Universities might take advantage of students who don’t do enough research & choosing wrong University with wrong course structure could destroy career & make you neck deep in debt. Only few colleges have made their mark in VFX field, BU & herts are top in the list. Thanks you too for the advices.


First of all, thanks to hdrockzz and Wozzie for the nice compliments :slight_smile:

No problem, we often have enough problems within our own university explaining to other departments what the difference is! Yes, what you say is true at a first year level, but at Hertfordshire we then specialise from the second year onwards - the VFX students do much more compositing/get taught rotoscoping/matchmoving/greenscreen removal etc whereas the 3D students get character animation, narrative design, character modelling etc - of course there will always be roles in the industry where these areas overlap, but we try to make it obvious to the students about what sort of work they are likely to do when they graduate if they are study in one of degrees rather than another. It doesn’t mean that they can’t work in a different industry, and we certainly teach enough skills that it would be possible (and often does) to have a career change when the student graduates - we can’t predict the future for students, but we can help prepare for it.

I agree. I’ve taught at five different universities/colleges now, and Hertfordshire is the only one that actually impressed me enough to join as a full time member of staff (and I turned down a better paying job at another university at the time).

Very true - and bizarrely it can vary from faculty to faculty, from school to school and even amongst departments - in some respect though this variety of possibilities potentially should offer the widest range of teaching styles and practices so that there should be a place everywhere that will teach the way a student needs - everyone learns in different ways, and different universities teach in different ways. However in my opinion many of the teaching methods are complete abused - a favourite one that has been used at many places I’ve taught is Problem Based Learning. What this should be is that the lecturer introduces the problem to solve, and then sets a deadline and every week sees the students, either to give a lecture showing techniques for solving the issue or holds tutorials to assist on more one to one problems depending on the size of the class / severity of the task etc and hte students are aware that they need to research the issue on their own as well as use the in class information to get a successful outcome. Which is fine, this works - however at every university I’ve worked at outside Hertfordshire, problem based learning is used as an excuse to not teach anything - you set the students a problem and tell them to come back in x weeks time when they’ve figured it out - which enables the lecturer to do whatever he likes in the meantime and not have to worry about anything difficult like learning some new software. That sort of thing really annoys me, because that was the education I got (this problem is years old I’m afraid) and I don’t think it works for most people.

Alas yes, a common issue is that a department will have a pool of lecturers to draw from to teach a selection of degrees - lecturers are contracted to have a fixed amount of contact hours (teaching) with students and they have to be filled - so sometimes if you are the head of department and you are stuck with a few fairly useless lecturers whose pay comes out of your budget, you still have to set them work to do, so you make up some module that they have some vague chance of teaching and stick it in a degree to give the students something to do, give your staff something to do and balance the books budget wise. I’m so glad we don’t have that at Hertfordshire. But it’s very common :frowning: Usually these are the lecturers who won’t learn anything new, which in some areas might not be a problem - but in animation, everything changes every year! You can’t ever just think, ‘ah, I’ve learned enough now, I can stop learning’ because you become useless quite quickly.

Very true - in my opinion an applicant should try to find talented graduates of a course they are interested in (not hard with Google these days as most graduates out their CVs online) and ask them what they think - if you are about to spend a lot of money, you need to do as much research as possible before hand. It can be hard to make people study things they don’t think they want to, but that’s life - you can’t guarantee what job you will get when you leave, and for many of my graduates this year, they have become completely different artists to what they thought they were going to be!



By the description in the website, I thought this program at Hertfordshire http://www.herts.ac.uk/courses/MA-Special-Effects.cfm , the MA in Special Effects, dealt with VFX.

So is it just about practical effects? Not VFX at all?


Special Effects are practical effects (real props, animatronics etc). Visual Effects (VFX) are digital ones. That is the standard industry definition and our course are named accordingly. The course description doesn’t mention any VFX. Hmmmm do you mean this line:

“synthesis of digital and real-world technologies at the forefront of special effects practices”

If so that refers to the fact that the special effects course has a rapid form prototyping printer so you can model in a program like ZBrush or Max or Maya (although I think they use Rhino, but don’t quote me, I don’t teach in that department) and then print the model out in plastic so that you can make props for actors.


Yes, I meant this exactly line. And the fact that the MA is listed together with a MA in Animation and a MA in Character design - it’s not that far off to assume that it was a VFX degree.

I known the difference between the terms Special Effects and Visual Effects in the Industry, but as a teacher you’re probably aware that degrees don’t always follows those standards (for example, there are many generic “Multimedia” and “Digital Art” degrees - and if you take a close look, some of them are about 3d animation, some about Web Design, etc…)

Thanks for the clarification. :slight_smile:


I see why it confused you know. I suspect that the people who wrote that left it deliberately vague in the hope that it would attract more students because it sounds like it would mix practical effects with visual effects. That paragraph sounds like it was written by our Marketing Department. Yes, I agree with you, in education many courses are not what they appear to be from their title, but this is often an issue that management get the final say on the title of a course and even though they may know nothing about the subject, if they’ve got a ‘cool title that the kids will love’ or some other stupid idea, that’s the title that the course gets. I don’t think there are many lecturers who would want to deliberately give their course a misleading title (unless they are really desperate for students). Sorry about any confusion.


Thanks a lot moidphotos for your kind help.
I have another question…

What does this mean -

we need an Undergraduate degree result of 2i or above

I am quoting eligibility criteria of one of the University.
Explain it please…

Thanks :slight_smile:


It means you need a degree with a grade of 2i (or higher) to get entry to the course. In the UK degrees are classified in order of quality like this (first is best):

2i (sometimes written as 2:1)
2ii (sometimes written as 2:2)


I read some of the posts but not all but I get the general idea. I noticed you asked about schools around the world even though its not exactly the right place you might want to look at

in Canada Vancouver:
VFS (Vancouver Film School) regarded as one of best in the world (trending carefully as this is just an opinion and I haven’t taken the course but hear so many great things everywhere that has VFX and I don’t want to influence you)

Lost Boys

in USA:

Gnomon (another notable school)

Dave School

For more info on schools other than UK you should check out the parent forum for Schools.


While these are all very good schools (or at least I assume they’re very good schools) they as far as I know aren’t recognised academic institutions and will most likely have far fewer benefits for international students studying at them.

Bursaries, extended VISA/Work permits and a far cheaper cost (an Msc at NCCA Bournemouth is roughly a third of the cost of a VFS programme) and a qualification that is recognised outside of our little circle which claims not to give a crap about degrees and diplomas makes it a very tough sale.

We could talk about Escape in London but its the same equation, a 12 week course will cost you as much as a 3 year undergraduate degree or a one year post graduate degree as a fee paying international student. You can talk about quality and stuff but I just can’t see how they can be that far ahead of places like Bournemouth.


I guess it all depends on what you want and can afford. Although some of these schools aren’t recognised as academic institutions but if you want a job in the industry it is what’s on your reel that matters and from looking at the work of the graduates, in my opinion you can say that they are at a level where an employer will take notice. I just don’t see how a certificate in a degree is more important, if you can get a great reel and have the knowledge carried into a job in the industry. In my opinion the industry wants capable people not a certificate.

However not to say a University course like Bournemouth is not as good as other courses as it is one of the best courses and probably in the UK, I just want to let the poster know that there are other options and there’s a reason that courses at VFS and etc are well known. Another thing is have you looked at courses in India? as I think there are some well known courses there too!

Another note is that you need to research what you need to do for a reel, companies to apply to and etc. Also you need to put in the hard work as a course at the end of the day will only help you so much, even the top courses.


Sorry for delayed replies…

@ moidphotos - a) So how much percentage one needs to get as International Student in Undergrad to be qualified as 2i?? Do Uni give some relaxation in marks if applicant has good portfolio?
b) Do you think UK Uni would take a fresh Undergrad for post grad, i mean do they ask if the applicant has some kind of experience??

@darkherow - Thanks for listing some good vfx institutes, but as i have told earlier, i really need Government recognized Post Grad degree, coz then only i could get student loan & visa extention.
VFS,LBL are both good but they are private…

@woozie - Escape is good too, i have heard about their studios & learning environment, but i’ll stick to varsity education. Did you find any other varsity with good post prodction/VFX course??

@ darkherow - There are no Best institutes in India, i have checked FX school is good though,but nothing compared to UK,US,Canadian education…

Another note is that you need to research what you need to do for a reel, companies to apply to and etc. Also you need to put in the hard work as a course at the end of the day will only help you so much, even the top courses.

Thanks for the advice, i’ll keep this in mind…I am doing thorough research for Course,College,Portfolio…

Thanks again guys! :slight_smile:


I’m not sure what the percentage grade is to get a 2i, my university grades using a letter/number system eg A1,A2,A3, B1, B2 etc - to get a 2i you need a B average over all modules. Some universities may accept students at lower degree levels, some may not - you have to ask the university.

Most UK post graduate students come straight from undergraduate, so there is no need to get professional experience before applying.


Now this is some good news… now i am gonna contact BU & others for further clarifications :slight_smile:
Thanks for your help moidphotos & i’ll post if i have more questions :slight_smile: