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Advanced Certificate in Visual Theory and Practice
Program Description

The Advanced Certificate in Visual Theory and Practice (VTP) offers students the core knowledge and skills to pursue visual research related to their own fields of study. This cross-disciplinary program gives MA and PhD students the opportunity to engage with visuality and visual methodologies during their studies. This includes access to courses on the theory and practice of working with visual imagery as well as one-on-one supervision on a thesis that centers on the analysis of visual material or the production of a visual project. Additional activities include seminar courses, public lectures, conferences, workshops and public programs organized by faculty, invited guests and artists in residence. Through such activities, students will become familiar with, and engage in, interdisciplinary dialogues on visual imagery across various fields of study.

The VTP curriculum core courses survey theoretical approaches and conceptual analytical vocabulary in critical visual studies, offer a history of visual media, and introduce students to research methodologies. Students will be provided with a common grounding, including a basic understanding of the principle of visual language and its conceptual vocabulary, and the interdisciplinary skills to critically investigate visual imagery and integrate visual methods into scholarship in their own fields of study. Students may choose from a set of elective courses concentrated along two tracks of study: one focused on Visual Theory (track I) and the production of moving images, and another on the study of Visual Practice (track II). Track I prepares students to forge innovative connections across disciplines dedicated to the study of production, circulation, and critical reception of visual imagery in historical and contemporary perspectives. Track II provides focused training in the creation of still and moving images, equipping interested students with valuable skills for the production of their own creative works. Along the two tracks, subjects covered include film studies, filmmaking, photography, medieval and modern art, cultural iconology, media production, digital culture and new media technologies, and data visualization. Students will be able to design course combinations along each track aimed to enhance their independent research, and analytical and practical skills in an environment of intellectual and creative openness.

In order to receive the advanced certificate, the following requirements need to be fulfilled.

1 or 2 year MA Students

1. Admission to one of the participating departments.
2. 1YMA: Based on the required 40 credits to obtain the MA degree (one-year), VTP students must take 4 credits from the core courses and obtain a minimum 4 further elective credits from the approved annual list of VTP courses. Core courses taken beyond the 4 credit requirement will be counted as electives.
     2YMA: Based on the required 60 (66) credits to obtain the MA degree (two-years), VTP students must take 4 credits from the core courses in the first year of their studies and obtain a minimum 8 further elective credits over the course of both years from the approved list of VTP courses.
3. VTP students must write their thesis on a topic related to visual theory, the history of visual culture, or produce visual work alongside a written thesis. To help departments evaluate original visual works produced by students, the VTP advanced certificate program proposes a set of guidelines for the evaluation of audiovisual work.
4. The student's first or second supervisor must be a faculty member participating in the VTP advanced certificate program.
5. Participation in lectures, special seminars, and workshops organized by the Visual Studies Platform at CEU is required. Attendance and participation will be considered part of the student's overall performance.

These requirements may be adjusted in consultation with departments and their program of study.  

Visual Work Guidelines

A graduate student who chooses the visual work option must select ONE project from the options listed below. At the beginning of the fall semester of the second year, the student should find two faculty members to supervise the project. Projects for this option include the following.

A. Moving Image Work: A work falling into a moving image tradition such as a documentary film, animated film, experimental film, etc. The work should have an inherent relation to the student’s theoretical course of study and final thesis. The length of the work will be determined by the complexity of the production process, but as a guideline it should range from 10–20 minutes.  Comprehensive pre-production materials will be submitted at various stages of the process, detailing the theoretical and conceptual basis of the work, and demonstrating preparedness.  

B. Photo Essay: Comprised of more than just snapshots, a photo-essay is made up of pictures that explore a particular theme. This might be an investigative story, documentation of tangible cultural heritage or visualization of contested memories in public space. Other themes and types of visual work are also possible upon agreement with supervising faculty members. The photo-essay should be accompanied by written text that offers a critical reading of images.

PhD students

PhD students may also receive an advanced certificate in Visual Theory and Practice alongside their departmental doctorate.

The requirements for PhD students are the following:

1. Meet all department requirements for their degree.
2. Successfully defend a doctoral thesis on a topic related to Visual Studies or produce original visual works that complement the doctoral thesis in a meaningful manner (e.g. mid-length documentary film in addition to the written thesis).    
3. Be supervised (first or second supervisor) by an affiliated VTP faculty member.
4. Participate in events organized by the VSP.
While students are encouraged to join the Visual Theory and Practice track during their first year of study, it is possible to join in the second year as well, provided the above requirements are still met.

Eligibility of Participation

Students from any department or program are eligible to participate as long as their department supports such participation. They must take Visual Theory and Practice courses within the parameters of the degree program in their home department (as cross-listed or approved outside courses). Or, in exceptional cases with the permission of their department head and the head of the VTP executive committee, students may be authorized to take VTP courses as an overload of their normal credit load for their primary degree.

Program level
Advanced Certificate
Degree awarded
non-degree certificate
Program accreditation/registration
Program approved and registered by the New York State Education Department
Country of accreditation
United States
Type of degree
Standard Program duration
Start of the program
September 2018