Film and Media Studies Courses in the UK

In the UK there are several different courses covering Film Studies and Media Studies that can be followed by school and college students aged 14-19 or older (i.e. adult students outside the university system). This page deals with those courses most relevant to studying global film.

The UK has a long and proud history of developing film and media studies in schools and colleges and as a result it established national qualifications in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (three separate systems). England and Wales established the greatest variety of courses at both GCSE (16+) and Advanced Level (A Level at 17+ and 18+). In 2015 the Conservative Government announced decisions about the reduction in the range of courses on offer as part of a review of the whole A Level and GCSE provision in England (Wales will in future have slightly different provision). Film Studies and Media Studies came into consideration as subjects to be scrapped – with various spurious reasons asserted. Really this was just political attacks from the right. Communications Studies went almost immediately. Film and Media were eventually ‘reprieved’ and awarding bodies and groups of ‘stakeholders’ (mostly university academics) were invited to suggest new subject content following strict guidelines effectively set down by ministers.

New specifications

On February 4th 2016 the Department for Education announced that A Level and GCSE Films Studies and Media Studies would continue and it published the new Approved Subject Content for each qualification. The appropriate documents can be downloaded from this government website. This content (which is controversial for many (most?) teachers and examiners) must now be worked into formal specifications and assessment instruments. Teaching is scheduled to begin in September 2017 and the first examinations will generally be in 2019. The existing specifications will be examined for the last time in 2018.

The Media Education Association is a good source for news on these developments.

Existing specifications (i.e. up to September 2017)

WJEC GCSE Film Studies

GCSE courses are studied in the UK from 14-17 as one or two year courses. The GCSE Film Studies course from WJEC (Welsh Board) began teaching in September 2008. It has two main areas of study for examination (there is also an element of internally assessed work). One focuses on a specific genre, which is currently the ‘superhero movie’. The other focuses on a film from outside Hollywood chosen from a list of options. The list comprises:

Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France/Germany, 2001)

Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, UK/Germany/US, 2002)

The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (Mark Herman, UK/USA, 2008)

The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo del Toro, Mexico/Spain, 2001)

Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Parronaud, France, 2007)

Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay, UK/France, 1999)

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, Australia, 2002)

Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, South Africa/UK, 2005)

The Wave (Dennis Gansel, Germany, 2008)

Yasmin (Kenneth Glenaan, UK/Germany, 2004).

WJEC GCE (A Level) Film Studies

WJEC also offers an Advanced Level Film Studies qualification which requires study of both British and American Cinema as part of its first year and aspects of ‘World Cinema’ in its second year. It too will have its last exam for the current specification in 2018. The specification offers various options such as the study of ‘National Cinemas’. Some of the topics that might be included are:

• Bollywood, 1990 – present. There is a wide range of Indian cinema discussed on this website. ‘Hindi cinema‘ is used here to refer to Bollywood.

• Iranian Cinema, 1990 – present. There is a selection of films on this site designated Iranian Cinema.

• Japanese Cinema, 1950 – 1970 This site has entries on many Japanese films from the period. Here are just a few:

The Lady of Musashino (Mizoguchi, 1951)

Flowing (Naruse, 1956)

Woman in the Rumour (Mizoguchi, 1957)

When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (Naruse, 1960)

The Naked Island (Shindo,1960)

An Actor’s Revenge (Ichikawa, 1963)

• Mexican Cinema, 1990 – present. There are several contemporary Mexican films discussed on this site.

Candidates have to study one film in depth chosen from this list:

Modern Times (Chaplin, US, 1936)

Les Enfants du Paradis (Carné, France, 1945)

Vertigo (Hitchcock, US, 1958)

The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, Algeria/Italy, 1966)

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Van Peebles, US, 1971)

Solaris (Tarkovsky, USSR, 1972)

Happy Together (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1997)

Fight Club (Fincher, US, 1999)

Talk to Her (Almodovar, Spain, 2002)

Morvern Callar (Ramsay, UK, 2002)

We hope to offer some support to students approaching such study.

Module FM3 involves a small scale research project. There is a variety of material on this website, including discussion of auteurs such as Zhang Yimou and Alejandro Amenábar.

OCR A Level Film Studies

This qualification began teaching in September 2012 and will cease after the final examination in 2018.

The Specification includes a section on Global Cinema which requires students to study two contrasting “non-English language films” in detail. There are no set films in the current specification.

Access to specifications, sample exam papers, details of training etc. and news about re-submissions is available on the OCR website here.

A Level Media Studies

A Level syllabuses allow students to choose titles for independent study and there are opportunities for students to choose to work on aspects of global cinema. The current specification from the OCR Awarding Body has a specific option dealing with Global Media.

The new specifications for teaching starting September 2017

Film Studies has generally fared better than Media Studies in the re-working of specifications. One key decision that government forced onto the awarding bodies (via the quango Ofqual) is that Film Studies and Media Studies need to be completely separate with no possibility of overlap. As a consequence, it will now be difficult to study film as part of a Media Studies course and since ‘film’ is the most popular medium to study, this may mean students would prefer to take Film Studies. We won’t know if this is true for a few months yet.

The new system means that the ‘content’ of courses will be the same for each different awarding body’s specifications – i.e. in terms of concepts. The only real difference will be in the list of set films that must be used in constructing a course and some minor differences in how exams and coursework are organised.

A Level Film Specs

The original provider of A Level Film Studies is the Welsh board WJEC, which is now branded in England as Eduqas. This board now offers both AS Level and A Level Film Studies.

WJEC/Eduqas AS/A Level Film Studies

Download the WJEC/Eduqas AS Film Studies Spec

(Component 1 deals with Hollywood Cinema)

Component 2: European film

This is assessed by an exam representing 35% of the qualification.

Three feature-length films will be studied for this component: one study of two British films and one non-English language European film.

Section A: British film (two-film study)

Any two of the following British films will be studied:

Secrets and Lies (Leigh, 1996), 15
Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996), 18
Sweet Sixteen (Loach, 2002), 18
Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004), 15
This is England (Meadows, 2006), 18
Moon (Jones, 2009), 15
Fish Tank (Arnold, 2009), 15
We Need to Talk about Kevin (Ramsay, 2011), 15
Sightseers (Wheatley, 2012), 15
Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013), 15

Section B: Non-English language European film

One of the following films will be chosen for study:

Life is Beautiful (Benigni, Italy, 1997), PG
Pan’s Labyrinth (Del Toro, Spain, 2006), 15
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel, France, 2007), 12
Ida (Pawlikowski, Poland, 2013), 12A
Mustang (Ergűven, France/Turkey, 2015), 15
Victoria (Schipper, Germany, 2015), 15.

AS Level is a one-year course and the first exam will be in 2018.

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4 comments

  1. houdioppy

    Not that I’m impressed a lot, but this is a lot more than I expected when I found a link on Delicious telling that the info is awesome. Thanks.

  2. Ronnie

    It’s 5am and I’m supposed to be working on my A-level Film Studies coursework but I just wanted to take time out to thank you for such a wonderful site, you will be fully referenced.
    Thanks!

  3. Ronald Fairfax

    I am appalled at the short-sighted policies of closure. I founded among the first Film and Communication Studies Courses in Yorkshire in the 70s. The record my students had of post-examination success in terms of career paths and university entrance was extraordinary. I don’t suppose those students who succeeded post-studies were consulted regarding the continued availability of opportunities to study the subjects.

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