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 now has 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 Film 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) has now been worked into formal specifications and assessment instruments. Teaching began in September 2017 and the first examinations will generally be in 2019. The existing specifications were examined for the last time in 2018.

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

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 (except in Wales!) 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 ‘subject 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 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 was in 2018.

WJEC/Eduqas A Level Film Studies

Download the WJEC/Eduqas A Level Film Studies Spec

Component 1

Sections A and B deal with Hollywood

Section A: Hollywood 1930 – 1990 (comparative study)
Two Hollywood films will be studied for comparison, one chosen from group 1 and one chosen from group 2:

Group 1: Classical Hollywood (1930-1960)

Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, 1947)
Johnny Guitar (Ray, 1954)
Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
Some Like It Hot (Wilder, 1959)

Group 2: New Hollywood (1961-1990)

Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967), 15
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Forman, 1975), 15
Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979), 15
Blade Runner (Scott, 1982)
(*Learners study Blade Runner in the Director’s Cut version, released 1992.)
Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)


Section B: American film since 2005 (two-film study)

Two films will be studied, one chosen from group 1 and one chosen from group 2:

Group 1: Mainstream film

No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007), 15
Inception (Nolan, 2010), 12A
Selma (Duvernay, 2014), 12A
Carol (Haynes, 2015), 15
La La Land (Chazelle, 2016), 12A

Group 2: Contemporary independent film (produced after 2010)

Winter’s Bone (Granik, 2010), 15
Frances Ha! (Baumbach, 2012), 15
Beasts of the Southern Wild (Zeitlin, 2012), 12A
Boyhood (Linklater, 2015), 15
Captain Fantastic (Ross, 2015), 15.

Section C: British film since 1995 (two-film study)

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.

Component 2: Global filmmaking perspectives

Section A: Global film (two-film study)

Two films will be studied, one chosen from group 1 and one from group 2:

Group 1: European film

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.

Group 2: Outside Europe

Dil Se (Ratnam, India, 1998), 12
City of God (Mereilles, Brazil, 2002),
House of Flying Daggers (Zhang, China, 2004), 15
Timbuktu (Sissako, Mauritania, 2014), 12A
Wild Tales (Szifrón, Argentina, 2014), 15
Taxi Tehran (Panahi, Iran, 2015), 12.

Section B: Documentary film

One of the following films will be studied:

Sisters in Law (Ayisi and Longinotto, Cameroon/UK, 2005), 12A
The Arbor (Barnard, UK, 2010), 15
Stories We Tell (Polley, Canada, 2012), 12A
20,000 Days on Earth (Forsyth and Pollard, UK, 2014), 15
Amy (Kapadia, UK, 2015), 15.

Section C: Film movements – Silent cinema

One of the following film options will be studied:

One Week (1920), U and The Scarecrow (1920), U and The ‘High Sign’ (1921), U and Cops (1922), U, (Keaton, US)
Strike (Eisenstein, USSR, 1924), 15
Sunrise (Murnau, US, 1927), U
Spies (Lang, Germany, 1928), PG
Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov, USSR, 1928), U and A Propos de Nice (Vigo, France, 1930), U.

Section D: Film movements – Experimental film (1960-2000)

One of the following film options will be studied:

Vivre sa vie (Godard, France, 1962), 15
Daisies (Chytilova, Czechoslovakia, 1965), 15 and Saute ma ville (Akerman, Belgium, 1968), 15
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, US, 1994), 18
Fallen Angels (Wong, Hong Kong, 1995), 15
Timecode (Figgis, US, 2000), 15.

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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