As regular readers will know, I have a strong interest in film education. In the film industry there are few formal barriers to entry, many paths to a career and strong competition among the large number of new entrants. This creates a much more muddy situation when it comes to vocalising education than is the case in other professions, such as in the legal profession. The debate about the efficacy of film schools is as old as celluloid and is not one I will be addressing today. Instead, I will be looking at the number and nature of film schools and courses available to students in 2015. In the coming weeks, I will also be sharing more details of the film courses and also the results of surveys I performed with film students, revealing their opinions of their school, courses and tutors. I looked at all the film schools I could find worldwide which offer film courses of at least one year and which include at least some practical element. This means I did not look at short courses or film theory courses. In summary…
- Across the world, I found 608 film schools actively offering a full-time film course, with at least some practical filmmaking elements and lasting at least a year
- I found 2,603 full-time practical film-related courses on offer in 2015 worldwide
- There are film schools in 59 countries around the world
- 48% of film schools are in the USA or the UK
- In the UK, there are 145 institutions offering these types of film courses, between them offering 537 film courses
- Of those, 12 are dedicated film schools and the rest are part of a larger institution
- 52% of UK film courses are at BA level
Where in the world are all the film schools?
I found a total of 608 schools actively offering a full-time film-related course, with at least some practical filmmaking elements, lasting at least a year and starting in 2015. These schools are across 59 countries in the world, although nearly half are based in the United Kingdom or the United States. I found a further 642 film schools which exist online but which do not seem to be offering a full-time practical film course in 2015. Some had closed, some do not have course details online and some run courses outside my focus (i.e. under a year long and/or without any element of practical filmmaking).
How many film courses are on offer worldwide?
Within the schools listed above, there were a total of 2,603 full-time practical film-related courses on offer. 28% of the courses were in America, 21% in the UK, 8% in India and 7% in Canada. The remaining 37% of courses were spread over 55 countries.
UK film schools and universities
I looked at UK film schools and courses in much greater detail. I found 145 UK institutions, between them offering 537 film courses (which are at least one year long and feature some element of practical filmmaking). Film courses in the UK are offered by two broad types of institution – universities and dedicated “film schools”. Dedicated film schools account for 8% of the institutions and run 11% of the film courses.
Almost all film courses associated with a larger intuition (such as a university) are taught over three years, compared with just 7% of courses at dedicated film schools.
UK qualification types
Just over half of the courses were at BA level, with a further 35% at MA level and the remaining 5% split between FdA, HND, diploma, PHD and conversion courses.
Film-related BAs can be divided into two categories: Specialised and General.
- General film BAs vary hugely in their structure and content. They tend to contain a mix of theory and practice and have non-specific names.
- Specialised BAs tend to be courses in Visual Effects, Writing (this category can be further subdivided into those offering specific scriptwriting courses and those offering general creative writing courses), Art Department courses (production design, costume, make-up, etc) and Film Theory courses (there are also a few production-specific courses in film business).
This variation seems to be, at least in part, a product of Universities struggling to adequately classify film-related courses. This can also be seen in the range of schools and departments film courses can be found in, as well as in the wide range of names for the courses themselves. Schools and departments include Schools of Media, Communication, Arts and Social Sciences, Humanities and Creative Industries.
HND/HNC, CERTHE, FDA/FDSC AND TOP-UP/CONVERSION COURSES
These are shorter courses (1-2 years). Similarly to BA/BScs, they can be divided into specific technical courses or courses with a technical focus and more general introductory courses.
- Short technical courses tend to be highly specialised and work-facing with a specific job/skill/career trajectory in mind.
- General introductory courses offer a distilled version of general BA courses. They tend to be limited in the amount of technical skills and industry practice modules they offer.
These courses do not differ from BAs in terms of structure and content as much as might be expected.
MAs are, in general, more specialised and work-facing. Again they can be divided into specialised and general MAs, but with the addition of a further category of courses for related industries that include sizeable film-related modules.
- Specialised MAs tend to fall into the same categories as BAs, with the additional options of specific Above-the-Line Talent courses (directing and cinematography), documentary-focussed courses and a few more specific film business courses.
- The majority of specialised MAs however are in Screenwriting (this is perhaps a result of the limited costs associated with offering such courses) and Visual Effects or Post-production Courses (this is more likely to be a product of demand).
- General MAs vary hugely in terms of their content and structure, however there are a large number of courses simply called “Film”, “Film Practice”, “Film with Practice” or some variant of “Film Production”. Although, even those with similar names often differ greatly in content.
There are also a number of courses in related industries that include sizeable film-related modules. These tend to be Multimedia courses that are equipping their students with film-specific skills and knowledge . This suggests that the translatability of film-related skills and knowledge is seen as valuable (in terms of increasing employability) in those other industries.
How do the qualifications differ by topic?
The qualifications of courses on offer differ greatly depending on the main topic of the course. For example, all the courses I found which related principally to costume design within film were at BA level, whereas all of the courses primarily focused on editing were at MA level. Many courses offer specialisations and so it could be possible for a student to attend a general film course and yet focus their studies in one particular niche, such as editing. More on this next week.
Do the courses offered by film schools and universities differ?
Both offer a range of BAs, MAs and HNDs, however the content and structure of these courses do differ in the following ways…
- At film schools, general BAs and HNDs are limited to practical filmmaking courses and the focus is far more on technical filmmaking skills.
- Specialised film school BAs tend to be in Animation and Visual Effects or Screenwriting and again focus far more on practical and technical filmmaking skills.
- Film schools tend to focus on two-year MAs culminating in a practical film project. The structure of these courses does however differ across schools. Most offer a small number of such courses in core areas (generally Filmmaking and Screenwriting) whilst some offer these core subjects but also a wide range of additional specialised MAs. This may simply be due to the relative sizes of schools, but could also be a product of the way the courses are designed and the additional facilities available to support them.
- Additionally, film schools offer a range of Diplomas, which are shorter courses not validated by Universities (but rather vocational schools such as City and Guilds). These diplomas are generally one year long and are centred on a single final production. However, there are also some diplomas available which are specialised much like BA courses.
It should be noted that these figures are based on the schools and courses I could find via online research. It’s not possible to know how complete the data is as…
- Advertised but not real – Some schools advertise courses which may not actually run and it’s possible that some the ‘schools’ are nothing more than a man with some DVDs and a logo. Schools can close, merge, change focus, etc, and there is no guarantee that their website has been changed to reflect these changes.
- Real but not advertised – Some schools have a poor or incomplete web presence.
- English language – I tried to include all the schools I could find, no matter what language their website was presented in. That said, it is possible that this research has a slight bias towards sites with English materials.
- Human error – I could have missed schools and/or courses.
Over the years I have taught at numerous film schools and run specialised film courses around the world. At the moment, I have regular engagements at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and the Met Film School and also consult for the Central Film School. I am grateful to Alexis Kreager and Zak Klein who were invaluable in the research process. Thank you both.
My research into film schools will be split into three articles and released over the next few weeks. Next week I will be looking in more detail at the nature of the courses offered and the following week we’ll hear the opinions of over 500 film students, past and present.