Research Degrees in the School of Humanities
The School of Humanities has a unique role at the heart of RCA culture. We embrace and encourage a broad range of interests in research across the history, theory and practice of art, design, curating and critical writing and criticism as creative practices. Our disciplinary interests span the fine arts, architecture, design (including fashion, graphics, interior and product design), craft, communication, film, photography, performance and digital media. We nurture the historians, theorists, curators, writers, journalists and critics of the future.
Research students play a large part in the life of the School, an environment offering postgraduate programmes in Critical and Historical Studies, Curating Contemporary Art, Critical Writing in Art and Design and History of Design (with the Victoria and Albert Museum). There are currently around 60 full-time and part-time research students, and together they form a lively community of writers, thinkers and makers with close relations with the artists and designers studying in other parts of the RCA, often sharing skills and interests by organising symposia and exhibitions. Like all good researchers, our students produce new ways of thinking about and understanding the world. Many have gone on to publish their research and to establish significant careers in the arts, cultural institutions and academia.
Our MPhil/PhD Programme
The School provides expert supervision across the spectrum of art and design history, curating and criticism, and we are also keen to support inter- and trans-disciplinary work. Public engagement with arts and humanities communities is a vital part of our practice.
Research students present their work in progress on a regular basis to specialist staff and student audiences through seminars. Research students present their work to their peers in the School regularly, to ensure they acquire the skills and feedback necessary to their ongoing research and development as scholars in the Humanities. The wider community of RCA research students also come together on an annual basis to convene an interdisciplinary conference or exhibition, to foster greater exchange and experimentation across their diversity of interests.
Research training is a vital part of our programme, in areas that include archival and oral history research methods, writing practices, historiographies, critical thinking and methodologies and reflections on philosophy. Support for language training is also offered where necessary, following consultation with supervisors.
In addition to critical support from world-leading academics, historians, theorists, curators and critics, the School’s MPhil/PhD community has access to stimulating opportunities including College-wide Research Methods course (mandatory for all first-year research students), the Humanities Forum, and ongoing student-led projects including Unmaking Things (an online design history platform), Prova (an annual Humanities journal) and CAR (a critical writing podcast). New student-led initiatives are encouraged and facilitated by the School.
General information regarding RCA fees, studentships and scholarships can be found in Fees & Funding. The RCA offers a number of funded research scholarships in collaboration with national funding bodies, which are announced on an annual basis. The School of Humanities has an established track record of securing funding for individual research projects, via schemes such as the TECHNE Doctoral Programme, the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award Programme with museums such as Tate, V&A and Science Museum).
Please submit your
particular research enquiry, with draft proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details about the
RCA application process can be accessed at MPhil/PhD Application Process.
Research students registered currently in the School on MPhil/PhDs (by thesis or by project) work on a broad range of subjects across the history, theory, and practice of art, design, curating and critical writing, and we are all committed to extending the reach of these fields into new geographical and intellectual terrains. Current research topics include: the neo-avant garde, utopia, urban cultures, exhibition making, artistic research, ecologies, atomic and molecular iconography, materiality, luxury, installation, art criticism, object-oriented ontology, editing, the line, translation, bad writing; political contexts for art and design production; and the history and theory of art making, design practice and curating in diverse national settings including Britain, France, Italy, Socialist Eastern Europe, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mozambique and Turkey. Our student interests and subject expertise range from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century.
Throughout their programme of studies, research students in the School have the opportunity to engage with a wide range of visiting speakers, through specialist seminars and the extended programme of talks, lectures and workshops supported by the School and the wider college, in particular the Research Methods Programme. Invited speakers include scientists, artists, publishers, journalists and policy makers, as well as historians, curators and writers.
The School regularly hosts public research events, from one-day workshops on specialist themes, like the experimental novel or the design of socialist modernity in Eastern Europe, to international conferences such as the 2014 Annual Association of Art Historians conference.
We have close working relations with many international institutions and other university partners, and a long-established partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum. Other current key partners include Tate, the Science Museum, the Arts Council, the London Postal Museum, Ambedkar University, India and the Bard Graduate Center, New York. We have a proven track record of research engagement with funding bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Getty Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust. Our partnerships have resulted in many shared research projects, staff and student exchanges, publications, exhibitions and studentships. This active engagement with our international networks is essential to the health and vitality of our research culture.
Staff in the School of Humanities are committed to advancing understandings of the history, theory, and contemporary practice of art, design, curating, and critical writing. We are leading researchers and active practitioners in our fields of expertise, publishing research in books and journals, curating major exhibitions and biennales throughout the world and making programmes for the broadcast media including the BBC. In addition to our core School research staff, we also co-supervise PhDs with curators from our partner institutions, such as the V&A, Tate and Science Museum.
Our research supervisors and their current areas of supervisory interest include:
- Dr Marta Ajmar (V&A) (materiality, design histories of the Renaissance)
- Dr Sarah Cheang (fashion, the body, cultural exchange
between East and West)
- Michaela Crimmin (culture, conflict, and conflict
- Professor David Crowley (critical art, design and music
practices, Eastern Europe)
- Barry Curtis (visual, material, and spatial cultures)
- Dr Brian Dillon (contemporary art, literature and philosophy)
- Dr Chantal Faust (mechanics of vision, contemporary art)
- Dr Christine Guth (Asian design histories, Japanese craft,
design and material culture)
- Joe Kerr (history and theory of architecture and urbanism)
- Martina Margetts (contemporary applied arts, craft, and
- Dr Angela McShane (V&A) (popular political cultures and
early modern England)
- Jonathan Miles (continental philosophy; aesthetics)
- Jeremy Millar (contemporary criticism and curating)
- Monika Parrinder (graphic design history, visual/design cultures, writing in digital culture)
- Professor Jane Pavitt (20th-century/post-1945 design histories)
- Dr Nina Power (philosophy, feminism, and politics)
- Dr Rick Poynor (graphic design history and practice)
- Dr Lucy Soutter (photography in the expanded field),
- Dr Sarah Teasley (design, technology, and society, Asian
- Dr Simona Valeriani (V&A) (early modern histories of
- Dr Victoria Walsh (exhibition-making since 1945; curating and the post-colonial; practice-led research)
- Dr Grant
Watson (contemporary curating and the transnational)
Our primary motivation is to prepare our graduates for their future careers; by fostering creative excellence and innovative thinking; and supporting rigorous research training and the public dissemination of new ideas. We believe that arts and humanities research can make a vital contribution to society, and that our graduates should be well prepared to further this ambition. RCA Humanities alumni form an international network working in positions of influence in the arts and humanities world-wide; in academia, research, museums and curatorship, publishing, writing, journalism and policy making.
Applying for MPhil and PhD
We welcome applications to undertake original research by thesis (c. 40,000 words for an MPhil and 80,000 words for a PhD) or by project (students explore aspects of practice such as publishing or curating) within the unique environment provided by the RCA. You must have a clearly defined research project and be able to demonstrate your ability to engage in research at the appropriate level. You are encouraged to develop your proposal by considering these three questions:
- What is your particular research
question, hypothesis or area?
- How do you propose to address
this question or to develop the field: what is your methodology?
- How do you see your work in the wider context of the discipline? How does it relate to existing work in the area?
For further details or to discuss a potential research project, please contact email@example.com. You will then be put in touch with an appropriate research tutor within the School.
General information regarding RCA fees, studentships and scholarships can be found in Fees & Funding. The RCA offers a number of funded research scholarships in collaboration with national funding bodies, which are announced on an annual basis. The School of Humanities has an established track record of securing funding for individual research projects, via schemes such as the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award Programme. We will also support individual student applications to external funding schemes as appropriate. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please submit your particular research enquiry, with draft proposal to email@example.com. Further details about the RCA application process can be accessed at MPhil/PhD Application Process.
For full details of cross-college entrance requirements, research proposal requirements and portfolio requirements (if applicable), see Cross-College Requirements.
"We nurture the historians, theorists, curators, writers, journalists and critics of the future."Professor Jane Pavitt
Dean, School of Humanities