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Dreams, Butterfly Boy Dreams (Genesis)| Hang Zhang


Exploring art’s function

Key details

  • 240 credits
  • 2 year programme
  • Full-time study

A distinctive route through fine art

The Contemporary Art Practice programme offers a discursive environment in which to discuss contemporary issues for thinking about, making and displaying fine art. We deliver this via four pathways: Critical Practice, Moving Image, Performance and Public Sphere.

Our approach to Contemporary Art Practice is not determined by either technology or material, although you’ll be expected to utilise the appropriate technical means to make your works. You’ll have access to College-wide technical workshops according to academic need, as well as all facilities within the School of Arts & Humanities.

We offer a discursive environment in which to discuss contemporary issues for thinking about, making and displaying fine art supported by individual tutorials, seminars and cross-pathway crits. You’ll have had a flexible studio space that can be used collectively or individually and access to a range of technical facilities and opportunities to contribute to exhibitions, projects, overseas travel and international exchanges (including Paris and Kyoto).

Visit 2020.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work from the class of 2020


When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.

Critical Practice

Extend and develop the critical dimensions of your practice

Moving Image

Documentary, abstract film, and script-driven narrative cinema


Clarifying what making performances means as a whole or as part of a broader working practice

Public Sphere

Furthering understanding of art’s social function

Visit the Curriculum tab for more information.


  • Le Grand K publication launch, Gossamer Fog

    Le Grand K publication launch

    Gossamer Fog

  • Turbulent Protein, Kit Mead

    Turbulent Protein

    Kit Mead

  • Install View Show 2019, Tatjana Joneska

    Install View Show 2019

    Tatjana Joneska

  • Install View Show 2019, Samuel Capps

    Install View Show 2019

    Samuel Capps

  • Install View Show 2019, Luca George

    Install View Show 2019

    Luca George

  • Install View Show 2019, Demelza Woodbridge & Ao Jing

    Install View Show 2019

    Demelza Woodbridge & Ao Jing

  • Install View Show 2019, Alexandre Khondji & Celine Manz

    Install View Show 2019

    Alexandre Khondji & Celine Manz

  • Dad Dancing, Gabriella Davies

    Dad Dancing

    Gabriella Davies


The School of Arts & Humanities is located across our Battersea and Kensington sites.

View all facilities

All full-time students on fine or applied arts programmes are provided with studio and workshop space. There are a number of bookable seminar and project spaces across the site available to all Arts & Humanities students.

  • Contemporary Art Practice studios

    Contemporary Art Practice studio

  • Off-site education workshop with Frank Wasseur

    Off-site Education workshop with Frank Wasseur

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.


When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.

The Critical Practice pathway is studio-based and focused upon supporting the development of your artistic practice. We offer regular reading groups, seminars exploring ideas and themes, as well as opportunities for you to work on projects with public archives and institutions; in this way, you’ll develop the investigative skills and intuition often required for research too. We invite applications from artists working with any medium,including text.

On the Moving Image pathway you’ll be expected to intuit new forms and make important new contributions to the discipline.

We welcome applications from artists using film and video installation, and we encourage applications from artists who wish to draw upon, challenge and re-map established realms.

Importantly, we encourage an intensive, collaborative and critical environment. The pathway offers you the opportunity to work ambitiously and intensively with a group of practitioners who are interested in the diversity that film and video can offer.

Reflecting the contemporary diversity of an expanded field, the studio-based Performance pathway supports artists engaged in developing performance work as all or part of a broader working practice.

Performance is historically an unruly medium whose ontology is defined by its disappearance, occupying a position of resistance to easy museological and curatorial absorption. We examine the pragmatic and political logistics of sustaining an immaterial practice in institutional, commercial and archival contexts whilst celebrating the urgent radical potential of live intervention to agitate, disrupt and heckle.

A programme of reading groups, seminars and practical workshops explore the intersection of live art with experimental writing, theatre, moving image, ‘low’ entertainment, choreography and activist and socially engaged practices.

A visiting staff of highly regarded contemporary artists and thinkers participate each year to contribute to this rigorous critical and collaborative environment. We encourage a diverse approach amongst our cohort, spanning intimate solo actions to artist-directed productions populated by other performers, both live and for camera; methodologies ranging from improvisation to elaborate staging are embraced.

We are looking for students on the pathway to develop new forms of engagement with the gender and identity politics closely affiliated with histories of live art to reflect the current turbulent global landscape. Crucially, we aim to build a context for ambitious, risk-taking practices that seek to challenge and expand the definitions of performance.

Various institutional partnerships are organised each year to offer opportunities to support both research and presentation of new work, and all of the technical and academic resources of the School of Arts and Humanities are available to Performance students.

Public Sphere is a studio-based pathway that supports artists wishing to expand their engagement with art and the public, as well as to further their understanding of art’s role in the formation of contemporary culture and civic life. The Public Sphere pathway invites applications from artists working with any medium.

What you'll cover

During the first year of the programme, you will undertake three units of study: Unit 1A, Unit 1B and CHS. These units are each worth 40 credits and will be assessed through a combination of continuous and summative methods.

To support their progress in Units 1A and 1B, you will be assigned a personal tutor with whom you’ll discuss your work in five tutorials per academic year. You’re also guaranteed tutorials from other members of the programme team each term, and you’ll have the opportunity to request tutorials from other staff from the School, as well as from a broad range of visiting tutors. In Contemporary Art Practice (CAP), specific unit delivery takes place at pathway and at programme level, as relevant.

Although working primarily on your own practice, throughout the year you’ll have access to group critiques, seminars, lectures, workshops and tutorials with other members of the programme team and with staff and students from throughout the broader School. You’ll produce work for studio critiques that take place throughout term one and two.

As a first-year student, you’ll contribute to the Work-in-progress Show, held at the beginning of the spring term. Your work isn’t expected to be resolved at this stage, but it’s an opportunity to take risks and try new materials and ideas. As this is in a public context, it includes the question of spectatorship, enabling you to reflect upon the efficacy of the visual forms and concepts with which you’ve been working.

During the second year of the programme, you’ll undertake three units of study: Unit 2A (40 credits), Unit 2B (60 Credits) and SoAH School Unit (20 Credits). These units will be assessed through a combination of continuous and summative methods.

In your second year you’ll be assigned a personal tutor who will support your practice throughout the year. You’ll produce a self-initiated body of work, which will be evaluated and discussed in group critiques and tutorials throughout the year.

In your third term you’ll exhibit in the graduate show. This will be part of the examination of Unit 2B, the Independent Research Project, which consists of a major project undertaken in your second year. Your art practice should now demonstrate that your are able to make, develop and realise work at Master's level. Your workshould now have a clear direction and resolution, demonstrating an appropriate level of conceptual and technical competence. Your practice is expected to be self-initiated and thoroughly researched, and you’ll be asked to articulate your process in a viva voce examination. In CAP, specific unit delivery takes place both at the pathway level and at the programme level.

Alongside your participation in programme-based units, you’ll also participate in the School of Arts & Humanities School unit. Alongside study groups, lectures, symposia, crits and tutorials, these will support you in discussing and evolving your work against a broader frame of reference.

All studio-based MA students follow a weekly schedule of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS), a College-wide initiative that provides you with the intellectual framework to build a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

CHS delivers exciting, thought-provoking and inspiring lectures by experts within the programme and high-profile visiting lecturers. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the theoretical background and aspects of your chosen discipline through a tutored dissertation process, as well as receiving individual tutorial support from our team of expert tutors.

View more CHS information


What you need to know before you apply

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process considers creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

Candidates are generally expected to have a good BA degree from a fine art course. You should be able to demonstrate an original and critical approach to fine art as well as an ability to engage with current theories of art and culture that inform their practice.

What's needed from you

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.

Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
  • Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
  • Technical skills appropriate to the work
  • Potential to benefit from the programme

Each programme is looking for different things in a portfolio. Each Head of Programme provides specific advice on portfolio requirements in the online application system. We advise you to consider these requirements carefully before submitting your application.

Visit our application portal to view more portfolio requirements

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE). Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.

If you need a Tier 4 visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.

Find out more about English-language requirements

Fees & funding

For this programme

Fees for new students

You'll find tuition fees for 2020/21 entry below.

Home and EU
£9,750 per year
£19,500 total cost*
Channel Islands and Isle of Man
£14,500 per year
£29,000 total cost*
£29,000 per year
£58,000 total cost*


New entrants to the College for MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees for the first year of study.

Home and EU

* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

More information

External funding

There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.


Tuition fees are due on the first day of the academic year and students are sent an invoice prior to beginning their studies. Payments can be made in advance, on registration or in two instalments.

Start your application

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Change your life and be here in 2020

The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.

Before you begin

Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements
More information about entrance requirements
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
Visit our applications portal to get started

Ask a question

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or have any questions.

Email us at
[email protected]
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