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Postgraduate Support Scheme Widens Access to RCA Master’s Programmes

A one-off Postgraduate Support Scheme is opening up access to education at the Royal College of Art by providing 204 bursaries worth £10,000 each to undergraduate applicants. Many bursaries have already been awarded to new graduates of UK universities, who are looking forward to joining the RCA in September.

Jointly funded by the RCA and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS) bursary aims to counter the fact that finance is a major barrier to educational progression for under-represented students. Successful applicants receive a £5,000 fee bursary for each of the two years of their programme. Students interested in commencing study at the RCA in September 2015 are encouraged to check the eligibility requirements and apply to their chosen programme.

Nina Bangerh has just graduated from the Textiles for Fashion programme at the University of Northampton, where a module on contextual studies fuelled her enthusiasm for academic writing. She says: ‘My tutors told me about the RCA/V&A History of Design programme. I’d never heard about it before, but the V&A has always been an important resource for me, throughout college and my BA, so the chance to combine studying at the RCA and the V&A seemed like a chance I couldn't miss.’

Initially, Nina thought that she would have find the funds herself, but she attended an open day and received all the information she needed about applying for funding. She continues: ‘The bursary is fantastic. It takes the pressure off me, and also my parents, because without it I would have had to rely on them to support me financially. I will still be working part-time, but some of the money that would have been spent on fees can go towards resources and maybe research trips. Having that potential to really make the most of the course and progress as far as possible is a great relief.’

Adrian Clarke, who will be joining Vehicle Design this year as a mature student, previously worked for 11 years for London Underground. ‘It was frustrating because I wasn’t scratching the creative itch,’ he says, ‘Then I had the opportunity to leave with a small pension, so I took it.’ Having never gained an undergraduate degree, and with a long-held interest in design and the creative industries, Adrian took an access course in commercial graphics and digital illustration, and then tried a foundation degree in 3D design at a local London university, but felt it wasn’t challenging enough.

Knowing that he wanted to move into automotive design, he took a bold step: ‘I sold my flat and moved to the Midlands to study automotive design at Coventry University. I had previously been to the RCA open days, and been in awe of the institution; it was a distant and challenging goal to attend. As a working-class guy from the east end of London, I never thought it would be possible for someone of my background, age and means to be able to study there. But I applied anyway. Fortunately it seems the planets have all aligned at the right time with regards to the PSS – if I don’t attend Vehicle Design at the RCA now, the likelihood is I never will, because it represents a massive personal achievement for me. So many successful car designers are RCA alumni, and I hope that I will be challenged intellectually and academically in new ways.’

On the subject of the new PSS bursary scheme, Professor Jane Pavitt, Dean of the School of Humanities said: ‘It is providing a fantastic springboard for students who might not otherwise be able to study at the RCA, and will open up the possibility of careers in the arts, design and the humanities to some who might not have considered them before. An RCA MA in History of Design, Critical Writing in Art & Design or Curating Contemporary Art, for example, can lead to opportunities in museums, journalism, publishing and media – our graduates go on to make a significant cultural impact both in the UK and internationally.’


The Postgraduate Support Scheme provides bursaries to students from three-year undergraduate degree programmes who are starting an MA course at the RCA in September 2015.

Applications for 2015/16 entry to all programmes (with the exception of Design Interactions and Global Innovation Design) at the Royal College of Art are open, and the first step is to apply for the chosen programme. If offered a place, eligible students may then apply for a Postgraduate Support Scheme (PSS) bursary. (Most students will also be eligible for the £3,000 per year RCA bursary, reducing the fees payable to £1,500 per year.) 

The Student Support team is happy to answer any questions that you have. If you think you may qualify please get in touch: student-support@rca.ac.uk or +44 (0)20 7590 4144.