Inside

Critical & Historical Studies College-wide Programme

The Royal College of Art provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice and to engage critically with students from their own and other disciplines. As part of the ‘university experience’ of being at the College, all first-year MA students in the studio-based Schools follow a weekly schedule delivered by the Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) programme. 

The Programme

CHS delivers:

  • exciting, thought-provoking and inspiring lectures by experts within the programme and high-profile visiting lecturers
  • the opportunity for students to explore the theoretical background and aspects of their chosen discipline through a tutored dissertation process
  • individual tutorial support from our programme’s team of expert tutors.

The purpose of the CHS programme is to encourage debate, understanding, intellectual confidence and self-expression in the history, philosophy and criticism of the various disciplines taught at the College. It is designed to enhance each student’s experience at the College by engaging with important ideas that are relevant to their studio work in an exciting and challenging manner. The programme provides each student with an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice. The CHS programme is supported by RCADE, the RCA’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Critical & Historical Studies differs from the other academic programmes as it does not offer a single, taught MA Course. Instead, it delivers college-wide activities that support the other teaching programmes, enabling critical engagements to take place within each discipline. It is designed to enhance each student’s experience at the College by engaging with important ideas that are relevant to their studio work in an exciting and challenging manner. It provides each student with an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

Critical & Historical Studies Staff

All of the College’s academic staff are practitioners in art, design or related disciplines. We also attract some of the most eminent artists, designers, intellectuals and business people working in their fields to give seminars, lectures, masterclasses, crits and individual tutorials.

Biographies and Research Profiles of programme staff can be found under Staff

Tutors

Barry Curtis

Jonathan Miles

Cheryl Roberts

Liaison Tutors

Architecture: Naomi House (Acting)

Arts & Humanities: Dr Chantal Faust, Martina Margetts (Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal)

Communications: Monika Parrinder

Design: Juliette Kristensen


Autumn Term

In the first term of their first year, MA students are offered a range of courses that are each closely related to one of the groups of disciplines represented by the schools: applied art, architecture and design, communications, fashion and textiles and fine art. Through lectures, screenings, visits and seminars, they explore key debates and issues within contemporary culture. While most students will take a course that is related to their particular discipline, there is also the opportunity for them to explore issues outside of their discipline by electing for one of the other courses. The details of the different courses are listed in a comprehensive brochure, which is distributed at the beginning of the academic year. Each of the courses will also have an interactive page on RCADE. These pages will not only contain essential week-by-week information regarding the course, but will also provide students with the opportunity to continue debates and discussions and to upload and download course materials.

Spring Term

In the second term of the first year, students have the opportunity to select for themselves one of the set of college-wide courses that are concerned with broad, cross-disciplinary issues and that provide opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines to mix and discuss areas of common concern. By presenting a broad spectrum of ideas, issues and approaches, they help to prepare students for the challenge of undertaking their CHS dissertation. The college-wide options on offer change every year, and are described in detail in a second brochure, to be found on the relevant page of RCADE.

The Dissertation

The remainder of the academic year is devoted to the preparation and writing of a dissertation on a self-selected topic. Students are closely tutored by staff who are chosen as far as is possible to correspond with their chosen subject. As part of that process of preparation, students take part in research methods and work-in-progress seminars and receive regular individual tutorials. They are also required to submit a draft so their tutor can assess their progress and prepare them properly for bringing their work to a successful conclusion. A detailed guide to undertaking the dissertation is distributed to all students at the start of the dissertation programme. This information will be available on RCADE, and students will also be able to submit via RCADE all interim submissions, tutorial logs and feedback forms. The dissertation must be passed in order for a student to undertake their final exam.

Global Design History, Edited by Glenn Adamson, Girogio Riello and Sarah Teasley
Glenn Adamson, Giorgio Riello and Sarah Teasley, Global Design History (London: Routledge, 2011)