Research Degrees

The RCA offers three types of research degree – PhD, MPhil and MRes – all of which can be followed by project or thesis route.

A PhD is awarded to students who produce a substantial piece of original research that makes a contribution to research in the field.  This can take the form of a thesis (60,000–80,000 words) or by project (a body of work and thesis 25,000–40,000 words). PhD candidates are normally registered for three years full-time, with submission within four years, or four to seven years part-time. Students must remain registered and pay an appropriate fee until submission.

An MPhil is awarded for original research and submission of a thesis.Candidates must normally be registered for two years (full-time) or four years (part-time).

A Masters of Research (MRes) is is a one year, full-time research degree. You will carry out a supervised research project and submit a thesis. An MRes degree can be an effective preparation for PhD study, but can also offer vital career development opportunities. Further information about course content and the application process is available here.

We do not currently offer distance learning modes, nor PhD by publication.

The overwhelming majority of our research students are studying for a PhD. Research students have Annual Progress Reviews, which they must pass in order to progress into the next year of study. There is a formal Confirmation Exam that takes place midway through the period of study to ascertain the readiness for PhD submission; students who do not meet the requirements at this stage are most usually recommended to submit for MPhil examination.  

Our Postgraduate Community

We have more than 250 PhD students pursuing cutting-edge research, and undertaking advanced training, across all four Schools and Research Centres: School of Architecture, School of Arts & Humanities, School of Communication, School of Design, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Intelligent Mobility Research Centre and Material Science Research Centre.
The Royal College of Art has been ranked the world-leading postgraduate University for Art & Design by QS World University Rankings from 2014 to 2018, and has consistently been ranked the most research-intensive university of art and design in the UK since 2014. Both our students and staff are drawn from countries across the globe. Overseas students play a vital role in ensuring that our College community benefits from a diversity of experience and skills.

Our Postgraduate Training

At the RCA, research students undertake training both at a cross-College level and within their Schools, offering rich and robust preparation and learning opportunities for their research degree progression. Many of these also offer opportunities to build a portfolio of experience for future careers.
First-year doctoral students attend compulsory training courses in a range of research methods and methodologies in the first term of study.  All doctoral students attend mandatory Doctoral Training Weeks in September, February and July. These are opportunities to participate in the broader research community at the RCA, but also to undertake timely training to support research progression.  These intensive weeks include a range of professional development seminars, training and advice in writing, getting published, achieving impact, entering the academic job market and more, and opportunities for students to develop and present their research to one another and to staff.  

We are committed to ensuring that you are well equipped, not only to complete your studies but also to develop your future careers.

Research Student Applicants

Research Degrees