MA Programme Description


  • RIBA Part 2 credited since 1983
  • Applicants to the RCA from England and the EU are likely to be eligible for the new Postgraduate Student Loan of up to £10,000 per course of study. 
  • Although the priority applications period for 2016–17 entry has now closed, we will continue to accept and consider applications.

The core of learning is project-based according to a unit system made up of eight architectural design studios (ADS) with a unique set of concerns, methods and critical frameworks. Each ADS has approximately sixteen students with first- and second-year students working alongside each other. 

First year students work on a live project, and a studio project within a pedagogical framework established by studio tutors. These projects form the foundation for the technical studies course and fulfil RIBA GC1, GC8 and GC9. The studio is complemented by history & theory and media studies courses. The College-wide CHS course provides a broader social and cultural context related to the design disciplines and fine arts. 

Second-year students work on a project-based thesis compromising a design brief and design project. The year culminates with an exhibition of work at the degree show. 

First Year Design Studio

Students work within their ADS groupings for tutorial support and pastoral care. Students will have at least one tutorial per week with their ADS tutors, in addition to limited tutorials with other staff. 

Technical Studies

Students are encouraged to take risks while testing the process of prototyping, building and consulting with specialists, leading to a working prototype at full scale. The comprehensive design project (CDP) is the detailed development of technical aspects of the architectural design studio project. This is developed in tutorials with Technical Studies tutors and engineering tutors in terms 2 and 3. The Technical Studies journal documents and records the development of the 1:1 project and the design project and positions the work within a broader field of research in the chosen area. The intention is to explore how genuine interactions with innovative resolutions of a technical issue can feedback into a design process. The assessment is holistic, and all criteria need to be satisfied.

History & Theory Studies

The History & Theory Studies course offers MA students a cultural framework aimed at helping them find a personal position. The lectures will alternate between one session held by the course tutor and one session held by invited guests. The course tutor’s lectures will build a systematic understanding of the history of modern architecture, providing a methodology for the students to investigate their own individual essay themes. The objective of these lectures should be to construct a shared vocabulary able to provide the school’s diverse student body with a common critical background. The guest lectures, on the other hand, will offer a broader cultural context, allowing the class to discuss specific case studies in depth, as well as offering an opportunity to understand different working methods. A year-long theme will be put forward by the course tutor in order to provide a specific research lens to both the course, and the students’ own work. After each lecture, the class will split into smaller seminar groups followed by an assistant tutor. The seminar should be a moment of collective discussion in which the group can explore further the topic of the lecture; it should also allow the students to introduce their own work and receive feedback. The last term will be focused solely on seminars on the students’ in-progress work.

Media Studies Summary

The media studies subject exposes students to a diverse range of contemporary and historical design and representation methods spanning architecture, visual arts, and science. Students work individually and within tutorial groups under the tutelage of lecturers and tutors with extensive experience in media and architecture practices. Students will have a minimum of eight lectures and tutorials (including hands-on workshops and/or reading groups) per term. Students will use lecture halls, computer workshops, and the 6th floor studio space for their work and tutorials.

Professional Practice Studies

The professional practice element of the MA programme has been structured to embrace the range of agile and creative thinkers attracted to the Royal College of Art. Professional Practice Studies (PPS) requires second-year students to complete a course of seminars tutorials and a case study. The approach enables a case study (comprising 2,500–5,000 words) to be completed based on the three key elements of Description, Reflection & Progression, this is based on an introduction, eight lectures and a Q&A session. It constitutes a critical appraisal demonstrating the students’ knowledge and understanding of how design, cost, resource, finance and construction, and evaluation of team dynamics influence design and their role. All in the context of the current UK regulatory and legislative requirements. Seminars, workshops, individual research and personal tutorials provide students with knowledge and understanding of the RIBA stages of work, and the context of professional practice (including shifting trends within and definitions and standards of professional responsibility and competence as defined by the ARB/RIBA). Together with their previous experience of working in practice, this forms the basis of the student’s research for the case study submission. The course is continually updated to reflect the feedback and challenges identified, whilst ensuring the appropriate level of rigour and research will benefit the students. This is essential both for validation, and ongoing careers, often in new ‘start ups’ on departure from the RCA. Whilst the requirements of both the ARB and RIBA are integrated within the lectures series and are expected as part of a valid response from the students. This is not intended as a replacement for the Part III exam and covers wider issues of business, structure and communication. Seminars are refreshed to take into account changes in both professional codes, legislation 12 and relevant requirements within which one operates as an architect

Second-year Design Studio Summary

In the second year, students undertake an architectural design thesis project. It forms the basis of students’ entry into the professional world as architectural designers and is therefore expected to demonstrate fully their ability as designers and to carry with it an understanding of all components experienced through the programme.

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first year studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline (though it is possible to elect to join a series being offered to students on other programmes) whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted *at the end of the Summer Term.* The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will be not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.


240 credits
Two-year programme

Work-in-progress Show 2017: School of Architecture
Work-in-progress Show 2017: School of Architecture