MA Programme Description

Contemporary Art Practice

First Year

The programme is based on a pathway structure, with students working in one of four pathways – Critical Practice, Moving Image, Performance, and Public Sphere. Pathways are not specifically delineated channels for material modality, but rather they constitute themed tutorial groups that provide students with the opportunity to discuss and develop their work (regardless of medium) alongside peers who operate within a particular agenda.

Teaching on the programme is based on individual and group tutorials, theory seminars, group critiques and lectures by leading artists and theorists. As well as programme-based activities, students will also be expected to attend a number of School-wide activities that are designed to provide them with the opportunity to interact with students from other programmes in the School and to ensure that the specific nature of their practice and ideas engages with the broader sphere of Fine Art. 

Students are assigned a personal tutor with whom they discuss their work in tutorials twice a term. The tutor writes a critical report on students’ progress each term in response to a written statement of their own. 

Although students work primarily on their own practice, there are also throughout the year group critiques, seminars, lectures, workshops and tutorials with other members of the school faculty and visiting lecturers. Students produce work for studio critiques that take place in terms one and two.

At the beginning of the spring term, first year students contribute to the Work in Progress Show. Their work is not expected to be resolved at this stage. It is an opportunity to take risks, trying new materials and ideas. As this is in a public context it includes the question of spectatorship. This enables students to reflect upon the efficacy of the visual forms and concepts with which they have been working.

Students undertake an interim examination in the summer term, which they must pass in order to continue into the second year.

Second Year

Following the submission of their dissertation at the start of the second year, students are assigned their personal tutor who appraises their work twice a term. Students produce a self-initiated body of work, which is evaluated and discussed in group critiques and tutorials during the year. 

In the third term the work students exhibit in the graduating show is part of their MA Examination. Students’ art practice should now demonstrate that they are able to make, develop and realise work at Masters level. Their work should have a clear direction and resolution, demonstrating a level of conceptual and technical competence appropriate to their aims and objectives. Students’ practice is expected to be self-initiated and thoroughly researched. They will be asked to articulate this process of producing work in their viva voce.

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
Full-time study