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MPhil/PhD School of Communication

The School welcomes applications for research degree study for MRes (Communication Design), MPhil and PhD from all areas of art, design and related disciplines that demonstrate the potential for advanced research and critical practice in the field of communication. Projects that explore topical issues through both practice and theory are particularly encouraged.

We look for critical engagement, originality and proven skills in both practice and writing, and encourage questioning and experimental research approaches. Individual research topics normally relate to the ethos and expertise of the School’s programmes and research areas, so that we can provide appropriate supervision and resources.

We support research students through direct registration to the School. This facilitates any student working across our programme areas, while allowing students working in specific disciplines to develop subject homes in our programmes, according to the individual requirements of their research.

Students are encouraged to develop their own methodologies relevant to their individual programmes of research. In recent years, the School’s research students have developed enquiries in areas including the manifestation of digital space, the mediation of cognitive and sensory experience, and the augmentation of design practice and knowledge.

MPhil and PhD students follow their own bespoke research route within the School, supported by expertise from staff within the School and the wider College. Students on our new MRes (Communication Design) are guided through a well-planned curriculum and are supported through both local and College-wide expertise.

Many of the School’s research students develop collaborative research initiatives during the course of their studies, drawing on the expertise of partner organisations, including creative businesses, cultural and academic institutions. Our current research students’ topics interface with a wide range of subjects including biology, geography, English language and literature, psychology, architecture, social and computer sciences.

The School has an established track record of securing funding for individual research projects, and seven of our students are currently in receipt of AHRC Doctoral awards. We also support individual student applications to external funding schemes.

Students attend a stimulating Research Methods Course, delivered alongside other research students from across the College, in order to support development of their research expertise and methods of investigating. Each Research student is guided by one or more supervisors and, in some cases, additional specialist advisers.

The School of Communication provides a weekly seminar series ‘Methods of Intent’ where interdisciplinary and specialist methods and methodologies are introduced. In addition the series draws upon research expertise of those outside the RCA, but also from our own student and staff. At the end of each year, the School also holds an intensive two-day programme of research workshops bringing the research community together.

MPhil and PhD students share a multi-disciplinary, ‘hot-desking’ studio, which provides a quiet space for students to develop their ideas. Research students use the facilities at the College, while also accessing specialist facilities, archives and resources further afield related to their research. Students have full use of the School’s specialist workshops (digital print, animation, moving image, sound, letterpress) and labs (information experience design, animation, visual communication) to produce and present their practical work.

Annual programmes of research seminars, workshops and events are organised for staff and students at both School and programme levels. Featuring visiting speakers alongside staff and student presentations, the School’s Methods of Intent programme provides a weekly forum for discussing research methods, approaches, contexts and work in progress. Each year we also hold a summer term research student symposium, to bring the School’s research students together to discuss topical issues in communication research and to plan new approaches and developments.

Entrance Requirements

The Animation, Information Experience Design and Visual Communication programmes welcome applications for research degrees study in relevant areas of communication research. Projects that explore topical issues associated with our subject areas through both practice and theory are particularly encouraged. We look for critical engagement, originality and proven skills in both practice and writing, and encourage questioning and experimental research approaches.

Applications are welcomed from all areas of art, design and related disciplines that demonstrate the potential for advanced research and critical practice in the field of communications. Individual research topics should be located within the ethos and expertise of the School’s research clusters so that we can provide adequate supervision and resources. Prospective applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Tom Simmons, research leader for the School of Communication, at communication-research@rca.ac.uk for information about the application process, and to arrange a discussion of their topic with relevant specialist staff. Applicants are also invited to visit the College and to attend Open Days.

Following the advice of the relevant members of staff, prospective applicants should prepare a research proposal focused on a specific research question. The proposal should articulate the contexts in which the research will be located, describe the research methods that will be employed, and indicate the original contribution the research will make to the relevant area of study. We strongly advise applicants to submit a draft proposal before making a formal application, so that feedback on the chosen research area can be given.


Follow these links for more information and guidance about Applying for a Research Degree at the RCA, the College's MPhil/PhD Application Process and MPhil/PhD Entrance Requirements.

For full details of cross-college entrance requirements, research proposal requirements and portfolio requirements (if applicable), see Cross-College Requirements.