MA Programme Description
The MA programme provides students who have already acquired knowledge and skills in various areas of design with an academic framework in which to continue to develop their own professional direction. The course takes a pluralistic view of the students’ ideas and interests and there is an atmosphere that encourages experimental, groundbreaking work, encouraging a critical approach and a questioning of accepted practices.
The MA programme provides students who have already acquired knowledge and skills in various areas of design with an academic framework in which to continue to develop their own professional direction. The programme takes a pluralistic view of the students’ ideas and interests and there is an atmosphere that encourages experimental, groundbreaking work, encouraging a critical approach and a questioning of accepted practices to address real world problems and global challenges.
The programme has a matrix structure comprised of horizontal teaching units, called Platforms, and a set of vertical Themes, which cut across the Platforms.
In the autumn term of the first year, students undergo a cross-School introductory period, during which they will work with students from the other programmes in the School. The School of Design has created unique environment for interdisciplinary design-led innovation. It attracts students from a highly diverse set of disciplines and work experience, to give them the opportunity to not only reshape their own design practice, but to reshape the discipline of design itself.
In the autumn term students from Design Products, Service Design, Vehicle Design and Global Innovation Design work together in a common platform of seminars and workshops and a joint project. This will provide the vibrant interdisciplinary environment to accelerate new ways of thinking, design practice and new skills. It is designed to reinforce existing best practice in design well as introduce those who are new to design to some of the key principles and practices for design-led innovation.
This common platform introduces students to the principles, tools and techniques and practice of design in each of the disciplines, introduces them to design research methods, systems thinking, advanced ideation techniques, visualisation and prototyping in physical and digital environments and issues of design for sustainability, the circular economy and commercial viability.
It is delivered through a combination of seminars, workshops and studio projects linked to each of these topics, and culminates with a group project where students from different programmes work together to deliver an exhibition of their work.
Each of the individual programmes builds upon this platform, both during the autumn term and in subsequent terms, enabling students to develop their specialism in their respective disciplines of Design Products, Service Design, Intelligent Mobility and Global Innovation Design.
In the autumn and spring terms, students will work on projects related to the Themes in order to expose them to global contexts, and in the spring term they will experience the different design perspectives of the Platforms. Students will also work on their dissertation during the whole of their first year, which they are encouraged to use to research their design interests and develop a personal project alongside it. In the summer term, students elect a Platform to follow for the remainder of their studies, underpinned by one of the Themes (or a global challenge of their own choosing).
Second-year students are expected to produce a minimum of two graduation projects, or one large graduation project. Students are expected to use the programme’s Themes and their Platform’s approach to design as the basis for their work.
There is a progress review at the end of the autumn and spring terms for second-year students, and at the end of the summer term for first-year students. Each Platform is led by two Tutors (who are practising designers and professionals in research & development), and the Themes are led by the Tutor, Senior Tutor or the Head of Programme. While the Tutors’ primary focus is the students in their Platform, their knowledge and expertise is available to the entire programme; the Head of Programme and Senior Tutor/Tutor teach across the programme. In addition, students benefit from Visiting Professors and visiting lecturers who are practising designers and experts in their fields.
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.