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ADS4 field trip to Iceland, 2016


We inspire design innovation

Key details

  • 240 credits
  • 2 year programme
  • Full-time study

School or Centre

Application deadline

  • Still accepting applications

Expand the possibilities of your practice by developing a speculative, independent and critical ethos

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) part II and Architects Registration Board (ARB) validated since 1983.

  • Previous RIBA validation: 2019
  • Previous ARB validation: 2016

MA Architecture at the Royal College of Art is a research-driven, studio-based postgraduate education that critically tests the making of architecture and spatial practice. The programme supports the development of each students’ personal position and practice relative within the field. We foster an inclusive, critical and responsive, context in which architecture is explored as a medium, rather than a goal in itself. We are attentive to urgent political, social, and ecological questions, which allows us to interrogate the contexts and processes of architectural production and support our students to redefine practice.

Still accepting applications for 2023 entry. See the Eligibility and key dates webpage for round 3 details.

Explore further

Visit 2022.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work by our students, or view our online repository at Folios from MA Architecture

Catch the replays from our November 2022 online Open Day.



The School of Architecture is currently based at our historic Kensington site.

View all facilities

Our studios are the heart of day-to-day activity for the School. Studios are purpose-designed for inspiration and interaction between students of different design disciplines. Studio workspace is provided for each student. In addition, you have access to wood, metal, plastic and resin workshop facilities, as well as contemporary digital fabrication equipment and a suite of bookable project and making spaces.

  • Reviewing work in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Reviewing work in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Working on a piece in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Working on a piece in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Working together in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Working together in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Activity in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Activity in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Students in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Students in the School of Architecture Studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

Year 1

Studio I, Studio II & Studio III

In your first year, you'll work on a live project, and a studio project within a pedagogical framework established by the Architectural Design Studio (ADS) tutors. Once briefed on the nature of each ADS, each student is invited to nominate their order of preference. Places are allocated based on a synoptic portfolio and entrance interview.

The ‘Live’ project introduces you to forms of external engagement, industry practice and the role of field work in a design process. The ‘Live’ project brief is set by the ADS tutors and is integrated into the overarching studio brief.

Studio I forms the basis for the briefing and strategy for the Studio II & Studio III project. Studio II develops the project of Studio I. Studio III is the final development of the individual design project initiated in Studio I and developed over terms 2 and 3. The final project should be developed and communicated through the production of drawings, models, digital models, moving images, and processes of making.

Technical Studies I & Technical Studies II

This unit provides first-year students with a comprehensive understanding and working knowledge of the technologies and innovations in construction, engineering and environment and energy associated with the built environment. Technical Studies is an integral part of the studio design project and essential in the advanced development of the design. As such it complements ADS project work.

The Technical Studies unit equips you with an understanding of contemporary challenges around engineering and construction industries. In doing so, it challenges you to engage with larger global questions inherent in contemporary practice. You will explore broader ideas of sustainability that extend beyond the detailed design of the building envelope and services, and that acknowledge larger environmental and contextual developments alongside important focus on human comfort, whole life carbon impact and integrate fire and life safety strategies. You will engage with physical exploration of a technical aspect of their building through a physical (and or digital) one-to-one scale test. This one-to-one material or detail test of the project, tests a portion of your design through actual fabrication. As part of any design development, it is essential to research, test and design through physical prototypes. This unit emphasises the importance of the integration of technical knowledge and effective partnership between architects and related engineering disciplines in fostering design excellence.

Elective unit

All Architecture students will be offered an Elective unit.

Professional Practice Studies

Professional Practice Studies gives you an understanding of the professional duties and responsibilities of the Architect, and the pathway to registration for UK architectural practice. It introduces the planning, policy, procurement processes, and legal frameworks relevant to the profession, and principles of business management. You are encouraged to understand the agency afforded by these frameworks to shape their chosen forms of practice and career path, and your ethical responsibility in practice in relation to questions of social and environmental sustainability, health and life-safety.

Design Strategy

The unit provides the intellectual, technical, and professional foundation for the Independent Research Project. You will define a research area and research question, then outline a clear design strategy and working methodology that translates these questions into a design response.

History & Theory Studies

The History Theory Studies (HTS) unit enables you to identify a personal position through engagement with a broader cultural framework in support of the independent research project. The unit helps you build a systematic understanding of the history of modern architecture, constructing a shared knowledge, methodology and vocabulary so that you can define your own position and lines of research enquiry.

Media Studies

The unit is subdivided into multiple sections led by tutors with a diverse range of media experience. Lectures are delivered by staff and invited guests and introduce a range of media and spatial practice methodologies. In the tutorials, you will learn specific skills related to your section, and deploy your research through the execution of new media-based projects. The unit’s mission is twofold: first to encourage the incoming MA students from disparate programmes to increase their cross-disciplinary communication and secondly to challenge you to expand your media practice beyond architecture’s reliance on media as purely representational.

Studio IV & Independent Research Project

In this unit you will independently develop a design response to the research question identified in the Design Strategy unit.

The thesis project builds on your skills, knowledge and experience, developed over the course of the programme, to develop a mature and sophisticated design project that clearly identifies your personal practice within the field.

Successful projects will develop a spatial proposition in response to a clear research question identified by you, that is developed and tested against a context and set of parameters identified by you.

Projects are to be presented and represented in the most effective means to communicate project intent and agency within the field, capitalising on the diverse resources of the College.

Situated at the core of your RCA student experience, this ambitious interdisciplinary College- wide AcrossRCA unit supports how you respond to the challenges of complex, uncertain and changing physical and digital worlds by engaging you in a global creative network that draws on expertise within and beyond the institution. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for you to:

  • make connections across disciplines
  • think critically about your creative practice
  • develop creative networks within and beyond the College
  • generate innovative responses to complex problems
  • reflect on how to propose ideas for positive change in local and/or global contexts.

AcrossRCA launches with a series of presentations from internationally acclaimed speakers that will encourage you to think beyond the discourses of art, architecture, communication, and design, and extend into other territories such as economics, ethics, science, engineering, medicine or astrophysics.

In interdisciplinary teams you will be challenged to use your intellect and imagination to respond to urgent contemporary themes, providing you with an opportunity to develop innovative and disruptive thinking, critically reflect on your responsibilities as a creative practitioner and demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world. This engagement with interdisciplinary perspectives and practices is designed both to complement your disciplinary studies and provide you with a platform to thrive beyond graduation.

Visit the AcrossRCA website

The core of learning on the MA Architecture programme is project-based and structured around Architectural Design Studios (ADS), with each offering you a unique set of concerns, methods and critical frameworks. Each ADS has approximately 14 students, with first- and second-year students working alongside each other.

Find out more about ADS themes 2022/23

Year two Architecture students will be offered the opportunity to engage with practice mentors. This enables them to map shared research themes as well as developing a greater understanding of the diverse range of industry activity.

Exposure to and understanding of the working methods, approach and environment of each practice supports students in being reflective on their own emerging practice methods.

The mentoring scheme offers students another voice on their student work but can also offer guidance on professional development and industry engagement.

This initiative recognises the value of the collaborative networks that drive our students and continues the tradition of linking architectural education with industry as first established by the Royal College of Art, as a direct descendant of the Government School of Design, in 1837.


What you need to know before you apply

The MA Architecture programme prioritises innovation and experimentation and we are looking for students with a strong sense of curiosity, independence and agenda who want to be challenged. The majority of our students come from undergraduate studies in architecture, but this is not essential and we enjoy a diverse community of students. We also strongly encourage a minimum of one year’s work experience (in a related field) before entering into Master’s studies.

You should have achieved a high quality first degree in architecture (RIBA Part I) or an international equivalent degree or higher and should have at least one year’s work experience in a design office. Alternative undergraduate qualifications will be considered based on portfolio and personal statement.

You are required to submit a completed RCA MA application form, a digital portfolio of completed student projects together with any relevant supporting design material, and a brief video setting out your motivations and personal interests. If you wish to gain exemption from RIBA Part II, you must have completed their RIBA Part I satisfactorily. Design and critical thinking are prioritised in the selection of candidates.

What's needed from you

  • We would like you to submit one single compiled PDF portfolio, with no more than five projects of maximum ten pages per project – this should be a carefully considered document.
  • Video/media files can be embedded or uploaded separately.
  • The portfolio can be evidenced through any media, from drawings, images and models to film and writing, but the work must be succinct, dense and well curated, and clearly articulate your interest in and intentions for the MA Architecture programme.
  • Remember we will be viewing the document on screen, so consider your layout to suit this.
  • In curating your portfolio it is important to prioritise student and independently led work, professional work is only of interest if it was an exceptional experience.
  • All projects should be accompanied by a concise written description and images and content carefully selected to both communicate a coherent project trajectory and also demonstrate skills and aptitude.
  • Your portfolio should communicate who you are and your potential. It is important to choose the best projects that truly represent your interests, that unpack issues that are important to you or that you may wish to pursue in your masters education.
  • Work should be well presented both visually but also in depth of content and communication. Fundamental to any work included in the portfolio should be: research, rigour, invention and visually and materially rich design exploration and representation. Impress us!

  • Please use the video to communicate clearly your motivations and personal interests and why you are pursuing a masters degree at the Royal College of Art. We suggest that one good approach is to talk through a selected project.
  • It is important to hear about your work in your own words and to understand the process and intentions of the project, along with critical reflections on the work, but the format and content are up to you.
  • We want to understand what you hope to achieve at the RCA and your potential contribution and unique perspective that you can bring to the programme.
  • While the video can be personal in character, the content should always be centred on the work. Remember this is your key moment to communicate to us who you are and what you can bring to the programme – make it count!

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE) and at least 5.5 in other skills. Students achieving a grade of at least 6.0, with a grade of 5.5 in the Test of Written English, may be eligible to take the College’s English for Academic Purposes course to enable them to reach the required standard.

You are exempt from this requirement if you have received a 2.1 degree or above from a university in a majority English-speaking nation within the last two years.

If you need a Student Visa to study at the RCA, you will also need to meet the Home Office’s minimum requirements for entry clearance.

Find out more about English-language requirements

Fees & funding

For this programme

Fees for new students

Fees for UK for September 2023 entry on this programme are currently being reviewed by the Office for Students. We expect to charge £9,000 for UK students but this is still be confirmed. When we have our UK fees confirmed for this programme they will be posted on the website.


New entrants to the College will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to secure their place. This will be offset against the tuition fees.

Overseas and EU

Progression discount

For alumni and students who have completed an RCA Graduate Diploma and progress onto an RCA Master's programme – MA, MA/MSc, MFA, MDes, MArch, MEd or MRes – within 10 years, a progression discount of £1,000 is available.

* Total cost is based on the assumption that the programme is completed in the timeframe stated in the programme details. Additional study time may incur additional charges.



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

Supporting a range of MA students from the UK with financial need.

Funding Categories: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Four scholarships valued at £25,000 each

Supporting students on any MA programme from the UK (Preferably is a Scottish national), experiencing financial hardship.

Funding Categories: Financial hardship, Full time, Student preferably of Scottish origin

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: £10,000

The Scholarship supports 21 UK MA, MRes and PhD students every year from across all RCA MA, MRes and PhD disciplines.

Funding Categories: Financial hardship, Students with Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage, or mixed Black African and Caribbean diaspora heritage

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: £21,000

This scholarship supports students with a diagnosed physical or sensory disability, and face financial challenges.

Applicants must make an application via the application portal on the Snowdon Trust website from Jan 2023: www.snowdontrust.org/scholarships

Eligible fee status: UK and International

Value: Up to £15,000 in tuition fees + £15,000 maintenance support

More information

External funding

There are many funding sources, with some students securing scholarships and others saving money from working. It is impossible to list all the potential funding sources; however, the following information could be useful.


Tuition fees are due on the first day of the academic year and students are sent an invoice prior to beginning their studies. Payments can be made in advance, on registration or in two instalments.

Start your application

RCA students at work (photo: Richard Haughton)

Change your life and be here in 2023. Applications now open.

The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.

Before you begin

Make sure you've read and understood the entrance requirements and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
Consider attending an Open Day, or one of our portfolio or application advice sessions
See upcoming sessions
Please note, all applications must be submitted by 12 noon on the given deadline.
Visit our applications portal to get started

Ask a question

Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or have any questions.

Register your interest with us here
RCA Kensington cafe