Update you browser

For the best experience, we recommend you update your browser. Visit our accessibility page for a list of supported browsers. Alternatively, you can continue using your current browser by closing this message.

ADS4 field trip to Iceland, 2016


We inspire design innovation

Key details

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

School or Centre

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

Applications of the 2022 intake are now closed. To register for updates on applications for a 2023 start please complete an Enquiry to Study form

Programme specifications are revised on an annual basis. Details for 2022 entry are being updated.

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

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

The programme conceives of architecture as a diverse and complex set of practices that move beyond traditional distinctions and limits in the field. The programme expands the possibilities of architecture and its agency in the world by encouraging an independent and critical ethos among its students. Fostering a culture of independent postgraduate research and experimentation in design, underpinned by a strong connection to practice and the material reality of the discipline, is central to the pedagogy. Teaching aims to harness and extend your knowledge, skills and creativity, preparing you to engage critically with the world of practice.

Explore further

Visit 2022.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work by our students, 2021.rca.ac.uk to view work from the class of 2021, or view our online repository at Folios from MA Architecture

Catch the replays from our 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

Programme specifications are revised on an annual basis. Details for 2022 entry are being updated.

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 on the basis of an entrance interview.

The ‘Live’ project introduces the student 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.

The individual studio project is a contained and defined project coming out of your own research into the ADS thematic, in preparation for the independent research project in the second year.

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

The studio project is also the basis for the Technical Studies unit, with both units assessed in parallel. Successful studio projects will integrate and be informed by work done in the Technical Studies curriculum and visa-versa.

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. This unit emphasises the importance of effective partnership between architects and related engineering disciplines in fostering design excellence.

The Technical Studies unit also equips students with an understanding of contemporary challenges around engineering and construction industries. In doing so, it challenges them to engage with larger global questions inherent in contemporary practice. Students 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. Students also 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, which is unique to the RCA, tests a portion of their design through actual fabrication. As part of any design development it is essential to research, test and design through physical prototypes.

Elective unit

All Architecture students will be offered an Elective unit.

College-wide unit

In term 1 you will also begin the College-wide unit which runs across terms 1 and 2. This unit aims to support students to meet the challenges of a complex, uncertain and changing world by bringing them together to work collaboratively on a series of themed projects informed by expertise within and beyond the College. These projects will challenge you to use your intellect and imagination to address key cultural, social, environmental and economic challenges. In doing so, you will develop and reflect on the abilities required to translate knowledge into action, and help demonstrate the contribution that the creative arts can make to our understanding and experience of the world.

Programme specifications are revised on an annual basis. Details for 2022 entry are being updated.

Year 2

Design Strategy

The unit provides the intellectual, technical and professional foundation for the Independent Research Project. You will define a research area and question and outline a clear design strategy and working methodology that translates questions into a design response. Each student will work within their Architectural Design Studio (ADS), which will serve as the critical framework and provocation for students as they develop their own postgraduate research agenda. The ADS themes work alongside and feed into the School’s overarching research agenda.

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. Invited guest lectures provide a broader cultural context, allowing engagement with specific case studies in depth whilst also giving an understanding of different working methods.

The unit tutor will propose a year-long theme in order to provide a specific research lens to the lecture series.

Professional Practice Studies

The unit requires second-year students to complete a course of seminars, tutorials and a case study. The case study should be based on the three key elements of Description, Reflection & Progression. It is a critical appraisal that enables you to investigate how construction, resourcing, regulation and management influence the design process. In doing so, it helps you reflect on your own role as an architect.

The unit is designed to allow you to start to plan your career. As such, it is continually updated to reflect current 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).

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, students learn specific skills related to their section and deploy their 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 the students to expand their 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 the student that is developed and tested against a context and set of parameters identified by the student.

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.

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 2021/22

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

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process considers creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your portfolio, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

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 and a portfolio of completed student projects together with any relevant supporting design material. 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

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work as an artist or designer and can be made up of images, videos or writing examples. Your portfolio helps us to better understand your application and allows you to show evidence of your ability and motivation to undertake a given programme.

Generally, we’re looking for you to demonstrate your:

  • Creativity, imagination and innovation
  • Ability to articulate the intentions of the work
  • Intellectual engagement in areas relevant to the work
  • Technical skills appropriate to the work
  • Potential to benefit from the programme

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 masters studies.

We would like you to submit a ONE SINGLE COMPILED PDF PORTFOLIO with no more than 5 projects of maximum 10 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!

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 September 2022 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

£10,125 per year
£20,250 total costs*
Overseas and EU
£24,000 per year
£48,000 total costs*


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

* 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.

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.

Ask a question

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

Email us at
[email protected]
RCA Kensington cafe