Working at the intersection of research and practice
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- 24 Mar 2023
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- 31 Jul 2023
- PhD study leads to a range of opportunities. You might become a lecturer or academic researcher, designer or consultant in industry, curator in leading cultural institutions worldwide, in international institutions such as NGOs and charities. It is an opportunity for you to investigate a research question or issue in depth, enabling you to take a more reflective, more innovative role in design.
The Architecture research programme focuses on practice-led and interdisciplinary research with tangible public and social impact.
Working at the intersection of theory, research, media and critical-spatial-practices, the MPhil/ PhD programme in Architecture supports experimental practice-led and interdisciplinary theses aiming at tangible public and social impact. The programme fosters architectural research at the intersection of history and theory, critical ecologies, new materialism, and digital culture. The programme is investigating the diverse ways in which architects, artists, filmmakers, curators and other cultural producers have negotiated crises associated with globalization, migration and statelessness, the hauntings of empire and the colonial present, new digital technologies, and the growing biopolitical conflicts around ecology and climate change. We strongly encourage to think about the performativity of space, or architectural forms and practices in their interrelation to the climate crisis, social movements and institutional change.
We support written academic research in the history and theory of architecture and new media of exploration and documentation. We are especially interested in practice-led research, which could involve an architectural project, a work of heritage preservation, community work, an artistic practice, an exhibition, or a film production. Our programme is relevant to diverse research careers in academia, spatial practice, curation, publishing and critical conservation. We encourage establishing real world collaborations with industry-based research groups, leading design practices, policymakers, social and environmental justice groups, human rights organisations and cultural institutions.
We particularly welcome research proposals aligned with the strategic areas of research in the School of Architecture: Climate Justice, Architecture & Social Movements, Institutional Forms & PracticesDocumentary Research, Heritage & Digital Materialities, Interior Architecture & The Culture of Care, Feeling, Fiction, Frame,Laboratory for Design and Machine Learning
All research themes encourage interdisciplinary research with new models of collaboration between postgraduate research students, as well as academic and non-academic institutions or partners.
Please note all applications must be submitted by 12 noon on the given deadline.
- PhD: 3–4 years (full time), 6–7 years (part time)
- MPhil: 2–3 years (full time), 4–6 years (part time)
Explore more work from current architecture postgraduate research students.
Catch the replays from our November 2022 online Open Day.
The School of Architecture is 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. Shared workspaces are provided for all research students. 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.
More details on what you'll study
Find out what you'll cover in this programme
What you'll cover
What is a research degree?
At the RCA we offer both MPhil and PhD research degrees. Research candidates can study in part-time and full-time modes (subject to approval) and their research can be undertaken by project or thesis modes. The mode of research will be discussed in interview, and should be indicated in the application process.
A postgraduate research degree challenges you to complete a research project that pushes the boundaries of our understanding.
Unlike a taught degree, a research degree emphasises independence of learning and increased specialisation. You will manage your own research project in order to investigate your topic in depth and to produce new ideas, arguments and solutions.
A research degree will give you the subject matter expertise and transferable skills necessary for a wide range of senior roles in research and academia, as well as in business, industry and the cultural and creative sectors.
A PhD is awarded to students who produce a substantial piece of original research that makes a contribution to research in the field. This can take the form of a thesis (60,000-80,000 words) or by project (a body of work and thesis 25,000-40,000 words). If you’re a PhD candidate you’ll normally registered for three years full-time, with submission within four years, or six to seven years part-time. You must remain registered and pay an appropriate fee until submission.
An MPhil is awarded for original research and submission of a thesis. If you’re an MPhil candidate you’ll normally be registered for two years (full-time) or four years (part-time).
Our postgraduate community
We have more than 250 PhD students pursuing cutting-edge research and undertaking advanced training across the College:
- School of Architecture
- School of Arts & Humanities
- School of Communication
- Computer Science Research Centre
- School of Design
- Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design
- Intelligent Mobility Design Centre
- Material Futures Research Centre
The RCA is a world-leading postgraduate university and is ranked the most research-intensive university of art and design in the UK since 2014. Both our students and staff are drawn from countries across the globe. Overseas students play a vital role in ensuring that our College community benefits from a diversity of experience and skills.
Doctoral training programme
At the RCA, research students undertake training both at a cross-College level and within their Schools/Centres, offering rich and robust preparation and learning opportunities for their research degree progression. Many of these also offer opportunities to build a portfolio of experience for future careers.
All students are required to attend our Doctoral Training Weeks in September, February and July (pro-rata attendance by negotiation for part-time students). These are opportunities to participate in the broader research community at the RCA, but also to undertake timely training to support research progression. These intensive weeks include a range of professional development seminars, training and advice in writing, getting published, achieving impact, entering the academic job market and more, and opportunities for you to develop and present your research to your peers and staff.
Our Research Biennale, held every alternate February, offers a showcase of research to internal and external partners and public. The events include space for testing and experimenting with public facing aspects of research, extending and challenging frameworks and perceptions of what art and design research can be.
We are committed to ensuring that you are well equipped, not only to complete your studies but also to develop your future careers.
All students are allocated supervisors upon registration; your supervisory team will have both subject specialism and experience of supervising to completion. Our of current staff index includes an overview of their research interests, recent research outputs and areas of expertise. These give an idea of the key areas of research that are covered at the RCA.
We are not able to guarantee allocation to a specific supervisor as we need to balance staff capacities and our research strategy. However, if there is a particular supervisor whose research aligns with your research proposal, please join us at one of our Open Days and we can talk with you about the possibilities.
Each student will have six supervisions per year (3 for PT students); these might be with the full supervisory team or with one supervisor. Students are expected to initiate these meetings, set the agenda and provide supervisors with pre-reading or other materials in an agreed timeframe for review.
Annual progress reviews
All research students have Annual Progress Reviews, which they must pass in order to progress into the next year of study. These are vital points where all candidates receive formal feedback not only from their supervisory team, but also from other members of the faculty.
There is a formal Confirmation Exam that takes place midway through the period of study to ascertain your readiness for PhD submission; if you who do not meet the requirements at this stage then you’ll usually be recommended to submit for MPhil examination.
What you need to know before you apply
The programme welcomes applications from candidates from across the world and of all ages, including those with academic and professional backgrounds.
Applications are considered in terms of quality of proposal, quality of practice (where appropriate), readiness to undertake a research degree at this level and supervisory capacity.
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
Please use the portfolio area to upload work that gives evidence of previous academic research projects and/or practice-based research. The portfolio should demonstrate the full range of your research skills and emphasise the reasoning that has informed the work, i.e., it should clearly explain the underlying research questions and research processes through drawings/models, images, analysis, case-studies, texts, videos etc. Samples of writing in English, especially academic papers, should be sent with the application whenever possible.
You'll also need to submit a brief video recording, setting out why you want to pursue an PhD and why you think the School of Architecture at the RCA is the best institution to support this, as well as what you can bring to the research community in our School. We would also like to know about your research experience and what motivates or informs your research proposal.
If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country, MPhil candidates will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 6.5 with a 6.5 in the Test of Written English (TWE). PhD candidates will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a 7.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE).
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.
Fees & funding
For this programme
Fees for new students
Fees for September 2023 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.
Home: High residency
Home: Low residency
Overseas and EU: High residency
Overseas and EU: Low residency
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 for the first year of study.
Overseas and EU
For alumni and students who have completed an MA, MA/MSc or MRes at the RCA within the past 10 years, a progression discount is available for Doctoral study. This discount is £1,000 per year for thee first three years of full-time study.
Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.
Sir Frank Bowling Scholarships
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
MPhil/PhD fee bands
The RCA is introducing two separate tuition fee bands for MPhil/PhD students with effect from the academic year 2023/24: Low Residency and High Residency. For more information about what the different fee bands entail, and for frequently asked questions on fee bands, visit:
With the Government's introduction of the new Doctoral Loan and the continued support available via the Arts and Humanities Research Council, there are more financial support options than ever before.
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
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 eligibility requirements and key datesMore information about eligibility requirements 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 sessionsSee upcoming sessions
Please note, all applications must be submitted by 12 noon on the given deadline.
Ask a question
Get in touch if you’d like to find out more or have any questions.