Join a vibrant research community
School or Centre
- 31 Jul 2023
- PhD study leads to a range of opportunities. You might become a researcher in industry or government or an academic in an international institution. 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 communication, design and media environments.
Our research degrees span the full range of communication, design and media environments.
Research is a rich, central and essential part of the School of Communication. Our MPhil and PhD degrees are grounded firmly in research theory and methods, while maintaining and encouraging a high degree of creativity and experimentation.
We welcome research projects that activate new kinds of knowledge formation; critically exploring, probing and creating ways to open dialogues on narratives and methods to positively change the terms of contemporary communication practices. Ours is a broad discipline ranging from, but not exclusive to, animation, experimental communication, sonic performance, media ecologies, intercultural communication, digital storytelling and immersive world building.
We look for critical engagement, originality and proven skills in both practice and writing, and encourage questioning and experimental research approaches. The research ethos of our community can be summed up as fostering an ethically alert approach to practices of communication that are inclusive, culturally informed, and historically aware. We bring theory and practice together to offer new ways of thinking about the world, at a time when alternative paradigms and criticality are essential to mobilising imagination and action for the future.
- PhD: 3–4 years (full time), 6–7 years (part time)
- MPhil: 2–3 years (full time), 4–6 years (part time)
Please note all applications must be submitted by 12 noon on the given deadline.
View our current Research students' profiles
Catch the replays from our November 2022 online Open Day.
The School of Communication is located in White City, London’s newest research and creative quarter.View all facilities
Our mixed-use studios encourage collaborative working, thought, awareness and action. In addition, you have access to craft and technical workshop areas and excellent technical support in the College.
Our alumni form an international network of creative individuals who have shaped and continue to shape the world. Click on each name to find out more.
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.
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 submit a portfolio of selected work which best evidences your abilities in articulating research questions, methods and approaches. This may relate directly to your proposed research project or, at the very least, will articulate your skills and processes.
In your recorded video, please tell us why you have chosen to apply for a PhD; and why you have chosen to apply to the RCA’s School of Communication in particular. What do you bring to the research you are proposing (e.g. experience, professional projects, etc.) and what will you bring to the broader research community at the RCA? Briefly summarise your proposed research project keeping in mind we have read your application – and highlight your key motivations and aspirations for the research. What is it that you don’t know now that you hope the research will bring to your research and to your chosen field?
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
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.