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I like watching birds and they like watching me


Reflecting the contemporary world

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 1 year programme
  • Full-time study

School or Centre

Next open day

Application deadline

  • Still accepting applications

A discursive environment of experimentation, self-reflexivity and critical art practices

Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) at the Royal College of Art is a cutting-edge MA programme in the School of Arts & Humanities that is driven by a post-medium, critical approach to the making and reception of art, where theory and practice come together to form new ways of responding to the contemporary world. The programme supports the development of your art practice within a responsive, dialogical and critical context with an emphasis on wider political issues – interrogating art production in relation to urgent socio-political contexts as well as questioning and redefining practice.

CAP supports ambitious, exploratory and research-driven artists, with programme specialisms in: critical, speculative and social art practices, moving image, performance, writing and technoaesthetics.

Our approach to Contemporary Art Practice is not determined by either technology or material, and CAP students create work using any media possible: from images, installations and moving image works, to publications and sonic art, participatory events, 3D modelling and VR, writing and performance. The programme offers a flexible environment that supports collective and peer-led learning.

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.

Catch the replays from our November 2022 online Open Day.



The School of Arts & Humanities is located across our Battersea and Kensington sites.

View all facilities

All full-time students on fine or applied arts programmes are provided with studios or workspace, and access to specialist workshops. There are a number of bookable seminar and project spaces across the site available to all Arts & Humanities students.

  • RCA2022, installation view

    Julie Dusuel and Loretta London, RCA2022 (installation view)

  • RCA2022 (installation view)

    Sara Sarshar, RCA2022 (installation view)

  • RCA2022 (installation view)

    Deividas Vytautas and Laura Nicholson, RCA2022 (installation view)

  • RCA2022 (installation view)

    Bea Grant and Gaby Jonna, RCA2022 (installation view)

  • RCA2022 (installation view)

    JungEun Yang and Weining Cai, RCA2022 (installation view)

  • CAP RCA2021 Degree Show at Cromwell Place

    CAP RCA2021 Degree Show at Cromwell Place. Photographer: Ollie Harrop

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

The MA in Contemporary Art Practice offers a discursive environment in which to discuss contemporary issues for thinking about, making and presenting contemporary art supported by individual tutorials, group critiques, lectures, seminars and workshops that take place across the year. Units are tailored to nurture the development of your art practice from the earliest manifestations of ideas through to platforms for exhibition and making-public, whilst also providing the skills required to be able to situate your practice within current dialogues and debates. Supported individual learning is complemented by generative workshops and collaborative events and exhibitions, with critical feedback offered throughout the degree from world-leading contemporary artists, writers and curators.

The MA in Contemporary Art Practice is premised on an understanding that artists, makers, writers, curators, critics and historians today are concerned with the function, contribution and work of the artist and art’s potential to reflect upon and intervene in the world. CAP research clusters, reading groups, collaborations, group crits, generative workshops and seminars interconnect with one-to-one tutorials and technical support as well as the School and College-wide teaching units to create an innovative, dynamic and responsive habitat for new approaches to the thinking, making and exhibition of contemporary art practices.

The programme is delivered across three terms and includes a combination of programme, School and College units.

Term 1

The Situating Contemporary Art Practice unit provides the practical and theoretical foundations of the degree. A series of programme lectures, technical and generative workshops and seminars, individual tutorials and group critiques will support you in artwork production and experimentation, helping you to position and situate your practice within contemporary dialogues and debates.

Across Terms 1 and 2, you will participate in AcrossRCA, the College-wide unit. See below for more details.

Term 2

The Demonstrating Contemporary Art Practice unit engages with modes of making-public and with collaborative practices. You will have the opportunity to expand professional networks and engage with sites and contexts of art production and reception. You will be supported in your learning through individual and group tutorials, lectures, workshops and reading groups. You will also have the opportunity to collaborate with peers across all aspects of planning and exhibition of a series of public projects and events involving external partners and deliver a presentation of your work with feedback from leading professionals in contemporary art practice.

In term 2 all School of Arts & Humanities students will participate in the Urgency of the Arts, School-wide unit. Through this unit we ask: what does arts and humanities research and practice have to offer in our current socio-political climate? The unit introduces students to a diverse range of perspectives, approaches and practices relevant to contemporary practice and thought in the Arts & Humanities. The delivery is devised to help you identify and query your own practices and disciplinary assumptions through encounters with others and within the various practices undertaken by students in the School, and to raise awareness around contemporary concerns. You will be supported in understanding the ramifications of your own work and practice within a broad cultural context, and to recognise its many potentially unintended readings and consequences.

Term 3

The Independent Research Project at producing a final artwork for presentation in a public exhibition. You will be supported through individual and group tutorials and one-to-one technical support, alongside a series of programme specific and School-wide professional practice lectures and workshops, with critical feedback on your work via an external group of arts professionals.

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.


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.

Candidates are generally expected to have a good BA degree from a fine art course. You should be able to demonstrate an original and critical approach to fine art as well as an ability to engage with current theories of art and culture that inform their practice.

What's needed from you

Our programme is engaged with the histories, theories and production of contemporary art. Therefore we would like to know about how you think your work is situated in this context: let us know what thinkers, writers and artists interest you and speculate upon why this is so.

We would like to hear about your opinions and thoughts on global, social and political issues; in what way does your work and practice engage with the most crucial concerns of our age?

Introduce us to your work and speculate on how your artworks address this or respond to it; this could be through the use of different processes, material choices, technology, site, intervention with groups or publics, critical writing, performance and the performative. We are committed to decolonising the institutions of art and education; our current students work with a range of ideas, regarding class, race, gender (feminism and trans) and disability.

You are encouraged to situate your practice within the social, political and economic conditions of the contemporary world; identifying what art can contribute to ongoing material, critical, technological and philosophical debates.

Discourse is a key aspect of 21st century art production and we expect students to be involved in navigating the relationship of art and the function of art's discourse for art's reception. In this two-minute video, please respond to the above statements and elaborate on the questions previously asked about your work and practice as documented in your portfolio.

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 2023 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Overseas and EU
£ 33,600*


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

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Student preferably of Scottish origin

Eligible fee status: UK fee status, Full time

Value: £10,000

Supporting MA Sculpture, Painting, Contemporary Art Practice, Print and Photography students experiencing financial hardship.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Full time

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Up to seven full tuition fee scholarships for new students

Supporting Sculpture, Painting, Contemporary Art Practice, Print and Photography MA students.

Eligibility criteria: Full time

Eligible fee status: Any

Value: A tuition fee bursary of £5,000

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

Eligibility criteria: 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

The RCA Cost of Living Bursary supports living costs for home students across all MA programmes.

Value: Bursaries of £5,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The RCA Disabled Students Bursary supports living costs for home students with a declared disability across all MA programmes, recognising the contribution that UK students with disabilities make to the RCA

Value: Bursaries of £6,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Students with a diagnosed physical or sensory disability, or specific learning difficulties.

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship supports academic excellence by rewarding talented home applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA, with a partial fee scholarship

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each, to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship - International supports academic excellence by rewarding talented applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA at Round 1 and Round 2 of applications, with a partial fee scholarship.

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: International fee status

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
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