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Dreams, Butterfly Boy Dreams (Genesis)| Hang Zhang


Exploring art’s function

Key details

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

School or Centre

A distinctive route through fine art

Contemporary Art Practice (CAP) is a cutting-edge programme that has the distinction of being the premiere postgraduate fine art course in the world 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. The Programme is delivered via three pathways/areas of research specialism: Critical Practice, Moving Image, and Public Sphere. Our students create work using any media possible: from images, installations, films and performances, to publications and sound works, participatory events, 3D modelling and VR, writing and techno-aesthetics.

The work of CAP students is profoundly attentive to the critical condition of our environment, humanity and the world around us and our students and graduates both contribute to and also expand the traditional roles assigned to artists to include modes of practice such as artist as activist, artist as publisher, artist as educator, artist as urban geographer and artist as community organiser. Students are encouraged to situate their 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.

The CAP programme offers a discursive environment in which to discuss contemporary issues for thinking about, making and displaying fine art supported by individual tutorials, seminars and cross-pathway crits and lectures. Our approach to Contemporary Art Practice is not determined by either technology or material, although you will be expected to utilise the appropriate technical means to make your works. As a CAP student, you will have access to College-wide technical workshops according to academic need, as well as all facilities within the School of Arts & Humanities.

Explore further

Visit 2020.rca.ac.uk to view graduate work from the class of 2020


When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.

Critical Practice

Extend and develop the critical dimensions of your practice

Moving Image

Moving Image, from a Fine Art perspective, includes documentary, abstract film and script-driven narratives, among others...

Public Sphere

Furthering understanding of art’s social function

Visit the Curriculum tab for more information.



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 studio and workshop space. There are a number of bookable seminar and project spaces across the site available to all Arts & Humanities students.

  • Contemporary Art Practice studios

    Contemporary Art Practice studio

  • Off-site education workshop with Frank Wasseur

    Off-site Education workshop with Frank Wasseur

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.


When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.

The Critical Practice pathway focuses on exploratory and research driven practices. The pathway aims at supporting the development of your art practice within a responsive, dialogical, critical environment with an emphasis on wider socio-political issues – critically interrogating art production in relation to urgent socio-political contexts as well as questioning and redefining practice. We offer regular reading groups, seminars and workshops exploring ideas and themes with a focus on performativity, gender(ing), identity, critical race theory and decolonial issues. The programme also offers opportunities for you to work on projects with public institutions; in this way, you will develop the investigative skills and intuition often required for research. Artists in Critical Practice work with any medium from 3D modelling to installation, performance, video, sound and text.

The Moving Image pathway has the distinction of being one of the first postgraduate courses in the UK to be driven by a fine art approach to Moving Image. The ambition of the Moving Image pathway is that it becomes a global focal-point for the discipline, and a place where key ideas and future forms of Moving Image are expressed and evidenced. We encourage experimental, innovative and speculative models of research. We expect our candidates to draw upon a wide range of material to support and develop their practice, including but certainly not limited to: activism, artists' writings, political essays, philosophy, cultural and social theory, fiction, poetry, popular culture and narrative scripts. A spectrum of practice is encouraged: we welcome applications from artists producing film and video, installation, practitioners working in the areas of documentary, abstract film, animation and script-driven narrative cinema, who wish to situate themselves within the arena of contemporary fine art practices. We want to work with artists who wish to draw upon, challenge and remap established realms. As a pathway, we actively challenge the primacy of the screen, reflecting the evolving landscape of the digital and analogue image. We want to see the broadest range of practices flourish on the Moving Image pathway. Crucially, we want to see divergent practices cross-pollinate and feed into one another. We encourage an intensive, collaborative and critical environment. The pathway offers students the opportunity to work ambitiously with a group of practitioners who are interested in the diversity that film and video can offer.

The Public Sphere pathway focuses on the relationship between artists, publics and institutions. We explore a wide range of methods to produce art away from conventional spaces for the production and consumption of art and venture outside of the studio, the museum or the gallery and into the city and its signs and institutions of power. Thinking about the operation of ideology in relation to art, we aim to interrogate the making and uses of political languages and sites and to find new ways to resist their surveillance and restrictions. Our students and graduates expand the traditional roles assigned to artists to include modes of practice such as artist as activist, artist as publisher, artist as educator, artist as urban geographer or artist as community organiser. Our programme comprises crits, screenings, lectures, reading seminars, practical workshops and tutorials, where students enhance their knowledge of the tools available to them as practitioners in the public sphere. Group learning and collaboration further support students’ individual work through discussions around questions of art’s political efficacy, the relationship between labour and leisure, gender and class, postcolonialism and decolonisation, autonomy and subversion, protest and resistance, liberalism and its exclusions. The outcomes of this research into socially and politically engaged art are diverse and open to expansion.

What you'll cover

During the first year of the programme you undertake three units of study: Unit 1A, Unit 1B and CHS. These units are each worth 40 credits and assessed through a combination of continuous and summative assessment methods.

To support your progress in Units 1A and 1B students are assigned a personal tutor with whom they discuss their work in tutorials, the programme will schedule five per academic year. You will also be given opportunities for tutorials with other members of the programme team and will have the opportunity to request tutorials from other staff in the School and a broader range of visiting tutors

Although working primarily on your own practice, there are also throughout the year group critiques, seminars, lectures, workshops and tutorials with other members of the programme team and, more widely, with staff and students from across the school. You will produce work for studio critiques that take place throughout term one and two.

You will also contribute to a Work in Progress presentation. Your work is not expected to be resolved at this stage. It is an opportunity to take risks, trying new materials and ideas. As this is in a context of public display it includes the question of spectatorship. This enables you to reflect upon the efficacy of the visual forms and concepts with which you have been working.

During the second year of the programme you undertake three units of study: Unit 2A (40 credits), Unit 2B (60 Credits) and SoAH School Unit (20 Credits). These units are assessed through a combination of continuous and summative assessment methods.

You will be assigned a relevant personal tutor who supports your practice throughout the year. You produce a self-initiated body of work, which is evaluated and discussed in group critiques and tutorials throughout the year.

In the third term the work your exhibit in the graduating show is linked to the examination of your final unit 2B - the Independent Research Project. It consists of a major project undertaken in the second year of the programme. Your art practice should now demonstrate that you are able to make, develop and realise work at Masters level. Your work should now have a clear direction and resolution, demonstrating a level of conceptual and technical competence appropriate to your own aims and objectives. Your practice is expected to be self-initiated and thoroughly researched.

Alongside participation in programme-based units, you will also participate in the SoAH School unit, which, through study groups, lectures, symposia, critiques and tutorials will support you in discussing and evolving your work against a broader frame of reference.

All studio-based MA students follow a weekly schedule of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS), a College-wide initiative that provides you with the intellectual framework to build a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

CHS delivers exciting, thought-provoking and inspiring lectures by experts within the programme and high-profile visiting lecturers. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the theoretical background and aspects of your chosen discipline through a tutored dissertation process, as well as receiving individual tutorial support from our team of expert tutors.

View more CHS information


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

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

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.

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

£9,750 per year
£19,500 total cost*
Channel Islands and Isle of Man
£14,500 per year
£29,000 total cost*
Overseas and EU
£29,000 per year
£58,000 total cost*


New entrants to the College for MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees 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

* 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.

Start your application

RCA students at work (photo: Richard Haughton)

Change your life and be here in 2021

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
More information about entrance requirements
Check you have all the information you need to apply.
Read our application process guide
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.

Email us at
[email protected]
RCA Kensington cafe