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.

21st Century Mannequins, Paul Sohi


From the industrially oriented to the highly speculative

Key details

School or Centre

Career opportunities

  • 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 design.

As a research student in the School of Design, you may be designing an innovative object or system.

The School of Design is home to internationally significant research, much of which is practice-based. The teaching areas of the School – Design Products, Fashion, Global Innovation Design, Innovation Designing Engineering, Intelligent Mobility, Service Design and Textiles – represent a wide range of approaches to research.

Research topics range from those which are strongly needs-focused – such as designing new medical innovations or citizen science through to those which are more experimental - such as designing trust in AI systems or multi-species design. We particularly encourage applications in our strategic design research areas including: Future of making, manufacture and materials; Systems and design; Design for safety; Design for health; Intelligent machines; Data capture and creation; Design science.

Programme details

  • PhD: 3–4 years (full time), 6–7 years (part time)
  • MPhil: 2–3 years (full time), 4–6 years (part time)

Applications are open for the September 2022 intake and we recommend applying as soon as possible. Applications are reviewed in the order they are received and places are limited, so this programme will close for new applications when all places are filled.

Explore further

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

Browse our current and recent research students

Catch the replays from our November 2021 online Open Day



The School of Design is based across our Battersea and Kensington sites.

View all facilities

Students have access to the College’s workshops, with traditional facilities for woodworking, metalworking, plastics and resins, including bookable bench spaces. Computer-driven subtractive milling equipment is available, as well as additive rapid prototyping.

  • Design Products workshop

    Design products (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • At work in the School of Design Workshops (photo: Richard Haughton)

    At work in the School of Design Workshops (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Design products metalwork

    Design products metalwork (photo: Richard Haughton)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

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 four 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).

We have more than 250 PhD students pursuing cutting-edge research and undertaking advanced training across all four RCA Schools and Research Centres.

The Royal College of Art 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.

At the RCA, research students undertake training both at a cross-College level and within their Schools, 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.

First year doctoral students attend compulsory training courses in a range of research methods and methodologies in the first term of study. You’ll attend Doctoral Training Weeks in September, February and July. 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.

We are committed to ensuring that you are well equipped, not only to complete your studies but also to develop your future careers.

Our list of current supervisors includes links to their research profiles. These give an idea of the key areas of research that are covered at the RCA.

If there is a particular member of staff that you are interested in working with, then please email the relevant School Administrator.

View the list of supervisors

Research students have Annual Progress Reviews, which they must pass in order to progress into the next year of study.

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

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.

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.

£9,750 per year
Overseas and EU
£29,000 per year


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



Scholarships are awarded for a specific programme and entry point and cannot be deferred without consent from the academic Programme and scholarships panel.

Supervisory Team: Freddie Robins, Lynn Tandler, Anne Toomey, Elaine Igoe

About the project

The aim of this project is to develop innovative new pathways for the textile-led social development work of Susi Dunsmore. Dunsmore’s textile practice-led approach to community development was holistic in its understanding of the place of the nettle plant in the local environment and culture.

The Nepalese Giant Nettle provides one of the longest bast fibres in the world and is traditionally used in weaving and knitting by the women of communities in the mountainous region of East Nepal. Woven, knitted and other constructed textile products provide supplementary income to subsistence farming. Susi Dunsmore worked with these textile makers and introduced new weave and knit structures, fibre blends and product types to improve income generation through textile making.

Dunsmore’s approach to social impact through co-design integrated an understanding and respect for the lives of the female makers. Her work provides a model for social impact projects through textile making. This research project will simultaneously model and extend Dunsmore’s approach addressing urgent and contemporary production concerns.

The successful candidate will be expected to;

  • Map and analyse Susi Dunsmore’s successful textile practice-led community development projects for women in East Nepal.
  • Employ appropriate and diverse research methods/methodologies including ethnography to understand the legacy and significance of existing textile practices in the region.
  • Use practice-led research methods to develop new and innovative applications for Allo (Nepalese Giant Nettle)
  • Apply a research methodology that supports responsible, ethical and globally inclusive and decolonising design practices.

This funding is for a full time PhD candidate based in the School of Design, applicants will start in September 2022 (in exceptional circumstances, part time study may be considered). Applicants will need to evidence skills or past experience that will demonstrate their ability to deliver the project objectives.

If selected for an interview, candidates will be required to give a presentation outlining their personal intentions and research approach to the given project objectives.

We would welcome research proposals that address one or more of the following areas;

  • Developing economic and social opportunity and impact through Nepalese textile fibre creative practices (knit and weave)
  • Understanding the synergies between nettle textile making, regional agriculture and societal development opportunities for women in Nepal
  • The role of textile practice for international development and innovation using the Nepalese Giant Nettle.

More information can be found here https://nepalesenettle.org/

Studying at the RCA

Join a thriving community of more than 250 MPhil and PhD students pursuing cutting edge research and take your place at the international forefront of art and design. If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Anne Toomey, Head of Textiles at [email protected]

Entry Requirements

An undergraduate degree of at least a 2:1 honours is essential or equivalent professional experience.

A postgraduate degree in textiles is desirable. Experience working internationally on social impact projects, particularly with female groups, will be advantageous. An understanding and awareness of varied global lived experience is an important aspect of this project. We particularly encourage applications from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities and abilities.


Funding includes tuition fees at the UK/Home rate for three years (international applicants are encouraged to apply but should note the additional funds required if successful). One research trip is funded. This funding is provided by the Dunsmore Nepal Textile Trust supported by the Roger Walls Binns Fund.

How to apply

Guidelines are available on the link below. Please supply a research proposal that directly addresses the scholarship requirements using the given format described at MPhil/PhD Application Process.

Please email your application (CV, research proposal, portfolio of practice and referees) by December 17 2021 to Anne Toomey, Head of Textiles Programme on [email protected]. Please do not submit your application through the standard route which uses the RCA online application portal.

Closing date: 17 December

Interview date: January 2022

Nettle weavers in Nepal

More information

External funding

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.

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