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Aditi Khare, Resist printed cotton quilt


A unique learning environment

Key details

School or Centre

Committed to practice-based, public-facing history.

Programme details for 2022 entry are being updated. Please visit the website again for updated information on 1 November 2021.

Offered jointly by the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the MA creates critical histories through artefacts, environments and our interactions with them, whether in design, performance, photography or material culture more broadly.

We see the history of design and material culture as interdisciplinary. Our tutors' research and teaching expertise range from the early modern to the contemporary, with particular area expertise in the UK/Europe, North America and Asia, and in transnational and global connections. As a programme we are committed to inclusivity, decoloniality and social engagement.

V&A/RCA History of Design MA embraces history that is public-facing, experimental and committed to academic excellence, connected to communities in public museums and art schools. We see history as practice-based and bring a distinctly global outlook to historical questions, placing local histories in comparative context and tracing diverse, global networks through material culture.

Explore further

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

Catch the replays from our March 2021 Virtual Day.



The V&A/RCA History of Design MA is located primarily in Kensington, in RCA Kensington and the V&A, with teaching on other RCA campuses.

View all facilities

Students on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA programme have access to a dedicated library in the V&A as well as shared student spaces at the RCA.

  • History of Design Programme Library, V&A

    V&A/RCA History of Design programme library in the V&A

  • Object handling at the V&A

    Students working with Spike Bucklow and V&A metalwork curators

  • Students working with Guido Beltramini on a Palladio workshop

    Students working with Guido Beltramini on a Palladio workshop

  • History of Design lecture

    History of Design lecture

  • Library Kensington

    RCA Kensington Library

  • Artefact close inspection session, V&A Museum

    Artefact close inspection session, V&A Museum

More details on what you'll study.

Programme details for 2022 entry are being updated. Please visit the website again for updated information on 1 November 2021.


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 will consider creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your application, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

You should have a good first degree in an arts and humanities or an art, design, photography or performance practice background. If you have a different background, for example in the social sciences or professions, we encourage you to apply. We welcome applications from students of all ages, and view both prior academic and professional experience as valuable.

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

For your application portfolio to the V&A/RCA MA History of Design please supply two pieces of recent writing, for example an academic assignment, which displays your preparedness and appropriateness for the programme.

Here is what we would like to see in the writing you provide:

  1. Evidence that you are ready for the programme: that you have the intellectual, academic and professional skills and aptitude required to take full advantage of the opportunities for learning provided to students on the programme.
  2. Evidence of alignment with the programme direction: that your academic interests and professional direction will be supported by the programme.

Each piece of writing should be between 1000 and 6000 words. If you are not a recent graduate and feel that your academic writing assignments do not reflect your thinking and writing now, you are welcome to supply a new piece of writing, such as an exhibition review or book review.

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 2022 are being updated. Please visit the website again for updated information on 1 November. You'll find tuition fees for 2021 entry below.

£14,850 total cost*
Channel Islands and Isle of Man
£17,425 total cost*
Overseas and EU
£34,850 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.

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