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Painting 2019 Jhonatan Pulido, Elise Broadway, Yulia Iosilzon


Expansive and inclusive

Key details

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

School or Centre

Next open day

Application deadline

  • Still accepting applications

Committed to broadening the understanding of painting

MA Painting at the Royal College of Art is a world-leading, studio-based MA programme with a successful record of turning out artists working at the forefront of the discipline and of international standing. Through our innovative approaches to teaching and learning we foster a student to consider painting as a creative, self-reflexive, and critical activity that draws on a wealth of diverse historical, material and conceptual disciplinary resources as it thrives in the 21st century. We explore these values together as we share our practices and research while supporting your own in a collaborative culture comprised not so much by staff and students but as professional artists and peers. These activities take place across an expansive and inclusive platform that engages with current issues and debates around painting as both a medium with a deep and resourceful history and as a vibrant and invigorating contemporary art practice that brings a critical perspective to social and cultural issues that range across global cultures represented by the diversity of the cohort of RCA painting students.

MA Painting supports the development of your research interests as a foundation for your practice and creating. Staff will foster and advance your ability to reflect critically on your studio work in a context that embraces experimentation, innovation and sustainable technical and conceptual gains expressed in the medium. We support the development of your professional practice, as your skills progress in making and presenting work through different modes, to professional and public audiences, within and beyond the institutional frame.

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.

  • Painting Facilities (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Painting facilities (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • At work in the Painting studio (photo: Richard Haughton)

    At work in the Painting studio (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Student in the Painting studio (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Student in the Painting studio (photo: Richard Haughton)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

In the MA Painting programme you will receive a wide range of inputs from a diversity of positions and voices. Through individual tutorials and group critiques, online group seminars, workshops, artist talks and the presentation of work, you are offered a wealth of opportunities to understand and advance your studio practice informed by the perspectives of your peers, faculty, and invited contributors. The painting studios are an important site for these conversations, as are the artists’ studios, commercial galleries and public art institutions that the vibrant, culturally rich city of London offers.

The MA Painting staff is comprised of full time working artists and diverse, accomplished visiting artists of international standing, who work across a diverse range of media, each with a specialist research focus within the discipline. Although not seen as an end in itself, the programme continues to respect technical skills, and supports you to find an appropriate technical resolution for your work in order to enhance the materialisation of your ideas, the communication of these ideas, and the clarity of your concepts and images.

As a team, we are committed to support you to refine your research base for your practice, and to enable you to forge a sustainable and engaged professional practice situated in the creative economy and art eco-system.

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

Term 1

In the Establishing a Painting Practice unit, you will gain an understanding of what informs the content, subject matter, form and execution of your work as well as establish the audio, visual and material research that feeds your work and practice. This unit will begin with a series of technical inductions, artist lectures and seminars presented by painting faculty to help you establish and orient your practice within the broader painting field. This unit supports you as you produce work, locate your work within a critical context while reflecting on historical and contemporary approaches to painting, ultimately leading to the development of an innovative individual practice. Additionally, students achieve this through curricular content in the form of seminars, workshops, individual tutorials, group critiques and off-site visits.

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

Term 2

In the Painting in the Expanded Field: Experimental Positions, you will further examine and challenge the conceptual, aesthetic and material approaches to making that they developed in the term 1 unit, Establishing a Painting Practice. The goal of this unit is to encourage you to deepen your understanding of the future direction of your practice with a focus on interdisciplinarity, experimentation and critical reflection. You will produce finished work at an advanced level and explore various modes of presenting. The end of this unit will culminate in a presentation and a written proposal for the Independent Research Project in preparation for an exhibition in term 3.

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 (IRP), follows two studio-based units: unit 1 establishes the breadth of studio practice and explores critical and contemporary painting contexts, and unit 2 focuses on interdisciplinarity and experimentation within the studio practice towards concerns of public engagement and exhibition, specific to painting. Units 1 and 2 are platforms for preparing you for the IRP: unit 1 supports critical reflection and analysis of contexts for the future development of a painting practice; unit 2 addresses the temporal, material, technical and logistical demands of exhibiting and disseminating work and developing a professional practice.

The programme approaches the IRP as self-directed study centred on an assessed presentation of your work as an exhibition, a publication and a research essay. The IRP is held and supported from within the programme; staff will support your learning and approaches to critical reflection across the stages. The IRP operates as a robust teaching object to develop independent research, critical thinking and reflection on the specific conceptual, material and presentational demands of a contemporary painting practice. It is an integral component in supporting you to develop a professional orientation and sustainable painting practice beyond an institutional frame.

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 will consider 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.

The application procedure focuses on searching out those candidates that are highly motivated, independent and demonstrate they have the critical skills necessary to develop and further their existing ideas. In short, those artists that – given the opportunity to join the Painting programme – would utilise their time with us to the full, and have the generosity to support their fellow students.

We welcome candidates from all kinds of backgrounds, but generally having completed a BA degree. In recent years, people have come from fine art, printmaking, painting, sculpture, photo media, conservation, illustration, design, textiles, architecture, art history and interactive arts courses.

While many students enter the course after years of independent work, we also accept students directly from undergraduate courses.

Ultimately, we want to attract to the course those artists that want to work in a supportive environment and have the drive and ambition to realise the full potential of their studio practice, in turn energising their peer group.

What's needed from you

The Painting programme offers an inclusive platform on which to engage with current issues and debates surrounding the location of painting as a vibrant part of contemporary art practice. Our curriculum is designed to develop a student’s professional practice, orientation towards research and critical reflection on their studio work and how they present that work and their practice professionally to others.

In your portfolio, please submit documentation of the work you make as a PDF.

Be sure to include the title, date, size, and material make-up (media used) of each work.

You have one slot which can accept one PDF. Your PDF should include at least 10–15 images of work and should be a maximum number of 15 pages total.

Each page may show how a work developed and evolved from start to completion in addition to showing completed or finished work.

We want to learn about:

  • How you approach the conception and making of your paintings?
  • How you position your painting in a contemporary context?
  • What are the issues, concerns and themes you explore in your painting?

The Painting programme approaches painting as a self-reflexive, critical activity that draws on a wealth of varied historical, material and conceptual positions and accomplishments. The programme is committed to broadening the understanding of our discipline in all its forms. Our students are here to reflect upon and play out what kind of artists they want to be with the ultimate aim of enabling a sustainable professional practice as engaged practitioners.

In this 2-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.

We particularly want to learn:

  • How are you beginning to define your work and painting practice?
  • What feeds your practice and informs the choices you make in content, subject matter, form and execution?
  • What types of visual, audio or material research feeds your work and practice?

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.

£15,750 *
Overseas and EU
£36,750 *


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.

Funding Categories: Financial hardship, Full time, Student preferably of Scottish origin

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: £10,000

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

Funding Categories: 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.

Funding Categories: 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.

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

Value: £21,000 each

Supporting MA Painting students from the UK experiencing financial hardship

Funding Categories: Full time

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Two scholarships valued at £20,000 each

Supporting MA Painting students from the UK experiencing financial hardship

Funding Categories: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Two scholarships valued at £20,000 each

Supporting MA Painting students from the UK experiencing financial hardship

Funding Categories: Financial hardship, Full time

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Full tuition fee scholarship

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
Visit the requirements page
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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