Committed to broadening the understanding of painting
The Painting MA programme approaches the practice of painting as a self-reflexive, critical activity that draws on a wealth of varied historical, material and conceptual accomplishments related to the medium and its objects. We aim to provide a platform on which to engage with current issues and debates surrounding the challenges and location of painting as a part of contemporary art practice.
The curriculum is designed to develop your professional practice, research and studio work, and how you present that work and your practice professionally. We want you to reflect upon and play out what kind of artist you want to be, with the ultimate aim of enabling a sustainable and meaningful practice as a professional practitioner. The Painting programme is a world leader in research and practice, and we provide excellent teaching by leading practitioners, writers and curators.
Watch replays from our last online open day at rca.onlineopendays.com/replays
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.
Our alumni form an international network of creative individuals who have shaped and continue to shape the world.
- Lu Chao
- Emma Fineman
- Anthea Hamilton
- Suki Seokyeong Kang
- Ryan Mosley
- Oscar Murillo
- George Shaw
- Monster Chetwynd
- Hurvin Anderson
More details on what you'll study.
Find out what you'll cover in this programme.
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 to discuss your work in tutorials five times per academic year. You will also be offered the opportunity for tutorials with other members of the programme team each term, and will have the opportunity to request tutorials from other staff on 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 throughout the broader school. You will produce work for studio critiques that take place in term one and two.
At the beginning of the spring term, first year you contribute to the Work in Progress Show. The 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 public context, it includes the question of spectatorship and professional practice. 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.
In your second year a relevant Personal Tutor (a tutor assigned and other than that in the first year) is assigned to support the development of your practice. 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 you will exhibit in the graduating show as part of the examination of your final unit 2B – the Independent Research Project. It consists of a major presentation 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 an advanced 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 for the work. Your practice is expected to be self-initiated and thoroughly researched. You will be asked to articulate this process of producing work in the viva voce examination.
Alongside your participation in programme-based units, you will also participate in the SoAH School unit, which, through study groups, lectures, symposia, crits and tutorials will support you in discussing and evolving your work against a broader frame of reference.
Critical & Historical Studies (CHS)
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.
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
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
The MA Painting 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 this 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 1 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?
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.
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.
Channel Islands and Isle of Man
Overseas and EU
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.
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.
Change your life and be here in 2021
The Royal College of Art welcomes applicants from all over the world.