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Qiaoran Li


Situated at the forefront of critical experimentation

Key details

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

School or Centre


  • White City

Application deadline

  • 14 Aug 2024

Creating transformative movements that invite activism and change.

Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art is committed to a practical and discursive approach to making. We see communication as a conversation to form bridges, connect people and exchange ideas.

Join a community of critical thinkers and makers leading the way in social, cultural and political practices. We have a long history of collaborative and cooperative working methods centred on compassion, listening, respecting and (un)learning.

We encourage you to question the status quo, explore multiple viewpoints and embrace complexity. We're all about pushing the boundaries of critical thinking and creativity. If you're eager to make fresh connections between radical ideas and practical applications, this is the place for you. We encourage you to let your imagination run wild, ponder new possibilities, and work together across different fields to bring about positive change. Join us and be a part of the transformative movement!

We invite you to join a conversation based on our shared belief in the power of art and design to empower and transform.

Applications for the September 2024 intake are open and will be assessed on a rolling basis. Programmes will close for applications when the maximum number of places have been awarded, or at the final deadline on 14 August, 12 noon (UK time).

Explore graduate work

In July 2023, students presented RCA2023, a series of exhibitions and events. Explore online at https://2023.rca.ac.uk/

You can also view previous events and exhibitions online at Showcase.

Find out more about this programme

Catch the replays from our latest online Open Day.




The School of Communication is currently located on our White City site.

View all facilities

Our mixed-use studios encourage collaborative working, thought, awareness and action. In addition, you have access to craft and technical workshop areas and excellent technical support in the College.

  • White City studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

    White City studios (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • School of Communication studio

    School of Communication studio (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Computer room, White City

    Computer room, White City

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

As a student, you will become well-practised in interpreting ideas, events, complex data, knowledge and experiences. You will learn to translate these into artefacts, narratives or connections that might manifest across or between the physical, digital or virtual. You will learn to elicit new knowledge and create new insights through language, storytelling, tools, and materiality. Your role is to form a bridge: to make possible forms of communication that can connect people and connect ideas.

We’ll give you creative agency to explore the ideas that drive your practice. Recent work has included the body in digital space, the gentrification of communities, immigration rights, intangible cultural heritage, feminist and LGBTQ+ histories, media archaeology, the living archive, material labour, the privatisation of public space, protest, racial justice, visions of utopia and more. Our open and inclusive vision of the practice of communication produces work as divergent in form as in content. We embrace multidisciplinary approaches, including sound, type-design, performance, publishing, moving image, workshops, fieldwork, documentary, radio, virtual reality, comics, ceramics, happenings, drawing, walking and writing.

There will be several opportunities to collaborate with others during your studies. At a minimum, your programme will include 292 contact hours and 1,508 independent study hours.

Contact hours can include lectures, seminars, tutorials, critical forums and workshops, among other types of teaching delivery. Teaching types included in your programme can include: briefings, projects, tutorials, seminars, lectures, critical forums, technical inductions, technical workshops, offsite visits and blended learning.

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

Term 1

Encounters (45 credits) Together, we will develop ‘conversations’ within a critical framework that questions existing ideas and knowledge production models. We will examine and expand on lived experience, motivation and practice by staging encounters with other disciplines, communities and sites. We will formulate inquiries that unsettle the familiar and ask ‘What if’?

Term 2

Making Worlds with Others (15 credits): This unit will allow you to work alongside students within and across the School. Working from the perspective of your practices and disciplines, you will develop a project that engages with others and creates mutual exchanges of ideas and understandings to create critically engaged situations and outcomes resulting in convivial knowledge exchange. Through collaborative learning and making, the unit will support you in understanding knowledge exchange and public engagement and how you are to situate your practice in these territories. The unit will also ask you to question how socially engaged practice can contribute to cultural understanding, co-researching and co-creating methods for knowing with and not knowing about.

Affinities (30 credits) Following Encounters, you will begin testing the series of critical questions you’ve emerged with. You will identify which discussions you want to participate in and practice listening and connecting with others on a non-individualistic level. You will start a dialogue with the people, objects and ideas you want to engage with and be expected to connect to them with care and purpose. You will consider new modes and methods relevant to your research and focus on making, exchanging and experimenting with this knowledge by working collectively.

In Terms 1 and 2, you'll also take the College-wide unit AcrossRCA (30 credits).

Term 3

Independent Research Project (60 credits): Here, we ask you to focus on locating and establishing yourself and your work in the external contexts in which you seek to engage and connect your practice to emerging critical discourses. You will enact the critical frameworks, methods and tools you have developed through the programme.

Towards the end of the programme, you will have the opportunity to participate in a collectively curated and produced public-facing activity. This activity could include developing a group exhibition, publication or curated events, and contributes to the body of work presented for your unit assessment.

Download the Visual Communication Programme Specification 2023/24 (PDF)

AcrossRCA is a compulsory 30-credit unit which is delivered as part of all MA programmes.

Situated at the core of your RCA experience, this ambitious interdisciplinary College-wide unit supports you in responding to the challenges of complex, uncertain and changing physical and digital worlds. Developed in response to student feedback, AcrossRCA creates an exciting opportunity for you to collaborate meaningfully across programmes.

Challenging you to use your imagination and intellect to respond to urgent contemporary themes, this ambitious unit will provide you with the opportunity 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 and panel discussions from acclaimed speakers who will introduce the themes and act as inspirational starting points for your collaborative team response.

Delivered online and in-person across two terms, the unit has been designed to complement your disciplinary studies and to provide you with a platform to thrive beyond graduation.



What you need to know before you apply

Our students come to Visual Communication from disciplines including graphic design and illustration but develop the tools to allow communication and connections across disciplinary boundaries. This interdisciplinary environment draws from diverse geographies, rich cultural contexts and multiple fields of study.

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.

You will normally have completed a first-degree undergraduate qualification in a related subject or be able to evidence equivalent professional experience in related fields.

All candidates are required to submit an online portfolio of work to be assessed by the programme’s senior staff team. Candidates should create an online portfolio that best reflects their abilities, experience and interests. The portfolio must follow College guidelines for uploading work such as using the College application site and giving a brief description for each piece of work.

Candidates are selected on the basis of a body of work that demonstrates an advanced understanding of the subject and sufficient technical skill to realise intentions, evidence of commitment to the subject, intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, the ability to collaborate, to engage in debate and respond to criticism, and the ability to engage in sustained and consistent study.

We also want enthusiasm for your practice, commitment and a strong sense of personal responsibility for your own learning and development.

What's needed from you

The majority of our students come from the disciples of Visual Communication but this is not essential, we welcome career changers and those from other fields. We welcome a diverse community of students who are interested in many different things. We are looking for potential and the ability to challenge and push at the boundaries of the disciplines. When putting together your application, think about which projects matter to you the most.

You should submit two core projects that demonstrate your creative process in depth. This should include developmental work and the decisions you made that shaped the project.

You should submit up to three supporting projects, which could be more experimental or demonstrate ideas or themes that you are currently exploring.

Each project should be uploaded as a landscape PDF to include no more than 12 pages, and include a short introductory text of not more than 200 words). Please also upload any supporting video or sound files.

We encourage you to include projects that tell us something about your values and who you are as a person. For example, something about your community, a personal interest or collection, or maybe something you are passionate about outside of art and design.

Finally, don’t forget to be playful and have fun putting this together.

Please upload a two-minute video recorded on your phone or laptop, talking to us directly. In this video, tell us about yourself and your creative journey. We want to hear about your experiences in life so far – professional and personal – that have influenced your work.

Tell us why you want to join the programme – what topic(s) or questions do you hope to explore through your time with us? For example, tell us about the processes you use to make, the themes or ideas you are interested in exploring and the wider context of your work: social, cultural, political, etc.

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need the equivalent of an IELTS Academic or UKVI 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 2024 entry on this programme are outlined below. From 2021 onward, EU students are classified as Overseas for tuition fee purposes.

Overseas and EU


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.



The RCA scholarship programme is growing, with hundreds of financial awards planned for the 2024/5 academic year. Examples of financial awards offered in 2023/24 are given below.

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Colombia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, USA

Eligible fee status: Overseas fee status

Value: £7,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

Eligible fee status: Overseas fee status

Value: £7,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £5,000 towards fees

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligibility criteria: Students who identify as D/deaf or disabled

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £6,000 for living costs

For: All programmes excluding PhD & short courses

Eligibility criteria: Black or Black British Caribbean, Black or Black British African, Other Black Background, Mixed - White and Black Caribbean, Mixed - White and Black African

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: Full fees & maintenance

For: All MA programmes, MArch, MFA, MDes, MRes & MEd

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £5,000 for living costs

For: Any MA programme

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £10,000 towards fees

For: MA Visual Communication

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £10,000 towards fees

For: MA Visual Communication

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: £10,000 towards fees

For: MA Visual Communication

Eligible fee status: Home & Overseas

Value: Full fees & maintenance (Home) / Fee discount (Overseas)

Applying for a scholarship

You must hold an offer to study on an RCA programme in order to make a scholarship application in Spring 2024. A selection of RCA merit scholarships will also be awarded with programme offers. 

We strongly recommend that you apply for your programme as early as possible to stand the best chance of receiving a scholarship. You do not apply directly for individual awards; instead, you will be invited to apply once you have received an offer.

More information

Additional fees

In addition to your programme fees, please be aware that you may incur other additional costs associated with your study during your time at RCA. Additional costs can include purchases and services (without limitation): costs related to the purchase of books, paints, textiles, wood, metal, plastics and/or other materials in connection with your programme, services related to the use of printing and photocopying, lasercutting, 3D printing and CNC. Costs related to attending compulsory field trips, joining student and sport societies, and your Convocation (graduation) ceremony. 

If you wish to find out more about what type of additional costs you may incur while studying on your programme, please contact the Head of your Programme to discuss or ask at an online or in person Open Day.   

We provide the RCASHOP online, and at our Kensington and Battersea Campuses – this is open to students and staff of the Royal College of Art only to provide paid for materials to support your studies. 

We also provide support to our students who require financial assistance whilst studying, including a dedicated Materials Fund.

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

Change your life and be here in 2024. 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 and key dates
More information about eligibility and key dates
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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