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Students at Towner


Critically engaged writing

Key details

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

School or Centre

Next open day

Application deadline

  • Still accepting applications

Develop your intellectual, literary, and technical skills.

Consider the MA Writing programme part of the ongoing occasion of your learning, one which you have already begun, will share with us for a year, and which will then continue — irrevocably changed — once you leave. While you’re with us you will be taught a lot, but you will learn a great deal more.

There is not one particular type of writer that we would like to produce, and so whether you would like to write for a mainstream audience, or prepare for doctoral study, we will be able to support you to become the best possible version of the writer you’d like to be. If we tend towards anything it is ‘creative non-fiction’, imperfectly described, although ‘literary writing’, rather than literature, might be a less inadequate alternative. In recent years our students have used the expanded essay to produce an extraordinary range of forms and consider an extraordinary range of subjects, and you will be encouraged to do so, too. The projects often combine these different approaches unexpectedly, or fold together established genres — such as memoir and cultural history, for example — to produce work which possesses both intellectual rigour and poetic form.

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 recent 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

You'll benefit from being part of a vibrant art and design school environment. There are a number of bookable seminar and project spaces across the site available to all Arts & Humanities students.

  • Writing session (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Writing session (photo: Richard Haughton)

  • Library Kensington

    Library, Kensington

  • Writing Workshop (photo: Richard Haughton)

    Writing Workshop (photo: Richard Haughton)

More details on what you'll study.

Find out what you'll cover in this programme.

What you'll cover

The Writing programme consists of distinct but complementary units through which you will develop your writing practice. Although you will be asked to respond to particular briefs and projects throughout these units, we don’t want you to think of these as discrete tasks but rather as parts of your larger writing practice. By the end of the programme, you will have not only a substantial portfolio of writing, but also a strong sense of how these works constitute your broader practice, and how you might want to develop this further. As such, you can use the programme units both as an opportunity to consolidate your practice and also the means by which you might test and extend it, whether that is by experimenting with form, or exploring new areas of enquiry.

The programme builds a supportive and critical environment between staff and students, and you will no doubt learn as much responding to the others as you will in having them respond to yours. Writing is largely reading, and so you’ll do a lot of that, extracts from novels, essays, and interviews, but perhaps more importantly you’ll read the work of your peers, and develop an intimacy with their writing unlike any you’ve experienced previously. And they with yours, too. This is the first step in developing a network of peers upon whom you can draw for the rest of your career, and many of our graduates continue to work closely with one another.

That writing is in the world, and of it, rather than simply being about it, is a fundamental ethos of the programme, and although this is certainly no vocational course, you will accumulate a great deal of professional skills, and meet a wide range of practitioners, from writers and editors to publishers and commissioners. Our graduates can be found editing The White Review, or being published by Granta, Zero Books, or Fitzcarraldo Editions. They work as editors on publications, or start up their own, or they pursue a career in academia, with our graduates having followed PhDs in Oxford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Goldsmiths, or Birkbeck, and teaching in numerous prestigious institutions, including the RCA.

When John Ruskin established his school of drawing at the University of Oxford it was not simply in order to produce better draughtsmen (although that too), but to use drawing as the means by which to attend to the world and understand it better, whether that is a Gothic arch or the material conditions of the artisan who produced it. We consider the Writing programme similarly: as the means to make better writers, yes, but also better thinkers, people who are better able to notice the world and so discern the best way to engage with it.

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

Term 1

Distance and Proximity – We’re always writing from somewhere, and this unit consider what it means to have a position, whether in relation to a subject, or a person. It is often said to be important to maintain a ‘critical distance’ to a subject, and yet ‘close knowledge’ is also greatly valued. How far from — or how close to — a subject might one be to write best about it?

Attention – Attention is one of the foremost qualities of a writer, whether it is turned to the rhythm of a sentence or the cut of a jacket, a political movement or the stillness within a dance. To notice, to discern, to discriminate: all of these things will be considered within this unit.

Publics and Counterpublics – How might we create the public for whom we write? In this unit we will consider how our writing might enter the world, and the effect it might have upon it once it does.

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

Term 2

The Practical Past – Research is one of the most important ways by which we engage with the world, and in this unit we will look at how we can develop our research skills to improve our writing practice. As well as reading groups and discussions on various historiographic approaches, students will visit archives, libraries, and other collections to learn how these might be used to extend their practices.

How to Live Together – Writing is often presented as a solitary activity; we prefer to think of it as something collaborative, something that is made with and for others. In this unit students will work together to produce work for a cultural organisation which will be made public; this might be a small publication, for example, or a podcast, or a series of talks.

Urgency of the Arts – 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) is the culmination of the MA Writing programme, and constitutes the largest piece of work to be completed by the students. The form of the IRP is subject to negotiation but it is suggested that the submission consists of a piece of writing of between 10,000–12,000 words; this might be reduced if the submission also contains other elements, such as a website, or other audio-visual materials, for example. Although the IRP consists largely of independent study, it is also supported by individual and group tutorials, and work-in-progress presentations.

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.

What's needed from you

We’d like you to upload two texts here: firstly, a new review of a recent exhibition, book, or film you think is important (750 words maximum); and secondly, a recent essay on a subject of your choosing (3,000 words maximum; this can be a college essay if you wish).

What we’re looking for in a portfolio is a reason to carry on reading. This can be for many reasons: you might be telling us something about which we know very little, and would like to know more; or you might be telling us something about which we do know, but are asking us to think about it differently; or you might be telling us about something we do know, but in a way we’ve not previously heard. All of these are good reasons, and there are many more. Perhaps you can show us a new one.

We’re looking for many different types of students, and so we’re looking for many different things. You may have started writing and have been published already, but would like to reflect more upon this; you may have been an art student who discovered that they enjoyed writing about their work more than making it; you may have been a student of literature, or philosophy, or art history, and want to explore writing beyond traditional academia. All of these would be good reasons to join us, but you may have another – tell us about it.

Tell us who inspires you, what you’re reading, and where you find out about what’s going on in the world. What do you want to do with us, and what do you want to do with that in the future? In short, tell us how we can help you become the writer you want to be.

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.

£13,125 *
Overseas and EU
£29,400 *


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 a range of MA students from the UK with financial need.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Four scholarships valued at £25,000 each

Supporting students on any MA programme from the UK (Preferably is a Scottish national), experiencing financial hardship.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Student preferably of Scottish origin

Eligible fee status: UK fee status, full-time

Value: £10,000

The Scholarship supports 21 UK MA, MRes and PhD students every year from across all RCA MA, MRes and PhD disciplines.

Eligibility criteria: 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

The RCA Cost of Living Bursary supports living costs for home students across all MA programmes.

Value: Bursaries of £5,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The RCA Disabled Students Bursary supports living costs for home students with a declared disability across all MA programmes, recognising the contribution that UK students with disabilities make to the RCA

Value: Bursaries of £6,000 each, for use towards living costs

Eligibility criteria: Students with a diagnosed physical or sensory disability, or specific learning difficulties.

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship supports academic excellence by rewarding talented home applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA, with a partial fee scholarship

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each, to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

The Vice-Chancellor’s Achievement Scholarship - International supports academic excellence by rewarding talented applicants with the highest scoring portfolios on application to RCA at Round 1 and Round 2 of applications, with a partial fee scholarship.

Value: Scholarships of £2,500 each to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: Academic excellence

Eligible fee status: International fee status

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholarship is aimed at international students applicants from selected countries and territories, and on selected programmes

Value: Scholarships of £3,500 each, to be offset against fees

Eligibility criteria: If oversubscribed, this bursary is awarded on academic merit or financial need.

Eligible fee status: International fee status, from: Canada, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, USA

Supporting Environmental Architecture, Sculpture, Writing and Innovation Design Engineering students from the UK from underrepresented communities, with disabilities, or in financial hardship.

Eligibility criteria: Financial hardship, Students from under-represented communities, Students with a diagnosed physical or sensory disability

Eligible fee status: UK fee status

Value: Two scholarships valued at £30,000 each

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 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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