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Students at Towner


Critically engaged writing

Key details

  • 180 credits
  • 1 year programme
  • Full-time study
School or Centre
  • Kensington
Application deadline
  • 14 Aug 2024
Career opportunities
  • Our graduates can be found editing The White Review, or 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 Royal College of Art (RCA).

Develop your intellectual, literary, and technical skills.

Consider the MA Writing programme as 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 are 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. Whether you would like to write for a mainstream audience or prepare for doctoral study, we can support you to become the best possible version of the writer you would 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 a remarkable 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.

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 programme, you will accumulate many professional skills, and meet a wide range of practitioners, from writers and editors to publishers and commissioners.

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.

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 a series of exhibitions and events featuring their final work. Explore online at the RCA2023 website.

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

Find out more about this programme

Catch the replays from our online Open Day.

Read an interview with Head of Programme Jeremy Millar.



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 six distinct but complementary units through which you will develop your writing practice. Although we ask you to respond to particular briefs and projects throughout these units, we want you to think of these as parts of your larger writing practice rather than discrete tasks. By the end of the programme, you will have a substantial portfolio of writing and 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 the means by which you might test and extend it, whether by experimenting with form or exploring new areas of enquiry.

There will be a number of opportunities to collaborate with others but at a minimum, your programme will include 307 contact hours and 1,493 independent study hours. Contact hours can include lectures, seminars, tutorials, critical forums and workshops among other types of teaching delivery.

Teaching types included on 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

Publics and Counterpublics (15 credits)

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.

Distance and Proximity (15 credits)

We are always writing from somewhere, and this unit consider what it means to have a position, whether in relation to a subject, or a person. Maintaining a ‘critical distance’ to a subject is often said to be important, 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 (15 credits)

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.

Term 2

The Practical Past (15 credits)

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, you will visit archives, libraries, and other collections to learn how these might be used to extend their practices.

How to Live Together (15 credits)

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 you 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 (15 credits)

In term 2, School of Arts and Humanities Masters’ students will participate in a School-wide unit called "The Urgency of the Arts." In this unit we ask how arts and humanities research and practice can engage with our current socio-political climate, and how might it shape, be necessary and essential in contemporary cultural debates.

Term 3

Independent Research Project (60 credits)

The Independent Research Project is the culmination of the MA Writing programme, and constitutes the largest piece of work to be completed. 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.

The IRP forms the major part of a Portfolio of Practice which also consists of a Practice Statement of no more than 500 words, as well as other contextualising material which contributes to your practice. You will also take part in a public event during which you will present a short extract of your work; your work will also appear in the online event.

Download the Writing 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

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 ask that you upload a two-minute video recorded on your phone or laptop, speaking to us directly. High production qualities are not needed. We will review the work in your portfolio, so keep your video simple.

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 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.

£14,050 *
Overseas and EU
£31,450 *


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: MA Architecture, MA Writing, MA Animation, MA Product Design

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: Full fees & maintenance

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: MA Environmental Architecture, MA Sculpture, MA Writing, MA Innovation Design Engineering

Eligible fee status: Home fee status

Value: Full fees & maintenance

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

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
RCA Kensington cafe