Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

MA Programme Description


First Year 

During the first year of the Programme, students 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.

The first year is experimental and diagnostic, allowing students to reflect on their previous work and often radically change their understanding and practice. In the first week of term students are registered and orientated to the College and School. An introductory seminar and brief introductions to both the workshops and to each other, via short presentations of work, follow. 

A week of cross-College projects and a study trip allow us the pleasure of discussing exhibitions or archives. Each student then begins the process of developing a self-initiated and self-directed body of studio work in whatever form will test and expand their ideas and ambitions. This is supported and challenged (in both years) by tutorials, lectures, seminars, and workshops. Group critiques in the program and across the school take place in the first two terms. There is a studio-based Work-in-progress Show in the second term. 

To support their progress in Units 1A and 1B students are assigned a personal tutor with whom they discuss their work in tutorials twice a term. Students will also be guaranteed tutorials from other members of the Programme team each term, and will have the opportunity to request tutorials from other staff in the school and a broader range of visiting tutors. Although working primarily on their own practice, throughout the year there are also group critiques, seminars, lectures, workshops and tutorials with other members of the Programme team, visiting lecturers and School-wide staff. Students produce work for studio critiques that take place in terms one and two where they engage with staff and students from across the School. Students are expected to be engaged in all aspects of the curriculum and test out new ways of thinking and making. A presentation skills workshop prepares students for the end of the year assessments at which their progress will be examined.

At the beginning of the spring term, first-year students contribute to the Work-in-progress Show. Their work is not expected to be resolved at this stage. It is an opportunity to take risks and try new materials and ideas. As a public context it introduces the question of spectatorship. This enables students to reflect upon the efficacy of the visual forms and concepts with which they have been working.

Second Year

During the second year of the Programme, students 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. The second year requires a shift in emphasis towards sharing, distributing and contextualising work. Students are expected to produce a coherent body of ambitious work in a form that reflects their ideas and interests. Students are required to participate in one cross-School group in the first term. There is an external exhibition project, a student-led final show event and some form of publishing project. Each student gives a presentation in the lecture theatre about their work and undertakes a talk or workshop experience externally. 

Preparations for ​Unit 2B – the independent research project, consists of a major project to be undertaken by the student. Through this project the student is expected to undertake self-initiated research to develop and realise work that is to Master’s level. Students’ work should now have a clear direction and resolution, demonstrating a level of conceptual and technical competency appropriate to their own aims and objectives.

Alongside their participation in Programme-based units, students will also participate in the SoAH School unit, which, through study groups, lectures, symposia, crits and tutorials will support students in discussing and evolving their work against a broader frame of reference.

Critical & Historical Studies

The RCA provides a unique environment for postgraduate art and design students to reflect upon their own practice, and to engage with students from their own and other disciplines. The role of Critical & Historical Studies (CHS) is to support the studio programmes in enabling these critical engagements to take place. The courses offered by CHS to first-year, studio-based MA students propose an intellectual framework within which they can begin to establish a coherent relationship between theory and practice.

In the autumn and spring terms there are a series of College-wide seminars and lectures. The autumn term series will relate to your particular discipline, whereas the spring term series will be more broad-based and cross-disciplinary in nature.

In the spring and summer terms, a CHS tutor will give you individual tutorials to support the development of a dissertation which is submitted at the end of the summer term. The dissertation should be between 6,000–10,000 words in length – this is a major piece of work and you will not be able to submit for the Final Examination until you have passed this assessment.

For more information see Critical & Historical Studies College-wide Programme.

This programme description is taken from the 2018/19 Programme Specifications. While we try to ensure that all Programme information is correct, some things may be subject to change and/or outside of our control. 

RCA Ranked World’s Top Art & Design University for Fifth Year

In February, the RCA was named the world’s leading art and design university for the fifth consecutive year.  

The RCA leads the table of 200 of the world’s top universities for the study of art and design in the 2019 QS World University Subject Rankings, ahead of much larger institutions around the globe.


240 credits
Two-year programme
Full-time study