Taught course

Contemporary Art Practice MA

Royal College of Art · School of Arts and Humanities

Visit the institution website for COVID‑19 updates

Entry requirements

You are generally expected to have a good BA degree from a fine art course. You should be able to demonstrate an original and critical approach to fine art as well as an ability to engage with current theories of art and culture that inform your practice.

Applications for the 2020 intake are open. Visit the RCA website from this date for details.

Months of entry


Course content

Study at the World's number one ranked art and design university for six consecutive years (2015-2020) in the QS World University Subject Rankings.

The Contemporary Art Practice programme is delivered through four pathways: Critical Practice, Moving Image, Performance and Public Sphere. The four pathways are led by artists that specialise in these areas of practice.

The Contemporary Art Practice programme enables us to facilitate a distinct engagement with specific areas of contemporary art practice that exceed the specificity of the well-established disciplines of Arts & Humanities at the Royal College of Art. Contemporary Art Practice engages with contemporary modes of art production, discourse and display. It facilitates specialisation through its pathway structure enabling students to engage with a particular approach to developing their own art practice.

The teaching methodology we employ is not technologically or materially determined, however students are expected to utilise appro-priate and specific means in which to manifest their ideas. Contemporary Art Practice students have access to College-wide technical workshops as well as all facilities within the School of Arts & Humanities.

Critical theory has emerged as an essential intellectual framework for art criticism but what is its potential as a tool within the production of contemporary art? Studio-based and primarily focused on supporting the development of the artistic practice of its students, the Critical Practice pathway offers regular seminars exploring emerging ideas and bodies of theory as well as opportunities to work with organised forms of knowledge such as public archives and institutions.

Moving Image is aimed at artists using film and video, and practitioners working in the areas of documentary film, film and fiction cinema as well as practitioners who wish to draw upon, challenge and re-map established realms of Moving Image based practices. The diversity of approaches employed in the Moving Image pathway reflects the new reality of contemporary moving image.

Performance happens in the ‘here and now’ and not the ‘there and then’. Unlike many practices, where time is historic, and the image presented is necessarily an archive or record, ‘being and doing’ are more immediately significant in live time, and the expectation is that – in the contemporary – artists are often presenting work that is not made in advance but rather happening now!

Public Sphere is a major research area in the School, and the pathway supports expanded engagement with art and its publics as well as art’s social function. Social art practices have featured as a key force in the rise of the global biennale as well as being utilised by the Occupy Movement. Therefore questions about public space, participation, collaboration and collective action are becoming essential principles within the production of contemporary art both in terms of practice and theory.

Your application should be for MA Contemporary Art Practice and you will have to specify in which Pathway you wish to study: Critical Practice, Moving Image, Performance or Public Sphere.

The programme offers:

  • a discursive environment in which to discuss contemporary issues for thinking about, making and displaying fine art
  • individual and group tutorials and cross-School group crits, facilitated by leading practitioners and thinkers
  • a flexible studio space that can be used collectively or individually
  • access to a range of technical facilities including the Moving Image Studio, traditional and digital printmaking, photography, and wood and metal workshops
  • opportunities for exhibitions, overseas travel and international exchanges (including Paris and Kyoto)

Fees and funding

Learn more at the fees and funding page.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    full time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

RCA Student Recruitment
+44 (0)20 7590 4444