The curriculum of this programme is under review for the 2018/19 academic year. Programme structure and course availability is subject to change.
This programme encourages creative, holistic and practical knowledge of this increasingly polymathic field, grounding practical schooling in criticism, art writing and curating in knowledge of key histories and theories of contemporary art. The programme addresses issues raised by the practices of contemporary art, criticism and curating as a means of encouraging you to contribute both critically and practically.
Artists think and act. Being contemporary means engaging with multiple perspectives and different ways of learning. Students of contemporary art theory conduct research in relation to a broad range of creative, cultural and historical contexts in ways that are speculative, writerly, philosophical, organisational, social and economic.
Students apply aesthetics, art theory and criticism, art historiography, anthropology, and critical theory to engage with contemporary art’s variety of media, technologies, images, artefacts, tactics, texts, cultural contexts and professional practices.
Coursework is based on a strategy of blended learning, combining the latest open-source educational technology with more conventional face-to-face lecture, seminar and workshop-based teaching methods. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of peer learning; group work, field work and experiential learning.
Research projects are student-led, personalised and supervised by a team of academic staff who aim to support whichever direction is most appropriate to your interests, skills and strengths. Theory students form an integral part of our graduate school, writing, producing and commissioning projects in a family of media and adapting approaches drawn from an increasingly wide array of disciplines.
The programme aims to provide you with both an overall level of expertise in recent developments in art practices and theories, and a high degree of specialisation within this field, culminating in an original Research Project. As such, the programme has the following specific aims:
This programme will enable you to develop the creative, organisational and economic knowledge required for a career in the contemporary art world, as a critic or a curator. You will also be qualified to teach studio art and theory in higher education and to work as a self-employed artist.
The MFA Fine Art course in Belfast was established in 1979. Since then, 320 emerging artists, 21 full-time staff (including six Course Directors) and over 200 visiting artists have exerted their individual and collective influence on the shape and direction of this program of study.
The course continues to produce artists of international reputation as evidenced by the success of graduates in major national and international prizes and competitions including the Turner Prize, Paul Hamlyn Award, Becks Futures, Bloomberg New Contemporaries, the Glenn Dimplex Award and the Nissan Art Award and through representation at international biennials such as the Venice Biennale. Public art, film production, gallery management, community arts, curation and arts administration are wider areas where graduates have been internationally successful. The course has also been immensely influential in the sphere of art education across Europe with a high number of academic, research, teaching and management positions being held by our MFA graduates.
The course retains the core values from its inception in 1979 and so builds upon 30 years of innovating and fostering relevancy, criticality and quality in today’s contemporary art world.
The programme aims to promote individual contemporary fine art practice towards presentation as an exhibition or equivalent public output. It provides a learning environment that supports a wide range of modes of production for art in which you can demonstrate a sound understanding of the practical, intellectual and creative aspects of your practice as an artist. It also aims to facilitate engagement between and among art practitioners in order that you can locate your practice and that of other art practitioners within contemporary culture.
A capacity for self-directed learning is a prerequisite for the programme. Fostering individual creative development is a key concern. Formal tutoring is based upon the expectation of self-motivated personal development and research. Re-evaluation through teaching, criticism and research is a fundamental aspect of the course.
Regular discussion based on studio work and issues around contemporary practice involves the whole course. Peer learning from studio work and informal discussion is also a valuable experience. Assessment is directed at the quality and significance of the output as contemporary art practice.
The programme is also offered in three part-time pathways. All of the part-time modes require the student to have their own studio space independent of the institution.
The 2010 Turner Prize was won by MFA graduate Susan Phillipsz (1994). Other nominated graduates include Phil Collins, Cathy Wilkes and Christine Borland. Graduates of the MFA have been substantially represented over the years in other high profile events and prizes, including the Venice Biennale, Becks Futures, The Nissan Art Award, New Contemporaries, The John Moores Prize and the Glenn Dimplex Award. Two graduates have been awarded the highly competitive Paul Hamlyn Award. Film production, art writing, gallery management and curation are allied areas where graduates have also been internationally successful.
The MFA programme is offered in full-time mode over 2 academic years. There is an exit qualification of Postgraduate Diploma after one academic year, with a further one academic year for MFA completion.
Formal teaching input is delivered through tutorials, weekly studio critiques and student or staff-led seminars and lectures. Independant study and self-directed learning are fundamental aspects of the course.
Assessment: Through exhibition of studio practice and supporting written and oral presentation.
The programme is also offered in 3 part time pathways. All of the part-time modes require the student to have their own studio space independent of the institution.
Part-time route 1:4 years part-time model of the 2 year course.
Part-time route 2: 3 years. This model allows a student to study the first year full-time with transfer to the part-time mode for the second year. It is envisaged that this route will be most appropriate to a student for whom the necessary infrastructure is not initially in place to allow them to undertake the course part-time. This may include candidates from abroad who by the second year have become familiar enough with the local setup to have acquired a studio and relevant support structure.
Part-time route 3:2 years. This model is based on candidates convincing the course team that the quality of their work over a number of years is of sufficient standard and that learning outcomes of the modules Practice 1 and 2 have been met to enable them to enter the course with compensation for prior learning.
Advanced standing is possible – where an applicants experience is taken into account in order to be exempt from certain aspects of the programme. This may apply to full or part time attendance. Please contact us to discuss this if it is something that may be appropriate to you.
On the programme you will gain work placement experience at one or more of our external partners, for example Catalyst Arts or Platform Arts. Within this process you will be tasked with developing a professional exhibition of your own work as a group within a partner organization. This usually is undertaken of several weeks – with an intense period working on-site alongside professional colleagues.
As practising artists, many of our graduates go on to establish their own studios, successfully exhibiting nationally and internationally, gaining public art and gallery commissions, residencies, fellowships, awards and prizes. Others develop careers in other sectors of the arts, such as curatorial practice, arts writer, art critic, community arts, education, academic art research, art facilitation and administration, while others have built reputations in the wider creative fields where innovative artists are highly valued as problem solvers.
This intensive programme allows artists to develop a body of work within the contexts of the studio, dissemination, value and audience. The course is open to artists working in, or wishing to work in, socially engaged practice, collaborative practice, as artist curators, as art writers or within art education.
You will develop your art practice in purpose built studios, working towards a final exhibition and dissertation, supported by a series of conversations, seminars and a visiting speaker programme.
In a region full of cultural resources, from The Hepworth Wakefield to artist-led spaces such as Seize Projects, you will gain experience from expert practitioners and researchers, visiting artists and speakers.
Through our optional module array you will have the opportunity to explore critical and theoretical issues such as aesthetics, feminist studies, deconstruction and museum practice.
Housed within a single central campus location, the School offers a modern and well-equipped learning environment providing 24-hour studio access and versatile exhibition spaces. Resources include dedicated Mac and PC computer suites for video editing, animation and image manipulation, printmaking workshops for etching, relief and screen printing, and a photography darkroom for film developing and printing. A woodworking and casting area are also housed within the School, with additional facilities for digital and 3D printing available at the University.
At the heart of the School is Project Space – a multi-purpose space, designed for the development of curatorial practice and visiting exhibitions.
The University incorporates world-class library resources and special collections, the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Treasures of the Brotherton, the Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles and the [email protected] performance venue.
Appropriate critical and technical skills and methodologies are developed throughout the duration of the course, as students engage in discussion and critique of their own practice and projects with peers and academic staff.
Students take full responsibility for their own programme of work, routinely engaging with contemporary issues in art, developing relationships across the School and Faculty, and working with local partners. This combines the production of work in an active studio and workshop environment with a programme of academic research and study, culminating in a public presentation/exhibition and critically reflective dissertation.
The course is also supported by a network of regional galleries, museums and artist initiatives with which the School has direct links, including The Tetley, The Hepworth Wakefield, Leeds City Art Gallery, Seize Projects, Pavilion, Henry Moore Institute, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Tate Liverpool.
You will also have the opportunity to expand your studies when you choose from a wide range of optional modules, and by becoming involved in many of the School’s public-facing initiatives such as the Project Space, the Wild Pansy Press and the International Contemporary Artists’ Book Fair.
If you choose to study part-time, you will study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.
These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.
We use a variety of teaching and learning methods. These will vary, but generally include visits to museums and galleries, lectures, seminars, tutorials and online learning.
You’ll also benefit from our extensive programme of visiting artists and speakers. Independent study is vital to this programme – not only is this where you’ll work on your practice and develop your creativity, but it is also an opportunity to build your skills in research, analysis and interpretation.
The assessment methods you come across may vary depending on the modules you choose. However, they’re likely to include your exhibition and supporting written work, your portfolio of studio work, in-course assessment, essays and presentations.
This programme will allow you to develop your practice as an artist and write thoughtfully about the practice and context of artistic work.
It will also give you the chance to gain skills in organising and curating events and exhibitions, researching, interpreting and analysing artistic work and cultural, visual and critical awareness.
All of these traits are valuable in a wide range of careers. Fine Art graduates have gone on to work in curatorial and educational roles around the world, both on a freelance basis and for major art institutions. Others have decided to develop their research interests through PhD study and academia, or pursued careers in teaching.
We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.
The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website
The MA Art Gallery and Museum Studies aims to provide students with critical understandings of issues in curatorship, museology and museum management. The course considers the ways in which material culture has been represented and interpreted by historians and cultural theorists, the methodologies behind museum practice and methods of display and interpretation, and also puts theory and practice into dialogue.
Through the course, students develop critical understandings of the histories of art galleries and museums and explore and challenge key ideas that have shaped museum practice. Students will also deploy these historical and theoretical understandings to develop innovative approaches to curation, interpretation and engaging audiences.
You will develop practical skills through working on an interpretation project in our archives and collections on campus, and undertaking a negotiated work placement. Supported by the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage, you will gain the knowledge and skills for a successful career in the museum and art gallery sector.
You will study in the heart of a cultural hub for this diverse and vibrant region. Leeds is home to a wide variety of world-leading and innovative arts and heritage organisations, from the Royal Armouries, Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Northern Ballet through to nine council-run museums, galleries and heritage sites and many contemporary art spaces.
We are also close to everything the rest of Yorkshire has to offer, from The Hepworth Wakefield to the National Science and Media Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Brontë Parsonage Museum. We have close links with many of these cultural institutions to support your practical learning.
Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage
All students on the degree become members of the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage and enjoy opportunities from networking events and links to alumni to conferences, seminars and reading groups.
A set of core modules form the bedrock of the programme, introducing you to the concept of the ‘museum’ and the ways in which Western museums have represented and interpreted history and historical material.
You’ll also use contemporary theory to consider 20th-century museum practice and key questions around curatorship, museology and museum management. The role of the curator, funding and sponsorship and the display and interpretation of objects are among the topics you’ll cover.
Your core modules will give you the chance to apply your theoretical knowledge and gain practical skills. You’ll take part in an interpretation project in the University’s Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, as well as completing a work placement in an external arts or heritage organisation.
All MA students in the School take two core modules which develop the research skills to complete research projects such as your essays and dissertation.
This will build to our unique MA Symposium in Semester 2, where you present some of your own research across interdisciplinary panels, and a dissertation which enables you to undertake research in a topic of interest to you.
If you choose to study part-time, you’ll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year.
You’ll be taught by leading researchers and experienced practitioners in their fields, and you’ll benefit from a range of teaching and learning methods. They include lectures and seminars, gallery and museum visits, as well as hands-on experience of specific collections in library sessions.
You’ll also learn from practical experience when you undertake your work placement, and a variety of external speakers will give you an insight into contemporary practice in the sector. Independent study is an important element of the degree, allowing you to develop your research and critical skills.
We use a range of assessment methods including essays, presentations, assignments and literature reviews among others, depending on the modules you choose.
Through a combination of theory and practice, the programme produces graduates who are able to develop professional careers in the museums and heritage sector whilst retaining a critical and reflexive eye on their own practice and that of the institutions in which they work.
It will equip you with a good understanding of the issues and approaches to art gallery and museum studies, as well as practical work experience – a combination which is very valuable to employers. You’ll also develop advanced skills in communication, research and analysis as well as cultural awareness.
Our graduates now work as heads of collection, curators and education staff in local authority museums, for national heritage organisations like the National Trust, charitable trusts and in arts marketing and public relations.
A significant number have also returned as research students and have secured scholarships to pursue their research topics, including Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) scholarships. Former research students are now forging academic careers in the UK, Canada and the US.
To get a flavour of the kinds of career trajectories our graduates have taken see the ‘news’ section of the Centre for Critical Studies in Museums, Galleries and Heritage and the alumni pages of the School website.
The programme will deepen your knowledge and understanding of the history and theory of modern and contemporary art, and prepare you for further research and/or a range of careers in the art world.
The MSc combines academic study, including compulsory courses on Research, Theories & Methods and Cultures and Politics of Display alongside option courses on critical subjects and themes, with more practical, vocational elements, appropriate to studying in a major international art centre.
There is a mixture of group teaching, individual tutorials and supervision, and research seminars. You will be taught by research-active staff, including leading experts in their fields. You are also expected to undertake independent study and research.
Formal assessment is by means of academic essays, a dissertation, and project work where appropriate.
The optional internship involves learning by direct practical experience. The MSc is offered full-time or part-time.
Students will acquire knowledge and understanding in the field of modern and contemporary art, as well as transferable research skills. The programme offers the possibility of an internship in a museum or gallery.
The comprehensive nature of this programme, including the specialised courses it offers, will equip you for further research in this fascinating field, and perhaps an academic or curatorial career. In helping you gain vocational skills, experience and contacts, the optional internship can open doors to a career in a museum, gallery or other cultural institution.