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The V&A/RCA History of Design MA and MPhil/PhD programmes are known internationally for an intellectually vigorous approach to the history of design and material culture. Offered jointly by, and co-located at, the RCA and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), we teach and research cultural, social, economic, political and technological history through artefacts and our interactions with them. Projects and expertise range across global geographies, from the fifteenth century to the contemporary, and draw on cognate areas such as geography, performance studies and design practice. 

Programme Description

History of Design is a full-time, 240-credit, enhanced RCA MA (unlike the standard UK 180-credit MA) delivered in a 15-month format, (September – December). Home/EU students in History of Design can opt to undertake the second part of their studies (the dissertation ) on a part-time basis (June–March). This innovative structure has been designed to give students greater flexibility to combine full and part-time modes of study. *Please note the part-time option is not available to international students for visa compliance reasons. Further details are available on Tuition Fees and MA Entrance Requirements.

Students in History of Design combine a shared core programme with teaching in their chosen pathway: Design & Material Culture, Performance, or Photography.

Core programme teaching includes intensive training in artefact-based research, archival research, primary and secondary source analysis and interpretation, social and economic history and key theoretical concepts and approaches for understanding the history of design and material culture.

Specialist pathway teaching in areas such as fashion, architecture and urbanism, theatre and performance, subcultures, technology in early modern Europe and contemporary history enable students to work closely with the kinds of historical questions, methods, sources and arguments distinctive to each area.

The combination of core skills courses and specialist content enables students to develop both specialist expertise and a strong basis in artefact-based history and its communication to diverse audiences. The pathways allow a close focus on the particular needs of individual students, delivered through small group seminar teaching and one-to-one tutorials.

Teaching on the V&A/RCA MA in History of Design combines seminars, workshops and lectures with individual tutorials, study visits and time working with the collections of the V&A. Unique and extensive access to V&A collections and curatorial expertise supports independent research, and students have opportunities to join Museum projects, including exhibition and collections development and research. Access to workshops and technical expertise at the RCA also supports independent work and allows creative responses to programme briefs, and the College offers unusual opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration with artists, designers, architects and engineers. Assignments combine academic and public-facing work. Termly presentations hone public-speaking skills and confidence, and written assignments allow students to develop extended academic arguments and writing skills. The project portfolio, a self-directed body of work that applies the skills of the design historian to live, public-facing projects, allows students to take advantage of the unique creative environments of the RCA and the V&A.

Visit the History of Design - MA (with V&A) page on the Royal College of Art website for more details!





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