The History of Design and Material Culture MA focuses on both objects from everyday life and representations of them since the eighteenth century as a basis for research and analysis.
The course allies theory and practice in seminar-based discussions that embrace various methodological issues and perspectives, including Marxism, discourse theory, phenomenology, semiology, museology, gender, race, class, memory and oral testimony. Depending on the material you analyse in your essays and seminars, as well as the dissertation topic you choose, you can also emphasise your own intellectual and subject-specific interests.
Since its inception in the late 1990s, the MA has garnered a national and international reputation as one of the pioneering and most successful programmes of its kind. As a research-led course, it harnesses the academic expertise of staff with a recognised wealth of teaching and research excellence in subject areas such as fashion and dress history, the history and theory of advertising, photography and the mass-reproduced image, and heritage and museum studies.
Under guidance, you will be encouraged to explore the relationship between theory and practice and to develop your own skills as an independent researcher, thinker and writer.
The History of Design and Material Culture MA draws on the wide-ranging academic expertise of staff in the fields of the history of decorative arts and design, dress history, material culture, museology and social history.
It stimulates innovative and interdisciplinary study in the history of design and material culture in both their western and non-western contexts, considering the relationship between local, national and international patterns of production, circulation, consumption and use.
The course is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, study visits and tutorials. Considerable emphasis is placed on student involvement in the weekly seminar readings and discussions within the two thematic core modules, Exploring Objects and Mediating Objects.
Based at Pavilion Parade, a Regency building overlooking the famous Royal Pavilion, teaching takes place close to the seafront and city centre amenities.
The Exploring Objects module introduces you to a series of different research methods and historiographical approaches, as you interrogate and make sense of designed objects in terms of how they are designed, produced, circulated, consumed and used in everyday life. It covers the period from the late eighteenth century to the present time and typically involves discussion and debate on the following themes, theories and methods: Marxist and post-Marxist historiography; production and consumption; gender and taste; phenomenology; object-based analysis; the use of archives; and 'good writing/bad writing'. It also introduces you to the academic rigour of postgraduate dissertation research.
This module complements Exploring Objects by focusing on the mediation between 'this one' (the object itself) and 'that one' (the object as represented in word and image). On one level, it examines how objects are translated in various texts and contexts, from museum and private collections to photographs, advertisements, film and fiction. On another level, it examines how objects are transformed through the embodied processes of everyday rituals such as gift-giving and personal oral and collective memories. The module therefore deals with the idea of intertexualities and how the identities of things and people are phenomenologically bound up with each other. By extension, you examine objects in relation to ideas concerning sex, gender, class, generation, race and ethnicity.
The centrepiece of your MA studies, the dissertation is a piece of original writing between 18,000 and 20,000 words on a research topic of your own choosing. It allows you to pursue a specific research topic related to your own academic and intellectual interests in a given area of the history of design and material culture, for example fashion and dress, textiles, ceramics and glass, product design, interior design and architecture, graphic communications, advertising and photography, film, museums, collecting and curating, and design pedagogy. The dissertation is largely based on primary research, often using specialist archives and surviving historical material.
This course makes use of the University of Brighton Design Archives, which include the archives of the Design Council, Alison Settle, FHK Henrion and the South of England Film and Video Archive.
Close professional contact with national institutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as with local collections and centres of historical interest (such as Brighton’s unique Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, with its internationally famous collection of decorative art from the 1890s onwards), present research opportunities for students registered on the course.
The course is closely linked to our arts and humanities research division through a joint research lecture series, and we have successfully encouraged high achievers to register for the MPhil/PhD programme.
The student environment also includes the thriving postgraduate Design History Society as well as opportunities for conference presentation, professional contact and career development in the field.
The course has an extremely healthy track record in helping students to take up careers in related areas of employment and further study. Many of our postgraduates have succeeded in finding work as lecturers, curators, journalists, designers and design consultants, while many others have pursued doctoral research, most often also securing prestigious funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council).
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 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.
History of Design is a full-time, 240-credit, enhanced RCA MA (unlike the standard UK 180-credit MA). It is delivered in a 15-month format, (September 2017 – December 2018). 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 2018 – March 2019). 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.
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.
In September 2017, the programme has been co-located with dedicated study and teaching space in the RCA's newest facilities in White City and the V&A. Journey time between the two sites is c. 30 minutes. Students also make use of facilities and learning spaces across the RCA's Kensington and Battersea sites.
This MA is unique in architectural history, theory and criticism postgraduate study, providing a coherent and intensive forum in which students develop independent approaches to the subject. Graduates progress to academic, journalistic, curatorial and architectural professions with diverse skills in established and emerging subjects, theories and methodologies.
The programme examines architecture and cities from early-modern 16th-century to contemporary 21st-century contexts. Rather than focusing on the work of individuals, stylistic classification or normative categories, the programme locates architecture within social, ideological, creative, political and urban processes, exploring the boundaries of what constitute legitimate architectural objects and sites of study.
Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.
The programme consists of two core modules (60 credits), four optional modules (60 credits) and a report (60 credits).
A Postgraduate Diploma, two core modules (60 credits), four optional modules (60 credits), full-time nine months is offered.
Students choose four of the following:
All MA students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a 10,000-word dissertation and an oral examination.
Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of seminars, lectures, building and gallery visits, film screenings, group working and one-to-one tutorials, and a field trip (optional). Assessment is through coursework, consisting of short exercises, classroom presentations, and longer essays for individual modules, a 10,000-word report and oral examination, and verbal presentations.
An annual programme field trip (optional) takes place, normally in May.
Departmental stipends of c. £250 are normally applicable. Maximum cost to the student is £250.
Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Architectural History MA
Graduates from the UCL Bartlett are very successful in gaining subsequent employment in the UK and internationally. At present there is a growing demand for our Master's graduates from a wide range of both public and private employers. Many graduates from the programme have gone on to research, teach and publish at universities and other institutions worldwide, including national media, publishing and heritage organisations, art galleries and museums.
Recent career destinations for this degree
Postgraduate study at the UCL Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment is situated within a vibrant graduate and research environment, including a large cohort of PhD students and an extensive range of faculty members with interests in architectural history and theory. Students on the Architectural History MA are immersed in one of the world's largest and most innovative centres for architectural history and theory, and are able to engage in innumerable seminars, research representations and other events. Our graduates are highly sought after. Some choose to continue with academic research or teaching, others go on to roles in the visual arts, education, publishing, heritage, design and architecture.
Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.
The UCL Bartlett is the UK's largest multidisciplinary built environment faculty, bringing together scientific and professional specialisms required to research, understand, design, construct and operate the buildings and urban environments of the future.
Located in London, it is at the heart of a large cluster of creative architects and engineering firms and has all the resources of a world city at hand.
This MA is the UK's longest established programme in its field, and prioritises the exploration of new and existing methodologies and critical theories as they might be applied to the study of architecture and cities.
The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.
The following REF score was awarded to the department: Bartlett School of Architecture
81% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)
Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.