MA in History of Design

'The Great Wave', woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, Japan, 19th century. Museum no. E.4823-1916

'The Great Wave', woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, Japan, 19th century. Museum no. E.4823-1916

The V&A/RCA MA in the History of Design is a programme offering three 2-year Master's degrees jointly run in a partnership between the Research department of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the School of Humanities at the Royal College of Art. The MA degree has three specialisms:

  • Asian, Early Modern and Contemporary
  • Modern and Contemporary
  • Renaissance and Early Modern

Based in the world's leading museum of decorative arts and Britain's only postgraduate university specialising in art and design, the course introduces students to the skills of object based analysis and the context of design practice.

Within the V&A, the course forms part of the Research department. Students are based in a specially designed suite of course rooms and can take advantage of the collections of the V&A which provide a highly stimulating context for object study on the course. Our students also enjoy privileged access to the rich holdings of books and manuscripts in the National Art Library at the V&A. The RCA connects students with the latest developments in design culture.

All specialisms draw from the facilities of the museum and college, and from the expertise of respective curatorial and teaching staff. A series of research seminars with speakers of international standing discusses the latest developments in academic and curatorial research. Study visits to European destinations in the autumn and spring terms extend cultural references and broaden research horizons.


Unmaking_Things.jpg

 

UNMAKING THINGS: A Design History Studio, is a new and creative digital forum for the discussion of design, history of design and material culture.

The site is founded, edited and run by students on the V&A/RCA History of Design MA course.

Follow the blog on Unmaking Things

 

Course bulletin

You can download a PDF of the latest issue of the V&A/RCA Course in the History of Design Bulletin, containing student essays, details on the Degree Recipients, staff research outcomes and alumni news.

Download: V&A/RCA Course in the History of Design Bulletin (PDF file, 16MB)

Carved jade cup made for the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, India, 1657. Museum no. IS.12-1962

Carved jade cup made for the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, India, 1657. Museum no. IS.12-1962


Asian, Early Modern and Contemporary

This course offers an exceptional opportunity to study the world of Asian design and material culture at an advanced level, taking into account the local cultures of China, Japan, Korea, India, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, the connections among these regions, as well as their relationships to Britain, Europe and the Americas. Objects in the world-renowned Asian and European collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum provide a remarkable opportunity for direct study.

The course combines a rich taught programme with considerable opportunities for original research. Students are introduced to a range of approaches to the subject and develop considerable research, writing and analytical skills. All classes are presented in small-group, seminar format.

White jasper medallion for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire, England, UK, about 1787. Museum no. 414:1304-1885

White jasper medallion for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, modelled by William Hackwood, made at Josiah Wedgwood's factory, Etruria, Staffordshire, England, UK, about 1787. Museum no. 414:1304-1885


Modern and Contemporary

This course, in existence for over twenty years, draws upon the latest thinking for interpreting design, including cultural and gender studies, the research tools of social and economic history, as well as new methodologies for the study of everyday life and material culture.

Our graduates teach in universities and art schools around the world, curate collections of design and decorative arts, and work as journalists, editors and producers in the media.

The course welcomes applications from those with little previous experience of design history as well as students with related undergraduate degrees to become subject experts in a variety of genres of design.

Themes addressed include the designed object in the context of the museum, material culture studies, fashion history and theory, craft and design criticism, and the history of taste.



Enamelled earthenware dish depicting Pope Leo X carried in procession, Montelupo, Italy, 1513-21. Museum no. 8928-1863

Enamelled earthenware dish depicting Pope Leo X carried in procession, Montelupo, Italy, 1513-21. Museum no. 8928-1863

Renaissance and Early Modern

This course offers a unique opportunity to pursue postgraduate study in one of the world's outstanding collections of Renaissance art and design. It draws on the latest research in Renaissance studies to foster innovative approaches to the study of Renaissance objects. Italy provides a natural focus, but the course also addresses the Renaissance in Northern Europe. Tuition is built around the V&A's vast Renaissance collections, and students have direct contact with museum objects through seminars, handling sessions and store visits.

Students on the Renaissance course undertake individually tailored work placements in the V&A, which provide practical experience of working in a professional museum environment. Our graduates now work as curators, lecturers and journalists in Britain, Europe and North America.

The Renaissance course welcomes applications from candidates with a good humanities degree. Further information about the course can be obtained from the Royal College of Art website.

New and ongoing scholarships and awards 2014-15

New scholarship for students applying to the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme from India: The Bonita Trust Scholarship in History of Design


We are delighted to announce a new scholarship for 2014-15 for candidates applying to the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme from India. The new scholarship is generously supported by the Bonita Trust, a philanthropic trust established under Gibraltar law in 2004, with its vision to help communities address some of the important health and education challenges facing them, leveraging cutting edge technologies and Internet-based solutions. Since its inception Bonita has committed over £15 million pounds to both communal based and cross-border projects in the areas of health, medical research, human community services, education, culture and heritage, female entrepreneurship and disaster relief.

Over the past years the History of Design programme has been developing increasing links and fostering opportunities for academic collaboration with India. After holding a study visit to Ahmedabad in 2012, thanks to the generous support of the Bonita Trust, we have tied links  with the National Institute of Design there. In September 2013 we have contributed to the Design History Society annual conference in Gujarat and we have recently hosted within the programme Dr. Suchitra Balasubrahmanyan, Leverhulme Fellow from Ambedkar University (New Delhi).

This new scholarship aimed at an Indian candidate for the MA programme will allow us to significantly consolidate the programme’s scholarly connections with India. We are extremely grateful to the Bonita Trust for the support. To apply for the Bonita Trust Scholarship in History of Design, the student must be an Indian national. The scholarship covers full overseas fees for the two years of the MA and also includes a maintenance grant of up to 3,100 GBP per year.

New Robert H. Smith Renaissance Sculpture in Context Prize for students applying to the Renaissance and Early Modern specialism

We are very pleased to announce this new award available for students from the UK or EU applying to the Renaissance and Early Modern specialism of the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme. The Robert H. Smith Renaissance Sculpture in Context Prize is offered to a student who intends to undertake research in any aspect of Renaissance sculpture and its broad cultural and social context. The award offers a contribution towards the fees of 3,000 GBP a year for the two years of the MA.

Ongoing V&A/RCA History of Design MA Scholarships 2014-15

In addition to the new Bonita Trust Scholarship in History of Design and Robert H. Smith Renaissance Sculpture in Context Prize, the following scholarships (UK/EU only) will be available for 2014-15:

The Friends of the V&A Scholarship

The Friends of the V&A Scholarship is offered to a student applying from the UK or EU who intends to work in a museum after graduating from the V&A/RCA History of Design MA programme. The Scholarship covers fees for the two years of the MA and also includes a maintenance grant of up to 3,000 GBP per year.

The Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship

The Oliver Ford Trust Scholarship is offered to a student applying from the UK or EU who intends to undertake research into an aspect of the design of the domestic interior. The Scholarship covers fees for the two years of the MA and also includes a maintenance grant of up to 3,000 GBP per year.

The V&A Fashion History Scholarship

The V&A Fashion History Scholarship is offered to a student applying from the UK or EU who intends to undertake research in any aspect of fashion history. The Scholarship covers fees for the two years of the MA.

Applicants wishing to be considered for any of the scholarships and awards should indicate their interest on their application forms. The scholarships and awards are given on a competitive basis, judged at interview. Students should indicate their interest in and suitability for the Awards on their application form.

Please note these scholarships and awards are only available for MA students. For further information on research degrees in History of Design and RCA Humanities, please visit www.rca.ac.uk or contact humanities-research@rca.ac.uk

Home/EU fees for 2014/15 will be 9,000 GBP per annum. Overseas fees will be 27,900 GBP per annum. The College is designated as an eligible institution for a Guaranteed Student Loan under the new Direct Loan Program. 

More information about the V&A/RCA History of Design MA Programme can be found on these pages in the Course Bulletin section.

Further details on how to apply for the scholarships and awards, entry requirements, RCA fees and funding can be found at www.rca.ac.uk/hod or by contacting us at: hod@rca.ac.uk.

Private Group Tours & Talks

We offer a wide range of tours to meet your group requirements. Whether a group has a special area of interest, wishes to explore a particular gallery or just get an overview of the Museum's collection the Groups Team can help.

View our Private Group Tours & Talks

Shop online

Art Deco Fashion

Art Deco Fashion

This popular celebration of the roaring 1920s fashion is now available in paperback. From beaded evening dresses for dancing the Charleston to sporty …

Buy now

Event - BSL Talk: This Time in History: What Escapes, by Rose Frain

Fri 25 April 2014 18:30

BSL TALK: As a contribution to the V&A’s centenary reflections on 1914, the distinguished artist Rose Frain has been invited to curate a small installation of objects from V&A collections alongside new original artworks, and an artist’s bookwork created for the occasion.

Book online