MA V&A/RCA History of Design


Program Description

Study at the World's number one ranked art and design university for five consecutive years (2015-2019) in the QS World University Subject Rankings.

About the Programme

Offered jointly by the Royal College of Art and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the MA creates critical histories through artefacts and our interactions with them, whether in design, performance, photography or material culture more broadly. We see the history of design and material culture as interdisciplinary, and offer teaching and research expertise from the fifteenth century to the contemporary, exploring areas such as geography, performance studies and design research.

V&A/RCA History of Design MA embraces history that is public-facing, experimental and committed to academic excellence, connected to communities in public museums and art schools. We see history as practice-based and bring a distinctly global outlook to historical questions, placing local histories in comparative context and tracing diverse, global networks through material culture.

When applying for this programme, you select one of these specialist pathways.

Design and Material Culture

The Design & Material Culture pathway generates new perspectives on large historical questions. We use artefact analysis – of services, interactions, policies, institutions and legal and technical systems, as well as physical objects and spaces – alongside more conventional historical methods.

Specialist areas for teaching and research include fashion and textile history, architecture, science and technology, the material culture of politics and the everyday, making/craft, practice-based history and global history through material culture.

Our tutors' research and teaching expertise range from the early modern to the contemporary, with particular area expertise in the UK/Europe, North and South America and Asia.


By engaging with a wide range of materials from the National Collection of Performing Arts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, on the Performance pathway you’ll explore how the material remains of performance inform our understanding of the performing arts, historically and today.

Jointly offered with the V&A's groundbreaking Theatre and Performance Department, the pathway will give you collections-based teaching with the world's most diverse collection of material documenting current practice and the history of performance.

We draw on curatorial, industry and academic expertise and experience to provide new insights into the culture, economics and politics of performance.


The Photography Pathway uses collections-based teaching with the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) extensive photography collection to investigate photography as a set of material practices, processes and artefacts.

Jointly offered with the V&A Photography Centre, the pathway emphasises diverse methods for understanding photographs as variously artistic, scientific, technological and social artefacts, and for exploring historical and contemporary issues – including questions of global history and empire – through photography as material culture.

Entrance Requirements

Candidates are selected entirely on merit and applications are welcomed from all over the world. The selection process will consider creativity, imagination and innovation as demonstrated in your application, as well as your potential to benefit from the programme and to achieve high MA standards overall.

You should have a good first degree in an arts and humanities or an art, design, photography or performance practice background. If you have a different background, for example in the social sciences or professions, we encourage you to apply. We welcome applications from students of all ages, and view both prior academic and professional experience as valuable.

Students working with Guido Beltramini on a Palladio workshop
Last updated Nov 2019

About the School

Located in the heart of London, the Royal College of Art is the most influential, wholly postgraduate university of art and design in the world.

Located in the heart of London, the Royal College of Art is the most influential, wholly postgraduate university of art and design in the world. Read less