MA by Research


Program Description

MA by Research is an exciting opportunity for you to study at Masters level in the dynamic and transdisciplinary arts environment of the college, whilst following an area of your own creative interest under the supervision of specialist academic staff. 

MA by Research runs for two years (part-time) and enables students to explore aspects of knowledge at the forefront of an academic or professional discipline, with research areas negotiated with you on application. Your final submission will be by written thesis and is differentiated from our other practice-led MA courses, with a stronger focus on written outcomes.

Students are expected to demonstrate originality in the application of knowledge during the course, to gain an understanding of how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research and to deal with complex issues systematically and creatively. 

You will be autonomous and specialist in your approach to your studies, with an emphasis on collaboration and invention through the sharing of expertise and ideas that echo present and emerging research areas.

The MA by Research course fosters meaningful research and/or knowledge transfer partnerships, industry-based projects and collaborations to increase the impact and reach of students’ research profile.

Existing and emerging research partnerships include: Tate Exchange Research Centre (through the college’s status as a founding Associate member), Making Futures, Making Learning, Freelands Foundation, Counterpoints Arts, Anglia Ruskin University, Land2 research network, Black Mirror research network and The Box.

Here you will be equipped to take up positions in a wide range of sectors requiring research and presentation skills, team working, the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility; and decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations and will acquire the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development.

Core specialisms include all academic areas currently offered through the Schools of Art + Media; Design + Communication; and Cultural + Critical Studies.

Plymouth College of Art Research 

MA students benefit directly from Plymouth College of Art’s emerging research culture. Postgraduate Centre staff are all practising artists, designers and academics: active makers in their fields of expertise.

Staff researchers have networks with international reach, from the University of Gothenburg, the Asia Society and Museum (New York), the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, the Centre for Contemporary Photography (Melbourne), Photo Kathmandu (Nepal) and Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice published by Intellect Books.

Research specialisms include creative education across the age continuum; entrepreneurship for creative practices; fine art, design, media and craft specialist practices; global curatorial practices; material investigation and innovation. Research-active staff at the college are aligned to research groups: Art & Social Action, Making Learning, Making Futures, and Memory, Site & Artifact, which reflect the wider institutional strategic aims.

Recent contributors to the course include:

  • Dr Dave Beech - Chelsea College of Art
  • Ultra-Red - Sound Art Collective
  • Katie Treggiden - Design writer and consultant
  • James Edgar - Designer and head of Plymouth Design Forum
  • Sophie Mellor - Contemporary artist
  • Beth Richards - Contemporary artist
  • Lucy Rollins - Curator and producer
  • Tim Mills - Producer at the Box, Plymouth 
  • JR Carpenter - Poe

Please note, this programme is only available for part-time study, a full-time study offering is not available.


Study undertaken at Masters level runs for a year (full-time*) and two years (part-time) and explores aspects of knowledge at the forefront of an academic or professional discipline discussed with you on application. You will be expected to demonstrate originality in your writing and application of knowledge during the course, and to develop a breadth of competencies that enable you to deal with complex issues systematically and creatively.

The model of 3 x 60 credit modules remains unchanged from the MA awards currently on offer. The modules follow a trajectory of PG101 Research & Experimentation; PG201 Live External Project; PG301 Final Masters Project (submission of a written thesis of 10-12,000 words). This structure allows a flexible approach to the investigation, development and resolution of students’ projects. PCA emphasises an interdisciplinary ethos across its postgraduate programmes, which is supported by the structure that they share and the mapping of common learning outcomes across the awards. 

The common modules, combined with specialist tutors, assignments, delivery and personal project proposals for each Masters programme, ensure depth and specialisation within each subject area but also equip you with robust approaches, methodologies and techniques to negotiate the emerging spirit of collaboration evidenced in the commercial, social and public sectors after graduation. Whereas other MA programmes are framed around specific disciplinary areas (e.g. MA Painting, MA Printmaking, MA Drawing, MA Ceramics), the MA by Research allows you to negotiate a bespoke engagement with PCAs postgraduate delivery and research expertise, suited to your research proposal. 

As an MA by Research student you will articulate, test and refine a research proposal during module 101, supported by taught delivery focused on questions relevant to research design in Art, Design and Media disciplines. Throughout your studies, you will negotiate your engagement with the academic and technical resources provided by PCA with a subject tutor. This process is recorded at set intervals on a research plan, which is an ongoing reflexive document which supports the development of your research trajectory.

*Please note MA by Research is only available as a part-time programme.

Careers & alumni

Alumni of the Postgraduate Centre pursue careers in the fields of fine art, craft and design, as practising artists, teachers, curators, and as a gallery, theatre and technical professionals. Others go on to prepare for doctoral study, and set up viable projects as socially engaged and community-based practitioners.

Our programmes offer professional skills development to support our students as they progress within the industry, self-employment (in the Creative Industries sector) and further Level 7 and 8 studies. The second module offers an opportunity to test out the practices being investigated by individual students within an appropriate, live setting.

Thinking about creative study? from Plymouth College of Art on Vimeo.

Entry requirements

  • BA 2.1
  • Equivalent professional experience or portfolio
  • Exceptional project proposal

International students language requirements

All our students need to demonstrate that they have a good command of the English language.

From 6 April 2015, only IELTS and Trinity College London English language tests will be approved by the Home Office as secure English language tests (SELTS) for immigration purposes. 

  • Trinity College London
    Integrated Skills in English II (Level B2), minimum grade required: Reading: Merit Listening: Merit Certificate valid for two years
  • IELTS SELT Consortium
    IELTS (Level B2), minimum grade required: IELTS overall score of 6.5, minimum of score Listening: 6.0, Speaking: 6.0, Reading: 6.0, Writing: 6.0 Certificate valid for two years

You don’t need to complete an additional English Language Test and you will be able to use your original degree certificate to prove you meet the English Language Requirement if you’ve recently completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • the Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Ireland
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • UK
  • USA

You also don’t need to complete an additional English Language Test if:

  • you’re a national of Canada  or any of the countries in the list above
  • you’ve successfully completed a course of 6 months or more as a Tier 4 (Child) student in the last 2 years

Visa Requirements

As an international student, you will need a Tier 4 (General) student visa which you can apply for online.


We continue to invest in our resources, workshops and studios, having spent over £12 million in the last five years on capital projects alone. We have recently invested £8 million in integrating 21st century and traditional creative techniques and processes within an outstanding craft, design and fabrication workshop complex. This new facility offers Computer-Aided Design and Manufacture (CAD/ CAM) within our Fab Lab, alongside Printing, Printed Textiles, Ceramics, Glass and Small Metals workshops.

In addition, computers campus-wide are installed with graphics, media and design software. We offer dedicated Painting, Drawing, Fashion, Photography, Film and Animation studios. We also house a public-facing Gallery on campus, with national and international exhibitions and a programme of visiting artists.

Our Library provides specialist Media, Art and Design and Fine Art materials, and our intranet-based Managed Learning Environment gives you access to online support and information.

Facilities at the college include:

Animation, Film and Photography Studios

Our students make full use of our industry-standard dedicated studio spaces – including our infinity cove, green screen, and specialist sound studio (with Foley pit and vocal recording booth) – plus our stop-motion suite, our darkrooms, and plenty of individual edit suites, all up-to-date with the latest industry-standard software.

Ceramics and Glass Workshops

With a glass furnace that works at 1,100 degrees, 10 potters wheels, resources for hot, warm and cold glass processes, a plaster room for mould making, 16 kilns, a well-stocked glaze mixing area and individual studio space, our Ceramics and Glass Workshops have a real ‘wow’ factor, rivalling any art school around the country.

Drawing Studios

With north-facing windows, a ‘methods and process’ area, individual studio space and a specialist life-drawing studio, our impressive, open-plan, triple-height Drawing Studio is a huge space, perfect for many different activities and specialisms.

Fab Lab

Our ‘fabrication laboratory’ is kitted-out with the latest in digital design technologies – from 3D printers to 3D scanners, a vinyl cutter, CNC milling machine, CNC router and laser cutter. It adds a whole new level of opportunity for students across all creative walks of life.

Fashion Studios

This large professional studio offers a real-life fashion experience in a fabulous space with sea views. Specialist industrial and domestic sewing machines, a range of knitting machines and a wide stock of fabrics and knitting yarns sit alongside a media and marketing Mac suite, a fully operational CAD cutting facility, and a library of designer garments to inspire.

Fine Art Printmaking Studios

A fantastic facility supporting fine art printmaking, our dedicated space caters for a wide range of programmes and processes. You’ll get access to a 150-year-old Columbian press, an Albion press, a historic and rare wallpaper press, and an automatic FAG proofing press, plus a broad selection of metal and wood type, vacuum screen-printing beds, and four etching presses.

Jewellery Design Studio

Housed in our fantastic new Craft, Design and Fabrication Workshops, this stunning space provides everything for contemporary and traditional techniques in jewellery design, including benches supplied with gas and oxygen, in-house metal casting resources, hand and machine-forming tools, facilities for vitreous enamelling, and a separate chemical room for etching, anodising and patternation. We also have larger metalwork equipment for welding, brazing, cutting and grinding.

Textile Studios

With views out to sea and 35 metres of print tables to encourage experimentation, our Printed Textile Design Studios also boasts a fantastic Mimaki fabric printer, digital embroidery resources, industrial sewing machines, sublimation printers, a dye lab, heat presses, a tufting gun and a Mac suite. It’s got to be one of the best-printed textile workshops in the UK.

Digital Print Bureau and Equipment Resource Centre

Our Digital Print Bureau offers affordable and quick print services for all our students who are looking for anything from large-format or solvent printing, to photo printing, scanning or vinyl cutting, and a wide range of finishing services. Our highly experienced Equipment Resource Centre staff can advise you on which of our 6,000 pieces of industry-standard kit – from underwater cameras to traditional large format cameras and all free to hire – will best meet your needs.

Woods and Plastics Workshop

Alongside the latest in new technology, we value the long-standing traditions of making in wood and plastics – and have developed an excellently-resourced workshop that is open to all our students. It boasts a wide range of kit, including an impressive CNC router, plenty of saws and lathes, and strip-heaters, as well as greenwood-working facilities.

Last updated Aug 2020

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About the School

Founded in 1856, Plymouth College of Art is an art school run by artists and designers for artists and designers. We are home to a dynamic, cross-disciplinary community of makers and thinkers for whom ... Read More

Founded in 1856, Plymouth College of Art is an art school run by artists and designers for artists and designers. We are home to a dynamic, cross-disciplinary community of makers and thinkers for whom making is as important as reading and writing, and where the purpose of learning is inseparable from that of living your life. A place for making things, and making things happen. For making a difference. Read less