School of Art, Design and Architecture

MA Contemporary Art Practice

With the enrichment and advancement of your studio practice at its core, this course welcomes highly motivated and independent thinkers. You will have the opportunity to advance your critical thinking, and will be encouraged to experiment and take risks. Develop your skills and expertise for transferrable professional knowledge, with access to extensive specialist workshops and realise your practice to the fullest extent on this challenging and inspiring MA.

Careers with this subject

Recent graduates have established international careers as professional artists, and have received funding for public commissions, research and development and artist residencies. Many go on to develop artist-led initiatives, become curators, doctoral researchers, educators, or gallerists and museum professionals.

Key features

  • Develop your studio practice and related research through a range of approaches. Undertake single, multi- or inter-disciplinary study within interactive and digital technologies, film and video, sound, painting, printmaking, photography, drawing and sculpture. 
  • Advance your practical skills with our high-specification workshops. You’ll have access to fully equipped digital production, sound recording and editing, film, photography, video, ceramics and print facilities and excellent technical support. 
  • Direct your studies through four independent study modules underpinned by critical frameworks and research methodologies and a substantial MA project in year 3.
  • Connect with contemporary artists and curators through our visiting artists programme. Participate in stimulating debates and shared dialogue with diverse research groups across the faculty with our interdisciplinary seminars series.
  • Integrate any external projects, internship possibilities or client commissions you are awarded into your course. We embed professional practice into our academic framework, facilitating transferrable knowledge and skills in the workplace.
  • The option to study part-time allows you to balance your work and external commitments with postgraduate education.
  • Benefit from the knowledge and experience of a teaching staff of artists and researchers with substantial expertise with international exhibition, residency and research profiles.

Course details

  • Year 1 & 2
  • You’ll develop your practice through independent study projects (ISPs) and specialist workshops. The ISPs will help you explore and understand the wide range of methods, media and approaches that might underpin your practice. You'll to be encouraged to develop, question and critically reflect upon your art practice to the fullest extent. You will also focus on how contexts and conditions frame and inform contemporary art practice.

    Core modules
    • MAC701 Contemporary Art Practice 1

      This module provides an opportunity to propose an individual or collaborative self-directed artistic project. Students receive tutorial support for their agreed research direction and theme, and develop a project through appropriate methods and approaches. Artistic practice is developed, questioned, reflected on, and analysed through dialogues, presentations, seminars, and critiques. Critical writing enables students to contextualise their practice and explore conceptual and critical frameworks.

    • MAC702 Contemporary Art Practice 2

      This module provides an opportunity to further develop practice through a self-directed artistic project that builds on and advances work undertaken in previous and/or concurrent module(s). Students receive tutorial support for their agreed research direction and theme, and further develop a project through appropriate methods and approaches. Artistic practice is developed, questioned, reflected on, and analysed through dialogues, presentations, seminars, and critiques. Critical writing enables students to contextualise their practice and explore conceptual and critical frameworks.

  • Year 2
  • You'll further develop your artistic practice through an individual or collaborative project, building on and advancing work undertaken in concurrent and/or previous module(s).  You'll write an MA project proposal that will inform the research stage of your MA project.  

    Core modules
    • MAC704 Contemporary Art Practice 4

      This module seeks to establish the principle of artistic research through establishing relevant methods, approaches and critical frameworks commensurate with advanced masters level study. Students write an MA Project proposal that will inform the research stage of the subsequent MA project. They develop artistic research that both underpins and informs the proposal and relates to project work undertaken in previous and/or concurrent modules.

    Optional modules
    • MAC703 Contemporary Art Practice 3

      This module provides an opportunity to further develop artistic practice through an individual or collaborative project that builds on and advances work undertaken in concurrent and/or previous module(s). Students receive tutorial support for their agreed research direction and theme, and further develop a self-directed artistic project utilising and testing a range of methods and approaches. Practice is developed, questioned, reflected on, and analysed through dialogues, presentations, seminars, and critiques.

    • MAC706 International Exchange

      Students are able to propose and undertake an extended period studying Contemporary Art Practice in Europe where they can choose from a number of recognised participating institutions and receive support through the European Commission Socrates Programme. Students undertake a project informed by the exchange and use the exchange to develop a critical position and expand their cultural awareness.

  • Final year
  • Building on the insights and skills gained in your first year, you’ll develop a proposal for, and carry out, a substantial MA Project. The MA Project culminates in a public exhibition and Project Report, the form of which is negotiated and relates to your practice.

    Core modules
    • MAC705 MA Project

      This module provides an opportunity to undertake artistic research through an individual or collaborative MA project. Within the framework of defined programme outcomes participants produce artistic research in relation to a selected issue or theme, underpinned by relevant methods, approaches, research, analysis, theoretical framing, and critical reflection, and disseminated in an appropriate form, and supported by a written project report.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Contemporary Art Practice 4316

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Academic entry requirements

For entry to postgraduate level, you should normally possess:

  • a first or upper second (2:1) degree with honours or professional qualification, recognised as being equivalent to degree standard; or
  • an ordinary degree, foundation degree, higher national diploma, or university diploma, accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field.
  • Applicants with overseas qualifications can check their comparability with the UK equivalent through NARIC, who provide an advisory service.
  • English language requirements. We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Non-academic entry requirements

You will be expected to submit a portfolio of work, documented in an appropriate form, and a proposal for study, for discussion at interview.

For assistance, please view our interview and portfolio guidance page.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2020 2021
Home/EU To be confirmed To be confirmed
International To be confirmed To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) £450 To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Interview and portfolio advice

A portfolio is a collection of pieces of work that give us an insight into you as an artist. Your portfolio tells us a lot about about how you think and work as a practising artist. We've compiled some helpful tips, portfolio advice and ways to avoid unnecessary stress before the interview.

Follow our interview tips and portfolio advice

Our facilities

From sound workshops to dedicated photography darkrooms, you’ll have access to all the professional tools you need.  Find out more about our facilities.

"There was great access to facilities; having studio and library access 24 hours a day, 7 days per week was great … The staff were very supportive too, and I never felt like an outsider – even though I wasn’t the classic twenty something student."

Rebecca Harris, MA Contemporary Art Practice graduate

Since graduating Rebecca has produced work for the Eden Project and taken her artwork around the country.

View up-to-date images of our studios, workshops and exhibition spaces by visiting our fine art Instagram channel.

Visit #MACAPPLYM to follow our MA students and their work.

Graduate insights

Follow in the footsteps of our graduates, some of whom have gone on to secure rewarding work opportunities that push the boundaries of their art practice. 

Our graduates have engaged in award-winning research projects, travelling artist book shows and inspiring TED talks – all of these opportunities are testament to our challenging and diverse programme. 

Find out more about our graduates' experiences


Graduate Show 2019

5 – 14 July 2019, Mills Bakery Upper Floor, Royal William Yard

Featured artists

Jack Carberry-Todd
My paintings deal with ambiguity, both in perception of visual content and in the perception of the painted surface. They explore the dichotomy between nature and technology, presenting humanity somewhere in the middle, attempting to work out interactions or intersections with each force. The paintings establish a tension between these two entities, to offer a space where nature and technology mesmerizingly fold into one another. Throughout there are references to contemporary society, which rupture the oceanic quality of the work, interrupting the seductive colours and whirling compositions. A different level of attention is encouraged, one that considers the painting beyond its appearance.

Danny Everton
My sculptural forms bring a sense of humour through a visual presentation bringing together soft and hard along with animations that bulge and squirm. Constructed jersey sections are stuffed and stacked, then compressed with concrete breeze blocks. The bricks are visually heavy as we see them pressing down and squashing the cushioned forms. The soft pastel fabric shows stress and weight from the pressure.. These contrasting forms and materials explores a social pressure to conform to a particular version of masculine or feminine and what it is to be a ‘man’.

Adam Garratt
I have focused on is collecting materials from the urban environment in order to print onto and create rhythmic suspensions in the gallery. By securing the printed materials with bungee cords and ratchet straps a tension between stretching, folding, compressing and hanging is created, this allows the previously used materials to be shown in a new way. Another set of materials I have been working with is Sand Bags and Rubble Bags. They are presented on mass, with one set being filled and stacked and the other strapped and compressed together.

Debra Harris
There is collaboration between artist and material; the metal was homogenous and silent before it received phoenix-like rebirth through flame to give it a voice. Inert metal is reactivated and given agency, and the interaction expands to include the final collaborator, the viewer, to form a complex matrix of conversations.

Katy Richardson

Here is a story, inside a box. It is not my story. Diving into its shuffling layers, I trace pathways – narratives embedded in my click trails. For you, the box remains closed: stapled cardboard like a tatty book cover around contents that I see and you do not. You are imagining what it might contain, aren’t you? Come closer, it’s your turn to be detective now.

Download the 2019 graduate show brochure

Take a look at our archive of previous graduate shows.

Image courtesy of Helge Mruck

Any questions?

Please contact Dr Anya Lewin, Programme Lead for MA Contemporary Art Practice: