Postgraduate study
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Contemporary Art Theory MA (eca)

Awards: MA (eca)

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Contemporary Art Theory

This programme encourages a creative, holistic and practical knowledge of this increasingly expanded field, grounding practical schooling in fields such as criticism, art writing and curating, in knowledge of key histories and theories of contemporary art. The programme addresses issues raised by the practices of contemporary art, criticism and curating as a means of encouraging you to contribute both critically and practically.

How will I learn?

Artists think and act. Being contemporary means engaging with multiple perspectives and different ways of learning. Students of contemporary art theory conduct research in relation to a broad range of creative, cultural and historical contexts in ways that are speculative, writerly, philosophical, organisational, social and economic.

You will apply aesthetics, art theory and criticism, art historiography, anthropology, and critical theory to engage with contemporary art’s variety of media, technologies, images, artefacts, tactics, texts, cultural contexts and professional practices.

Coursework is based on a strategy of blended learning, combining open-source educational technology with critique, seminar and workshop-based teaching methods.

Peer learning

Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of peer-to-peer learning; post-studio practices, group work, field work and experiential learning.

Research projects

Research projects are student-led, personalised and supervised by a team of academic staff who aim to support whichever direction is most appropriate to your interests, skills and strengths. Theory students form an integral part of our graduate school, writing, producing and commissioning projects in a family of media and adapting approaches drawn from an increasingly wide array of disciplines.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Theory1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Theory2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

The programme aims to provide you with both an overall level of expertise in recent developments in art practices and related cultural theories and research methods, and a high degree of specialisation within this field, culminating in an original Artistic Research Project. This programme has the following specific aims:

  • To undertake a systematic examination of major international art practices now.

  • To analyse the major themes within art theory and curatorial studies that are currently informing art practices, institutions and related cultural ecologies.

  • To explore some of the principal critical, methodological and theoretical positions from other disciplines informing the current production and interpretation of contemporary art and its organisational contexts.

  • To provide you with a set of research methods and critical tools necessary for the advanced analysis and creative organisation of your own artistic research.

  • To provide you with a set of competencies, skills and understanding that will enable you either to undertake further academic research or to pursue a range of creative careers.

  • To explore some of the principal critical and theoretical positions informing the interpretation of your artistic research and its organisational contexts.

  • To provide you with a set of competencies, skills and understanding that will enable you to pursue a rewarding life as an artist, writer, curator or arts professional.

This programme will enable you to develop the creative, organisational and socioeconomic knowledge required for a career in the contemporary art world: as an artist, writer, producer, curator or combination thereof. Our focus on the educational turn ensures that you will be fully prepared to teach studio art and theory in European higher education.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

Normally a UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

If you do not meet the academic entry requirements, we may still consider your application on the basis of relevant professional experience.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional costs


Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Theory1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Theory2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.yes

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

You can now only apply for this programme if you are eligible for the UK/Scotland fee rate, including the EU/EEA Pre-settled Scotland fee status.

If you apply with another fee status your application will be rejected.

Work out your fee status

Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2024 31 July 2024

(Revised 16 May 2024 as programme now only accepting applications from students with UK/Scotland fee status)

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU