Postgraduate study

Contemporary Art Practice

Awards: Master of Fine Art, MA (eca)

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Contemporary Art Practice

This studio-based programme offers a constructive, critical environment for artists wishing to develop their practice. Our students produce artworks in a range of media, using paint, sound, performance, photography, video, sculpture and digital animation.

You will receive a studio space and a studio tutor. Teaching is primarily by one-to-one tutorials and mixed year group critiques with a year-round programme of visiting artists.

We emphasise the centrality of conversation and dialogue to developing innovative art and create a supportive environment to nurture risk-taking as fundamental to producing ambitious original art.

Courses examine key contemporary art developments and ways in which artists can self organise, collaborate and curate opportunities to exhibit.

We emphasise the application of theory to practice, and vice versa, and you will collaborate on self-organised exhibitions at ECA and at our partners (currently Embassy Gallery, The Number Shop, Whitespace and Suede Gallery). Theory courses encourage creative and academic responses to key contemporary art debates and we insist on research projects that are connected to studio work.

Graduates produce exhibitions internationally, and have been selected for major residencies, exhibitions and prizes such as Bloomberg New Contemporaries, Saatchi New Sensations, Glasgow Film Festival and Edinburgh International Art Festival.

You will study key debates and issues central to the development of contemporary art. For example, the studio-based course "Practices" will encourage you to critically evaluate working methods and theoretical positions, through tutorials, group critiques and workshops.

This is supported by a seminar-based course Methods, where you will work collaboratively to examine key texts on core contemporary art issues and produce short presentations to stimulate discussion.

Assessment is essay-based but we support creative approaches that use catalogue, artist book and online digital platform media.

Our teaching is supported by regular trips to national exhibitions, such as Glasgow International (GI), the Baltic in Newcastle, DCA in Dundee and Home in Manchester.

We offer you a designated studio space and a wide range of equipment, technicians and resources such as printmaking, metal, wood, casting, painting, photography, reprographic and digital facilities.

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
Master of Fine ArtContemporary Art Practice21 MonthsFull-timeProgramme structure 2018/19
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Practice1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2018/19
MA (eca)Contemporary Art Practice2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2018/19

This programme enables you to develop an ambitious art practice and provides you with the organisational and economic knowledge to thrive as a self-employed artist. You will also be qualified to teach studio art in higher education and to work in the contemporary art sector.

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

You may be asked to participate in an interview via Skype.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. Your portfolio should be formatted as an A4-sized PDF document of no more than 10 pages and contain:

  • images of your work (the number is up to you, but we would advise that you do not put more than four images on an individual page)
  • accompanied image text detailing title, medium, date and where appropriate web link to any supplementary documentation of the referenced work (for instance a link to video work)
  • a short artist statement (no more than 250 words)
  • no more than five URL links to any sites that further detail or document your work

Your application and portfolio should demonstrate:

  • evidence of practical and theoretical knowledge of, and experimentation with, a variety of formal, aesthetic and conceptual approaches to the production, distribution and exhibition of contemporary art
  • evidence of practical or theoretical work that addresses key thematic areas in contemporary art and theoretical discourse
  • evidence of collaborative working practices, either in a capacity as an artist or working curatorially; evidence of independent working practices, as an artist or curator

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

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS: total 6.5 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE(A): total 61 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 176 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English and Trinity ISE must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions
  • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Postgraduate Office, The University of Edinburgh
  • David Hume Tower, George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JX

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit a reference with your application.

You must submit a portfolio as part of your application. You won't be able to submit your portfolio immediately, but you'll receive an email prompt within a few days of submitting your application that will explain how to upload your portfolio.

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

Further information

  • Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions
  • College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences Postgraduate Office, The University of Edinburgh
  • David Hume Tower, George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JX