Contemporary Art Theory - MA


Please be advised that this curriculum is under review and changes may be applied to the programme from 2017/18 onwards.

Our theory programme encourages practices that are speculative and reflective, encouraging research on and in a range of media. It is concerned with research methods that are experiential – embodied through and understood by the acquisition of a practice. The Theory MA supports an applied knowledge of art now, grounding schooling in practice, curating, artwriting and arts education not only in contemporary art theory but in extra-disciplinary and intermedial approaches.

You will originate new ways of contributing to contemporary art’s expanding field by drawing on related fields: the latest theories and methods in visual and sensual cultures, visual anthropology, the ‘new materialism’ and the ‘para-humanities.’

Based in our masters studio, you will develop a distinctive and ambitious research practice by learning from and working as part of a community of artists. Taught in collaboration with local arts organisations, the curriculum is an innovative blend of projects, seminars and workshops. For assessment, you submit project-work designed to engage and develop new hypereconomies of contemporary art and its variety of media, technologies, images, artefacts, tactics, texts, cultural contexts and professional practices.

The programme is aimed both at aspiring arts professionals and professional artists who want to develop a research-based practice by extending their practical, theoretical, organisational and economic engagement with contemporary art. It develops from a broad to a specialist understanding of the technical resources and validating contexts in which artists work today, drawing inspiration and nourishment from the experience of our international student cohort.

A unique approach

A defining aspect of our theory programme is the emphasis it places upon speculative scepticism - not proceeding from the position of knowing what art is; rather, being motivated by speculation on what it might be. We generate an atmosphere that supports mutual co-operation, a dynamic, intellectually ambitious environment in which staff and students can learn together. Our students generate and embody an assemblage of practices, combining process of production, translation and consumption.

Theory students work collaboratively, therefore we are very eager to select applicants based on their ability to work well as part of a creative team as much as we are interested in their artistic and academic potential. We attract students from all over the world with very different backgrounds and experiences. The focus on building a supportive creative community, on the rigorous and experimental combination of theory and practice and the international profile of the student body makes our Masters programme unique.

Where it will take you

The Theory MA will nurture the creative, organisational and economic knowledge required for a career in the contemporary art world that traverses the roles of artist, academic, artwriter and curator. The Theory programme is intended, equally, to bridge the gap between undergraduate and doctoral research, enabling you to prepare a successful application to a PhD programme. The Theory MA will also qualify you to teach studio art and theory in higher education.


John Beagles, Programme Director | View staff profile >

Dr Deborah Jackson | View staff profile >

Dr Angela McClanahan | View staff profile >

Dr Susannah Thompson | View staff profile >


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Tortsen Lauschmann’s work delighted visitors by continually repainting itself over the summer months.


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