The Royal College of Art or RCA is a public research university in London, in the United Kingdom. It offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries; it is the only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world. In the 2017 QS World University Rankings by Subject, the RCA was placed first in the Art and Design subject area. This was the third consecutive year that QS had awarded it the number 1 position for Art & Design.
The RCA was founded in Somerset House in 1837 as the Government School of Design or Metropolitan School of Design. Richard Burchett became head of the school in 1852. In 1853 it was expanded and moved to Marlborough House, and then, in 1853 or 1857, to South Kensington, on the same site as the South Kensington Museum. It was renamed the Normal Training School of Art in 1857 and the National Art Training School in 1863. During the later 19th century it was primarily a teacher training college.
In 1896 or 1897 the school received the name Royal College of Art, and the emphasis of teaching there shifted to the practice of art and design. Teaching of graphic design, industrial design and product design began in the mid-twentieth century. The school expanded further in the 1960s, and in 1967 it received a Royal Charter which gave it the status of an independent university with the power to grant its own degrees.
The RCA offers MA, MPhil and PhD degrees in twenty-four subject areas, divided into six schools: architecture, communication, design, fine art, humanities, and materials. The history of design programme is in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum; there are two double MA/MSc programmes in design engineering with Imperial College London, one of which also includes periods of study at Keio University in Tokyo and at the Pratt Institute in New York.
For the majority of courses the first part of the Entrance Examination consists of an assessment of the application and portfolio of work. If successful at assessment stage, the student will be invited to the second part of the Entrance Examination, a formal interview at the College with the appropriate admissions board and, for some courses, practical tests. The student should be able to meet both the Cross-College Requirements and individual Programme Requirements set out on their website.
The Royal College of Art is the world’s most influential, wholly postgraduate university institution of art and design – fine art, applied art, design, communications and humanities – offering the degrees of MA, MPhil and PhD. It is the most concentrated community of artists, designers and communicators to be found anywhere; a community focused on art in a design environment, and design in an art environment.
They are particularly proud that – driven by a strong, entrepreneurial streak – a remarkable 45% of RCA alumni go into self-employment or run their own business (according to EKOS survey, 2015). This contribution to the strength of the UK economy was recognised in the Government’s commitment to the new Royal College of Art Battersea campus, creating a flagship, 15,000sqm centre for postgraduate students and entrepreneurs.
The year leading to 2015/16 has been a time of high accolades for the College: the RCA was identified as the world’s number one University of Art and Design in 2015 by QS World University Rankings; and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, it submitted a higher percentage of eligible staff than any other specialist art and design university, achieving the highest level of research intensity of any submission.
Proud of its extraordinary roster of former students and its past successes, the RCA is however very much focused on the future: advancing knowledge and exploring new fields of practice in art, design, architecture, fashion, communication, the humanities and the applied arts.
The RCA’s partners include Imperial College London, Tsinghua University, Politecnico di Milano, the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Film Institute, Cambridge University and the Science Museum.
In the Research Assessment Exercise of December 2008, 40% of the research output of the school received the highest (4* or “world-leading”) assessment, the third-highest rating in the art and design subject area; over all subject areas only about fifty institutions received a higher rating.
In April 2011 the RCA was ranked first on a list of UK graduate art schools compiled by Modern Painters magazine from a survey of professionals in the art world.
In August 2015 it was ranked first on a list of master’s courses in fashion by Business of Fashion, a fashion website.
In 2015 the RCA placed first in the art and design subject area in the QS World University Rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds. In 2016 and 2017 it held onto the position, increasing its overall score from 96.0/100 to 98.4/100.
The Royal College of Art is committed to ensuring that their students are equipped with the skills they need to succeed.
Advice and practical workshops on all aspects of business are built into the curriculum of all their degrees, and upon graduating many alumni continue to be supported by a business aftercare scheme.