The MA Contemporary Art Theory is for those with a special interest in contemporary art, and an aptitude for theoretical work in the subject.
Why study MA Contemporary Art Theory at Goldsmiths?
- This degree explores a range of theoretical perspectives that shape art and visual culture, and attitudes towards them in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
- You’ll be encouraged to conceptually and creatively explore the ways in which contemporary artistic practice and urgent theoretical and political matters intersect.
- You’ll expand your knowledge of contemporary artistic developments and deepen your understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of academic discourses on visual culture.
- The programme draws on the shifting fields of performance studies, art history, continental philosophy, ecology, feminist theory, queer theory, postcolonial/decolonial studies, and cultural studies in addressing the critical challenges posed by artistic practice, and you’ll be able to focus on an aspect that particularly interests you.
- You’ll take part in an assessed symposium, which provides you with a chance to present your dissertation topic at an early stage in order to define and progress your final project.
Image credit: Konsthall C
Contact the department
If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Dr Lynn Turner.
What you'll study
For 2020–21, we have made some changes to how the teaching and assessment of certain programmes are delivered. To check what changes affect this programme, please visit the Programme Changes page
The programme comprises a non-assessed introductory module, the Core Course (comprising four blocks that thematically vary from year to year and of which students choose two), and four assessed components: two Special Subjects, the MA Symposium and the MA Dissertation. Students also attend the Visual Cultures Public Programme of lectures and other events. You have the option of auditing another special subject should you wish to do so, subject to availability and in agreement with the module tutor.
The taught part of the programme runs from the end of September to the end of March, with additional guest lectures or workshops in May and June. It offers a framework to help you focus and develop your own understanding of contemporary art practice and its wider cultural significance. It is designed to develop your understanding of a range of critical and theoretical approaches that inform the heterogeneous field of visual art production whilst, at the same time, enabling you to identify and prepare the area of independent research you will carry out in your dissertation project. While about ten members of staff from the department directly teach into the taught components of the MA, almost all staff are available for dissertation supervision.
Students may opt to take thematically divergent modules or shape their own consistent thematic pathway through the MA.
Full-time students attend on two or three days per week (determined by the choice of special subject plus the Public Programme events on Thursdays); part-time students attend on one or two days each week in the first year and second year.
|Compulsory Module||Module title||Credits|
|The Common Core Module: DEL: Readings/Processes||0 credits|
Special subjects are in-depth taught modules that draw on the current research interests of staff. They enable you to focus on an aspect of contemporary art, cultural theory or contemporary thought that particularly interests you.
Special subjects currently include:
|Special Subjects||Module title||Credits|
|Curating and Ethics||45 credits|
|Transforming Critical Practices||45 credits|
|Reading the Performative||45 credits|
|Sex, Gender, Species||45 credits|
|Transcultural Memory||45 credits|
|Spatial Biopolitics||45 Credits|
|The Ocean as Archive||30 credits|
|Psychopower and Subjectivity||45 Credits|
|Black Aesthetic Theory||45 credits|
|From Art Writing to Theory-Fiction||45 credits|
From the end of March, you will start independent research on a subject of your own choosing. At the end of the spring term, you will submit your dissertation proposal and be assigned a dissertation tutor who will support your independent dissertation research and writing activities in an advisory capacity.
|MA Contemporary Art Theory Dissertation||60 credits|
Two-day MA Symposium (oral presentation on dissertation topic) (30 credits)
The MA Symposium provides you with the opportunity, fairly early on in the research/writing process, to present a worked up and focused investigation of your dissertation topic or some aspect of it. Your presentation will be formally assessed. Presenting on your dissertation research at this stage is invaluable for enabling you to define your project and, through verbal feedback and discussion, to progress your thinking. Assessment: one oral presentation in early June (20 minutes, plus 10 minute discussion).
Visual Cultures assessment are 100% coursework. Normally this consists of essays, sometimes accompanied by creative projects, group projects, multi-media projects, presentations, and symposia.
Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.
What our students say
You should normally have, or expect to gain, an undergraduate degree of at least upper second class standard in art history, fine art, another studio-based practice, arts administration and related activities, or a humanities discipline other than art history which demonstrates your ability to undertake work at Masters level.
You don’t necessarily need a formal academic qualification in art history: we welcome applications from prospective students who do not meet the standard entrance requirements but can demonstrate appropriate knowledge and experience from outside academia in the world of work.
If you have little or no formal training in art history or a related humanities discipline, you may need to take a preparatory year of study on the Graduate Diploma in Contemporary Art History. You may also be required to attend an interview.
We accept a wide range of international qualifications. Find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world.
If English isn’t your first language, you will need an IELTS score (or equivalent English language qualification) of 6.5 with a 6.5 in writing and no element lower than 6.0 to study this programme. If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for postgraduate-level study.
Fees, funding & scholarships
Annual tuition fees
These are the fees for students starting their programme in the 2021/2022 academic year.
- Home - full-time: £8990
- Home - part-time: £4495
- International - full-time: £16950
It’s not currently possible for international students to study part-time if you require a Tier 4 student visa, however this is currently being reviewed and will be confirmed in the new year. Please read our visa guidance in the interim for more information. If you think you might be eligible to study part-time while being on another visa type, please contact our Admissions Team for more information.
If you are looking to pay your fees please see our guide to making a payment.
In addition to your tuition fees, you'll be responsible for any additional costs associated with your course, such as buying stationery and paying for photocopying. You can find out more about what you need to budget for on our study costs page.
There may also be specific additional costs associated with your programme. This can include things like paying for field trips or specialist materials for your assignments. Please check the programme specification for more information.
Find out more about postgraduate fees and explore funding opportunities. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.
How to apply
You apply directly to Goldsmiths using our online application system.
Before submitting your application you’ll need to have:
- Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments
- The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference
- A personal statement – this can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online
- If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory)
You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.
When to apply
We accept applications from October from students wanting to start the following September. There is no application deadline, but we encourage you to apply sooner rather than later while there are still places on the course, and to allow time for student visa applications if applicable.
We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place that is conditional on you achieving a particular qualification.
Late applications will only be considered if there are spaces available.
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an earlier application deadline.
Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally, we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.
Find out more about applying.
Many of our MA students have gone on to MPhil/PhD study, not only in art history and visual cultures but also in related fields such as philosophy, the environmental humanities and literature. Careers obtained by recent graduates include artists, curators at mainstream galleries/museums, curators at independent organisations, editors in major publishing houses, lecturers, researchers, and roles in TV and film production.
Find out more about employability at Goldsmiths.