Contemporary Arts China - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2019
£7,100 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2019 entry (view all fees)

Developed with our internationally-renowned partners, this course offered by the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) will enable you to gain expertise in contemporary arts in China, as well as professional experience, while developing your own research and practice.

The course is aimed at ambitious researchers and practitioners who want to pursue an international career in the arts, and want to become research-led practitioners and professionals. Its focus on professional development makes it ideal for recent graduates, curators, artists, designers, art historians, writers and others.

What's covered in the course?

This award has been developed with our industry partners, galleries and museums in UK and China, who are also engaged in course delivery.

It has been designed to support individuals who want to gain specialist knowledge, while working in an interdisciplinary research environment. The course offers you the opportunity to conduct original research in an exciting and expanding field, cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

You will learn about the complex issues and challenges within Chinese contemporary arts in in its local, regional and global context, while developing your own practice/research and gaining professional experience through an extended work placement, live research project or residency.

You will have the opportunity to work closely with the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts at Birmingham City University, as well as our prestigious partner organisations in China, UK and EU.

You will also be introduced to broader issues of transcultural communication and the global arts ecology, and you will be encouraged to respond creatively to a wide variety of cultural contexts and stimuli.

You will be located at Birmingham School of Art in Margaret Street, where you will have access to a wide range of workshops and facilities and be welcomed as part of a diverse, exciting postgraduate community. 

Why Choose Us?

This course is open to International students

Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Course Director: Monica Merlin.

Email Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements

An upper second-class degree (or higher) in a relevant subject.

Extra information for EU/International students

International applicants should note that this is a demanding course that requires a high standard of reading, writing and listening skills, full-time students are expected to have a minimum English standard of IELTS 6.0.

International Students

Entry requirements here

  • We welcome non-traditional applications, particularly from applicants with substantial professional, practitioner or production experience and accredit prior experiential learning and professional experience. This would be evaluated using the University’s APL and APEL procedures.
  • We can assist you in choosing which mode of attendance (full-time and part-time) is most suitable.
  • All suitable candidates will be interviewed in person (home) or via Skype (EU and international)
  • Please note: It may also be possible to transfer credits from modules completed in prior learning experiences, if applicants can provide evidence.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 FT 1 year £7,100 per year
PT 2 years £3,550 per year

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 FT 1 year £12,300 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. Fees for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Personal Statement

Your supporting statement should be unique to you and tailored for the course to which you are applying. It is an essential part of your application and gives you the opportunity to identify your individual skills, strengths, passion and academic and/or professional ability.

We would like to hear about your particular research and/or practice-led interests, and why you want to study in the field of transdisciplinary practice, Chinese contemporary arts, design and visual culture. Additionally, outline how the course will benefit from your particular contribution, experience, expertise and participation.

For more information, please see: ‘Personal Statements for Postgraduate Applications’.

Please Note: Practitioners (artists, curators or designer), your application must be accompanied by evidence of your arts, curatorial or design practice. We require 12 images of recent work on power point, with accompanying information regarding title, media, date, size if appropriate. If your work is web, film, audio, performance or video based you will need to upload them onto vimeo, youtube, Youku or similar and send us the appropriate link.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

View additional costs for this course

Additional costs

The additional costs listed at the bottom of the page are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

Stage 1: PgCert

Each student will be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through your MA, conduct Personal Development Planning (PDP) tutorials, assist and direct your academic and professional development. This is in addition to the tutorials assigned to each module, it is also possible to request tutorials from other academic and technical members if relevant to your particular project.

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

Stage 1: PgCert
60 credits
Contemporary Arts in China
40 credits

This module provides an overview of the development of contemporary arts within and beyond the People’s Republic (est. 1949). It introduces a set of original perspectives to understand and reflect a number of significant historical, cultural, socio-political concepts since the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-76) through to the present day. The module critically examines current debates, concerns and practices in Chinese contemporary arts within multiple theoretical frameworks. The topics and session themes explore critical terms, notions and definitions, artistic practices and experimentations, as well as interdisciplinarity and transcultural exchange; they offer an opportunity to redefine Chinese contemporary arts in a global context.

Optional module
20 credits

Select one option module.

See option modules tab for further information.

Stage 2: PgDip

Each student will be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through your MA, conduct Personal Development Planning (PDP) tutorials, assist and direct your academic and professional development. This is in addition to the tutorials assigned to each module, it is also possible to request tutorials from other academic and technical members if relevant to your particular project.

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

Stage 2: PgDip
60 credits
Professional Development and Practice
40 credits

The module will support your professional and personal development as employability lie at the core of the MA Contemporary Arts China. It will require you to take a proactive lead and responsibility for your learning, and will provide you with core knowledge of professional development (including skill audit, personal development plan, reflexive thinking etc), while giving you opportunities to advance your personal research interests, skills and practice within a professional context. It module encourages you to become independent, self-directed in your studies and capable of original research, and includes the unique opportunity to work with one of the partner organisations (see list) for a work placement or live project.

Research in Practice - common core module
20 credits

This module introduces you to various research strategies in the arts via sessions on methodology, writing and making workshops and student led seminar presentations. It enables you to adopt approaches applicable to your own artistic practice and assists you in applying the knowledge you have gained in a productive way.

Stage 3: Masters

This semester consists of a singular 60 credit module:

  • Major Project

A Dissertation or Practical submission with supporting reflective, critical and contextual material.

Stage 3: Masters
60 credits

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

Option modules

The Art Based Master’s Programme is an integrated framework that allows you to build your own course. Core modules in any given course become option modules in all other courses. You will have an opportunity to engage with students from diverse learning and professional experiences. Optional modules are subject to availability. 

Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
20 credits

This module examines why and how the fine arts can be explored when the foundations of modern and contemporary political philosophy and its relation to the social are at the forefront of scholarship. It sets the stage, epistemologically and methodologically, giving you a critical knowledge of the complexities underlying our contemporary world.

Creative Publishing and Public Dissemination
20 credits

This module explores publishing as a dynamic contemporary art-form, a vehicle for disseminating ideas and an exploration of radical formats for bringing your art to a wider public arena. Emphasis is placed on practical outcomes and the exploration of creative modes of dissemination whilst exploring contemporary debates surrounding artists' publishing.

Discourses in Art and Design
20 credits

This module examines key concepts in western art and design from mid-nineteenth century onwards. Through chronologically arranged presentations, topical issues are introduced from across art and design. Indicative topics: the western canon; approaches and methodologies; design ethics; the changing role of the artist; primitivism and ethnography; postmodern fashion and gender.

Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
20 credits

The module examines: curatorial practice and exhibition making; the museum and gallery as context and framework; artist-run space; the rise of the artist/curator and alternative curatorial practices and contexts; curating for new media and technologies and craft and design. It considers issues of audience and project development for social inclusion

Photography as Research
20 credits

Employing theoretical and practical methods this module explores the spectrum of therapeutic photography when the image is a tool for enhanced self-awareness. A key question concerns the role of the technology of photography in framing our world. The module therefore examines the ethical and participatory concerns of therapeutic photographic practice. 

Queer Strategies in Practice
20 credits

This module explores queer models of practice that examine the complex relationships between image and text, making and writing, modes of representation, performativity and queering. Indicative topics include: historical representation and societal change, queer practices beyond representation, queer figures, affective reading, contemporary art, activist and interventionist strategies, film and collaborative practice.

Small Arts Business Set-up
20 credits

This module explores entrepreneurship and small business start-up within the arts and creative industries and how entrepreneurial ideas are formed. Indicative topics: arts and creative industries; cultural entrepreneurs; economic development role of entrepreneurship within the arts, creative industries and society; practicalities of business start-up and business operations within the sector.

Social Practice in the Visual Arts
20 credits

This module examines art as social practice and models of art practice in social contexts: urban, rural and transnational contexts and places of labour, health, post-conflict and post-traumatic societies. It considers the history and development of social practice and the impact it has as a generative and transformative artistic activity.

Art and Transcultural Communication
20 credits

This module provides a grounding in arts and transcultural communication, using artistic practices and discursive frameworks to highlight and examine issues related to linguistic, curatorial and artistic communication. Communication, but also translation and interpretation intended from a linguistic, visual, cultural and curatorial perspective, are crucial when working internationally (and locally) with different communities. The purpose of the module is to prepare you to work effectively in a transcultural global environment.

Technical Method, Workshop Learning and Practice
20 credits

The module is workshop-led e.g. print, plaster, lens based, digital media, 3D modelling and printing that enables you to engage in practical hands on experience.  You will demonstrate the breadth and depth of what you have learned by developing a portfolio of evidence recording your engagement with processes or skills. 

You will develop independent research projects that expand and respond to the exciting, shifting and complex field of contemporary arts in China. You will produce work that demonstrates intellectual rigour and innovation, while also gaining experience with our international partners. 

The core Contemporary Arts in China and the Global China modules will provide you with an overview of the development of the subject, examining current debates and practices within its local, regional and global contexts, and multiple cultural frameworks.

You will be introduced a number of significant historical, cultural, socio-political concepts from the Cultural Revolution through to the present day, and consider how Chinese cultural identities are currently constructed, disseminated, interpreted and translated through curatorial, textual, art and design practices.

The sessions will be delivered through seminars, lectures, and events and examination of curatorial, textual, and art and design practices. The latter will include photography, video, performance, global, political, social art practices and developing art markets.

The Professional Development and Professional Practice modules focus upon your personal development to assist you in achieving your goals. You will have the opportunity to work and network with our industry partners as well as other academics and professionals in the field during seminar talks, events and on placements.

The course has also been specifically designed as a ‘route-in’ to PhD, providing research training and assistance in preparing a PhD proposal if this is a route that you wish to follow.


As part of your Professional Practice module, you are required to undertake a work placement, a live research project, artist’s residency or an equivalent. You will be encouraged to take advantage of the extended placements on offer with our partner organisations. These longer more intensive placements last between one and three months, and will provide you with hands-on experience and an in-depth insight of working or research within the contemporary arts field.

You will be invited to apply for these opportunities through a professional selection and interview process and will be provided by a mentor at your placement organisation.

You are responsible for arranging and funding your travel and accommodation (with advice) and should budget accordingly. You will need to have the necessary funds to undertake the placements you apply following the recommended guidance:

UK: £1,000-1,500 per month for accommodation and living costs.

EU: £1,000 - 1,500 per month for accommodation and living costs,  £200 - 400 for flights depending on destination (Please note: there may be additional visa costs for international students)

China: Accommodation and living costs vary dependent upon location

£400-800 per month, £1,000 for flights and visa

Please note: You will be responsible for sourcing and funding accommodation costs. We will, however, provide you with information gained from local knowledge and contacts. If you are unable to undertake a work placement, you will be offered the opportunity to participate in a live research project or professionally-oriented brief to ensure that you can fulfill the module requirements.


The course has been developed with our industry partner organisations, which include Academy of International Visual Arts (AIVA, Shanghai), Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester), Chronus Arts Center (Shanghai), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), New Art Exchange (Nottingham). 

Trips and Visits

During the MA there will be organised research trips and visits to museums, galleries and other institutions; you will be encouraged to participate in relevant events, such as art fairs and conferences. The transport and other additional costs for these activities will be covered by individual students. You will also be required to fund your own travel, accommodation and subsistence during placements. You are advised that you will have to finance costs incurred in the production of artworks, artifacts and/or exhibitions, such as materials, supplementary equipment, venue hire and so forth.


MA Contemporary Arts China has been created as a response to market demand and increasing interest in this area. The course has been developed and delivered with our cultural and creative industry partners in the UK, EU and China.

The course has a strong emphasis on employability and provides you with the opportunity of gaining professional experience and transferable skills within a global context, enabling you to gain a unique insight into and invaluable first-hand experience of working within the sector.  

Our partners include:

As a student on this programme you will become part of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts and be invited to participate in its events and research programme. The CCVA provides students with unique access to an extensive professional network, visiting scholars and artists and the opportunity to engage in live research projects, events and more. 

More about CCVA

After you leave us

MA Contemporary Arts China graduates, through ongoing professional development, workshops, talks, seminars and placements, will be equipped to pursue an international career in the arts and creative industries for example as a Curator, Artist, Designer, Writer, Studio Assistant, Researcher, Arts Administrator, Cultural Producer, Project Manager, Cultural Ambassador, Arts Outreach and Education worker.

The course has also been designed as a “route-in” to PhD, where the ‘Research in Practice’ module and the activities of the Postgraduate Research (PGR) Studio at BCU will introduce you to key research methods. Staff will assist you in developing a research proposal whilst preparing you for the demands of doctoral level study.

High achieving graduates from the MA will also have the opportunity to apply for relevant grants. The options change year on year but currently include, Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and University sponsored bursaries. Applicants/students will be notified of opportunities.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Our OpportUNIty students

Our students have often benefited from OpportUNity – a student / academic partnership that has included working in publishing at international peer review levels, organising, chairing and exhibiting in major conferences and working together to produce ‘best practice’ guides for art education, practice-led research and gallery exhibition.

MA Contemporary Arts China offers professional development opportunities for students to engage with our partners in China, EU and UK, and access to the CCVA's international network, through event, tutorials, seminars and placements. Students are also encouraged to organise and undertake their own international research trips. 

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year - there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently located, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Explore some of the good reasons why you should study here:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA)

The Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) aims to foster new understandings and perspectives of Chinese contemporary arts, design, media and culture through transdisciplinary creative practices and theoretical studies. CCVA has extensive regional to international partnerships and brings together artists, designers, curators and researchers who are working with, or are interested in, contemporary contexts of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to share expertise, understand, critique, innovate and create.

Using its unique position in the UK, CCVA continues its on-going transcultural dialogue by questioning existing histories of Chinese contemporary arts, design media and culture whilst fostering new ways of thinking and modes of knowledge in relation to today’s global-Chinese situation. From 2017 the CCVA will host the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art published by Intellect, the sole peer reviewed journal in the field worldwide.


If you have any questions regarding this course please send an email to:

More about CCVA

Parkside Building

The Parkside Building in the City Centre Campus is home to Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, School of Fashion and Textiles, School of Visual Communication and Birmingham School of Media. Our art and design students work from a core of workshops in the centre of the five-floor building, with studio space around them. There is also ‘collision space’ where students and staff from different courses will see each other to pass the time of day, and exchange thoughts and ideas. The Parkside Gallery is a leading art and design exhibition space within the Parkside Building, with an emphasis on, but not confined to, design-led practice.

Birmingham School of Art

The Birmingham School of Art’s inspiring Victorian design features original stained glass windows, mosaic floors, and hand-carved bannisters, alongside contemporary architecture, glass lifts and the latest specialist student workspaces.

Located next to the city centre’s Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the School is just a five-minute walk from the new Library of Birmingham and Ikon Gallery.

Albion Press - Art
Etching Press - Art
Screen Printing 1 - Art
Stone Litho - Art
Woodwork 1 - Art
Metalwork 1 - Art
Ceramics 2 - Art
Comp Lab - Art
Photography Lab 1 - Art
Photography Lab 2 - Art
Editing suite 1 - Art
Editing suite 2 - Art
Studio Space 1 - Art
Studio Space 2 - Art
Studio Space 5 - Art
Studio Space 4 - Art
Library 2 - Art
Common Area - Art
Nuria Querol

Nuria Querol

Senior Lecturer in Art Theory, Programme Leader MA Contemporary Arts China

Dr Nuria Querolis Senior Lecturer in Art Theory and Programme Leader for the MA Contemporary Arts China. Before joining Birmingham City University, she lectured at various universities including the Slade School of Fine Art, Central Saint Martins and King’s College London. 

Nuria is an art historian and curator specialised in transcultural art and curating, global collaborations and contemporary art in China and India. She lived and worked in Beijing for three years where she was Visiting Research Fellow at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and Peking University, and conducted fieldwork on curating Chinese contemporary art. 

Nuria is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and holds a PhD in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art. She is currently completing a monograph on global art and transcultural curating for Liverpool University Press.

Read Nuria's full profile

Dr Monica Merlin

Programme Leader MA Contemporary Arts China

Dr Monica Merlin is the Programme Leader for the MA Contemporary Arts China. Before joining Birmingham City University she taught for the MA Arts of China at Christie’s Education (London), validated by the University of Glasgow.

Monica lived and worked in Beijing for two years after a BA in Chinese Studies specialising in Chinese Art and Archaeology at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice). She returned to Europe to pursue an MA in Asian Art at SOAS (2007), and worked for two years as curator in a contemporary Chinese art gallery in London. In 2009 Monica continued her studies gaining a DPhil (2013) at The University of Oxford with a thesis on early modern Chinese art.

Monica conducted a funded post-doctoral research (2013-14) at the Tate Research Centre: Asia with a project on contemporary Chinese women artists. Her major research interests lie in contemporary Chinese art and visual culture, women artists gender and feminism, socially and politically engaged art, and transcultural communication.

Read Monica's full profile

Professor Jiang Jiehong

Professor Jiang Jiehong is Head of Research at School of Art, Director of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, Birmingham City University, and he is also Principal Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art (Intellect). Jiang has extensive research and curatorial experience in contemporary art and visual culture. Jiang curated the Guangzhou Triennial: the Unseen (in collaboration with Jonathan Watkins, 2012), the Asia Triennial Manchester: Harmonious Society (2014), the Shadow Never Lies (with Mark Nash, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, 2016), the Distant Unknown: Contemporary Art from Britain (OCAT Shanghai, 2016) and currently, he is Lead Curator of the First Thailand Biennale: Edge of the Wonderland (Krabi, 2018-19) and This Is Shanghai (a partner exhibition of Liverpool Biennial, 2018). Jiang has published widely in both English and Chinese. His book publications include Burden or Legacy: from the Chinese Cultural Revolution to Contemporary Art (Hong Kong University Press, 2007), the Revolution Continues: New Art from China (Jonathan Cape, 2008), Red: China’s Cultural Revolution (Jonathan Cape, 2010) and An Era without Memory: Chinese Contemporary Photography on Urban Transformation (Thames and Hudson, 2015).