Fine Art - MA
Our MA Fine Art Master’s course embraces art practice, in whatever form it takes (drawing, painting, sculpture, print, photography, installation, lens-based media, performance, participatory, interdisciplinary and expanded practice) and in whichever circumstance it occurs. It is conceptual at heart, pursuing strong ideas and challenges of art in real life....
Our MA Fine Art Master’s course embraces art practice, in whatever form it takes (drawing, painting, sculpture, print, photography, installation, lens-based media, performance, participatory, interdisciplinary and expanded practice) and in whichever circumstance it occurs.
It is conceptual at heart, pursuing strong ideas and challenges of art in real life. The artist Joseph Beuys, working in Social Sculpture, famously said: "Each and every man has the most precious building in the world in his head, feelings and free will. And the French poet Baudelaire said: the best form of art criticism is another work of art."
We agree and so art is considered in relationship to philosophy, art history and theory, contemporary discourse and global contexts, establishing critical frameworks in which artists make work. We also have strong links with art galleries and artists communities, including Eastside Projects led by Gavin Wade and Céline Cordorelli.
What's covered in this course?
This expansive programme offers you a specialist education in Fine Art with both core practice modules and optional modules, that change to reflect contemporary ways of practising. These have included: Philosophy and Aesthetics; Social Practices in the Visual Arts; Creative Publishing; Technical Methods; Small Arts Business Set up; Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice and Photography as Research. These help develop and frame your practice whilst also introducing you to contemporary contexts and debates.
It will enable you to take risks, be imaginative and self reflexive in the development of your work. It builds your confidence, enhances your critical and analytical skills and prepares you for a career in the creative sector.
Numerous alumni have gone on to be successful: presenting work at the Venice Biennale and becoming a Turner Prize judge. Uniquely, you will be encouraged to personalise your learning therefore preparing you for life as a professional artist or PhD researcher. Collaboration and personal development are encouraged alongside attention to pastoral care.
This programme is lead by Esther Windsor a curator, artist and writer who has curated at The ICA, Camerawork Gallery and Darkroom, The Photographers’ Gallery and established two art school galleries, the waiting room, University of Wolverhampton and mirror, LCP London. She was director at Hull Time Based Arts and co directed 1000 000 mph, London. She previously taught Theory and Practice on MA Art and Space with Cullinan and Richards at Kingston University. You will also be taught by staff with different specialisms, including painters and staff located in the knowledge of the regions history of radical practices.
You will be located at Birmingham School of Art (Margaret Street Campus), an impressive Grade 1 listed purpose built resource, with a specialist team of friendly, experienced and dedicated technicians.
Why Choose Us?
- Birmingham School of Art is an internationally recognised centre of excellence for art-based learning and research.
- The MA Fine Art programme has a significant international reputation with alumni in over 20 countries worldwide, with strong exhibition profiles and working in a range of institutions and organisations.
- You will have the opportunity to interact with students from other Master’s courses located at Birmingham School of Art and the wider Institute/Faculty.
- You will be supported by a highly professional staff team, doctoral researchers, technical demonstrators and artists in residence in a caring and supportive environment.
- We have good external links with internationally recognised galleries (Ikon, BMAG, Tate) and organisations in the creative industries (ELIA) and the wider community. Our graduates have shown work in renowned galleries (including Tate Modern) and at prestigious events (such as the Venice Biennale).
- A high number of graduates have been awarded fully funded Arts and Humanities Research Council and Birmingham City University Scholarships for PHD study.
- Financial support may be available via the Postgraduate Loan initiative, Birmingham City University Scholarships, the Gertrude Aston Bowater Bequest and Mike Holland Trust (which is MA Fine Art specific).
- Each year the MA Fine Art course participates in an Inter-Institutional Symposium with a select number of other MA Fine Art courses throughout the UK.
BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art or Art and Design, or other Arts-based Degree course, related subject. The minimum academic qualification required is a 2:2 award. Those with equivalent prior professional or life experience will also be considered.
Fees & How to Apply
- UK students
- International students
Starting: Sep 2022
- Part Time
- 2 years
- Register interest
Starting: Jan 2023
Starting: Sep 2022
Starting: Jan 2023
- Full Time
- 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below
- Register interest
Access to computer equipment
You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.
You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.
All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.
Access to Microsoft Office 365
Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.
You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.
Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.
Free access to Rosetta Stone
All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.
Free access to LinkedIn Learning, which offers over 5,000 in-depth and bite-sized courses.
Free Adobe Creative Cloud licence
Students studying on this course can request a free licence to install the entire suite of applications on up to two personal devices.
Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)
This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities.
Excess printing (optional)
Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.
Field trips (optional)
This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.
Accommodation and living costs
The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.
*Professional Placement option
The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.
This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market. Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.
You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study. You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School.
Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course. All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.
You are required to submit a digital portfolio of no more than 12 high quality images of your recent artwork. You may submit it as a power-point, comparable form of presentation such as Prezi or direct us to your website.
If you are working with video or sound you must submit a show-reel of selected work no more than 20 minutes in length.
All items must be accompanied by the title of the work, date, media, and size. For time-based work you must state the length of each individual work.
Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.
Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.
Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:
Your passion and motivations
Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?
Why this course?
Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.
What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?
Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.
Relevant academic or work experience
Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?
You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.
Get more information on writing personal statements.
Course in Depth
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 160 credits):
This module is self-directed by you and allows you to develop your individual and/or collaborative practice in whatever form it takes in relationship to the development of your theoretical and/or contextual research. In the first instance it is anticipated that you will reorientate your practice and that this will be moved forward through practical experimentation and research towards the creation of a developmental platform. There is also an opportunity to acquire new practical skills in alternative media and/or related disciplines where relevant.
This module is self-directed by you and allows you to further develop and consolidate your individual and/or collaborative practice in whatever form it takes in relationship to the development of your theoretical and/or contextual research. This module further deepens and enhances the orientation, practical experimentation and research within the creation of a developmental platform. Practical skills in alternative media and/or related disciplines where relevant will be further enhanced.
The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practical outcome with accompanying reflective, critical and contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be relevant to your programme and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.
This module is largely self-directed with tutorial/ supervisory support and offers you the opportunity to develop your study towards higher degree research and/ or professional practice and engagement in the workplace.
In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following indicative list of OPTIONAL modules.
The module examines a range of works of art and craft, designed objects, ethnic artefacts and architecture from periods embracing the early modern to contemporary, considered in the light of socio-historical contexts, intellectual discourses, theoretical models and methodological approaches. Students are thus introduced to different historical periods, products of art and design from within those periods, the cultural politics and technological developments that have helped shape them, and research questions and methodologies that can be brought to bear on them. Weekly meetings present independent topics, not necessarily in chronological order, but selected so as to demonstrate the wide diversity of objects from visual culture for potential study and the range of approaches that can be applied to them. Students are encouraged to reflect on and evaluate their own practice, to locate their approach in the field and develop a clear rationale for their approach.
This module, Contemporary Philosophy & Aesthetics explores how Fine Art is made and understood conceptually. How thinking in Fine Art works. This may inform research into practice via the meeting of philosophy, visual culture and social contexts within Fine Art practices. We may look at exhibitions artists and cultural discourses. For example: texts, films, music, fashion and events. It sets the stage for developing your own critical knowledge of the complexities underlying modern and contemporary life and in so doing, building your concepts and language, in your own practices.
The purpose of this module is to introduce you to contemporary curatorial thinking. Throughout the module, you will encounter a range of concepts, themes, approaches and methodologies relevant to your discipline including the role of the curator and exhibition making; the museum and gallery as context and framework; the role of the artist-curator-artist, curating for new media and technologies and curating global exhibitions. You will be supported to develop skills in confidently articulating your knowledge in verbal and written forms.
This module attends to both historical and contemporary models of practice in relationship to the emergence of queer theory. We will explore a range of art practices and queer methods that critique or subvert dominant modes of representation and operation. Focus is given to the following areas: Introduction to queer theory, Art beyond representation, Queer Speech, Queer horror, Education and transgression, Queering the Archive; Care; Queer reading.
The module examines art as a social practice, its relationship with our present time and links to historical works and contexts. You will be introduced to key examples and debates within Social Practice with focus given to the following areas: Activism, Antagonism, Participation, Collaboration, Community, Environmentalism, Relational Aesthetics, Socially Engaged Practice, Dialogical Art & Institutional Critique.
This module provides you with an insight into entrepreneurship and small business start-up within the arts and related sectors. Its focus is an exploration of the practicalities of starting-up a creative business. It also covers the nature of the creative industries as a whole as well as the significance of entrepreneurship within the arts and society as a whole.
The acts of photographing and researching are intrinsically linked. They are both activities concerned with expansion and contraction. If we imagine a photograph as a means to isolate a sphere of reality (with all of the caveats this statement demands) that are rendered, most often, in fractions of seconds. Then we could think in a similar way about research. An effort to know more and more about less and less.
The module will be based on a specific workshop process (e.g. for example in the print room this might be etching, screen-print or lithography etc.), technical method (e.g. for example this might be around casting techniques, film and video making, 3D modelling etc.) or material (e.g. for example this might be an investigation into the material properties of clay, stone, a textiles material, etc.). You will independently identify and investigate your chosen line of enquiry to enable you to engage in practical hands on experience of a fabrication/production process.
This module provides a grounding in arts and transcultural communication, using artistic practices and discursive frameworks to highlight and examine issues related to communication. Communication, but also translation and interpretation intended from a linguistic, visual, cultural, artistic and curatorial perspective, are crucial when working internationally (and locally) with different communities. This module is for those students who aim at working and researching in a transcultural global environment more critically and effectively.
This module will explore publishing as a dynamic contemporary art form, a vehicle for the dissemination of ideas and an exploration of radical formats for bringing your art to a wider public. You will be introduced to artist-made books, self-publishing, digital publishing and other non-gallery modes of sharing and communicating art.
Art and Ecologies 20 credits
Core modules are guaranteed to run. Optional modules will vary from year to year and the published list is indicative only.
The course comprises of five modules, taken over a one year full-time or two-year part-time route.
Learning strategies include:
- Independent learning
- One to one tutorial support
- Group tutorials
- Taught staff led seminars
- Student led seminars
- School of Art Public Talks Series
- Lectures and conferences
- Library research/resources
- Field trips (where appropriate)
Classroom activities and projects
The staff team is highly professional with extensive expertise within their individual specialist subjects and fields of research. As an MA Fine Art student, you will also have access to visiting professionals working in the art world.
Teaching throughout this course reflects the dynamic and current interests of the year group. Alongside this, students are supported in the independent investigation within their artmaking, in relation to a critical, theoretical and contextual frame.
You will be involved in group tutorials and student-led seminars that invite you to present your research and practical work for the group to consider and critically evaluate. The intention here is to share your ideas with other people who become ‘critical friends’ to help you think through your work in new ways.
Throughout the course, students are encouraged to make public exhibitions and events, and seek opportunities to test and to showcase work. There is a fantastic opportunity to show your work by contributing to an Interim Show and the Masters Final Exhibition. Our students have a reputation for being ambitious and year on year, our shows are exciting and thought provoking. As a result of the final shows numerous students have gone on to establish their profiles internationally.
Grace is an artist and lecturer, currently based at De Montfort University. After her graduation from the MA Fine Art course she became the Gertrude Aston Bowater award holder for practice-led PhD research working toward the thesis 'The Supernatural Sex: Women, Magick & Mediumship: Assembling a Field of Fascination in Contemporary Art'.
Traversing photography, film and installation her work explores the performance and sexual politics of the female body within the fields of Mediumship (channeling conduits) Magick (Occult, black magic), Magic (vanishing women) and pre-narrative cinema; with a specific focus on the materialising mediums within the Thomas Glendenning Hamilton photographic archive, for which she received the T.G Hamilton research Grant from the University of Manitoba, Canada.
Images: Escamotage / After Cecil Beaton
Ning-Hsin Chang (Losa Cola)
Losa is a sculptor, installation artist and poet. Her work is concerned with the experience of women in Taiwan and the expectation of traditional gender roles that she works to subvert in a nuanced way through the creation of anthropomorphic post-human creatures and partial body parts. Her work uses a range of material but most commonly involves the use of clay, wax, fabric, text and sound.
Images: Strange Attractors (2016) / Untitled Creature (2016)
Enhancing employability skills
As you study this course you will develop a set of transferrable skills such as creative problem solving, communication and presentation skills, adaptability and flexibility, independence and teamwork, and good time management.
You will also learn technical and digital skills in a range of workshop practices linked to your individual development.
Links to Industry
Birmingham School of Art has a wide array of links with partner organisations regionally, nationally and internationally. These partnerships will provide work experience opportunities for you, and contribute to your learning and teaching activities.
Regional - Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ikon Gallery, Eastside Projects, Coventry Biennial, Midlands Art Centre, New Gallery Walsall, Mead Gallery, VIVID, Capsule, Grand Union, Stryx, Hippodrome, the REP, the new Library of Birmingham, Primary and Secondary Schools across the region.
National - Arts Council England, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool etc.
Placements are one of the possible ways of fulfilling your Research in Practice module. There is scope for placements with a number of organisations in the city and beyond, however it is your responsibility to plan and organise your placement with the organisation you wish to work with.
Placements can last for a few weeks or for a longer period of time. They provide you with a great opportunity to gain insight into how an organisation works and your reflection on their activities can be useful to them as you develop your research. You will also find that this is a great way to meet and network with people in the creative industries. Our members of staff are able to guide and support you through this process.
MA Fine Art with Professional Placement
The Professional Placement version of the course is optional and is offered as an alternative to the standard version of the course.
This will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree.
You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement. The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study.
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.
Graduate employment is high. In the 2014-2015 DLHE survey 100% of full time and 87% of part time students who joined the Art-based Masters programme graduates were in employment with graduates from 2013-2015 earning between £20,000 and £35,000 per annum. A high number of 2014-2015 graduates reported that the programme prepared them well or very well for employment.
Feng Ru Lee - Winner of the prestigious Taipei Prize in 2000
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 placed, 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:
Our international students
The Art Based Master’s Programme is an international community of aspiring researchers and professionals and the programme attracts candidates from all over the world including: Africa, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the USA.
This diversity provides you with an opportunity to study with people from diverse social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and who bring a wealth of experience to the programme. This gives the ABM programme a dynamic energy that enriches everyone’s educational experience.
Facilities and Staff
We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £340 million on new learning facilities.
Birmingham School of Art (an impressive purpose built Grade 1 listed example of Venetian Gothic architecture) was the first major renovation project undertaken by the university (£5.5m refurbishment). The School provides an incredible resource for the production of art and its associated fields of study. The building has a range of facilities available including studios, workshops, specialist art and design library, bookable spaces and lecture/seminar rooms.
Course Leader: MA Fine Art
Mona Casey is MA Fine Art Course Director and Birmingham School of Art International Lead. She is also module leader for the MA programme Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice.
Mona was born in Ireland and currently lives in the UK, where she works as a curator, artist and researcher.
Mona directs and has initiated a range of projects including; ARTICLE, which collaborates with curators to explore artist-led curatorial models in exhibition making, co-developed ‘The Museum of [ ] Objects’ an alternative, temporal model for a Museum collection, which arose out of a framework, developed at mac Birmingham, and was co-founder and curator of COLONY an artist-led exhibition space based in Birmingham, which operated for a four-year period and represented artists at ZOO Art Fair at the Royal Academy. Between 2006 – 2011 she was co-director/steering group member of The Event, a bi-annual presentation of artist-led galleries and projects. She also collaborated as artist duo, Casey & McAree, who were represented by The Agency Gallery in London.
Currently Mona is working with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s Pre-Raphaelite collection as part of a commission by mac Birmingham. She is also collaborating on a project titled – Silent Stage, based in Lithuania which investigates the site of the exhibition as a staged environment.More about Mona
Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
Jennifer Wright is an artist and Senior Lecturer, with an extensive history of visiting and examining Fine Art courses in England and Holland. Trained as a painter, but now working in a range of handcrafted and digital mediums Jennifer has exhibited both in the UK and internationally since graduating from the M.A. Fine Art course at Birmingham.
Jennifer has developed an expanded art practice that has included site-specific installation addressing design and pattern in domestic interiors. She was co-founder and co-curator of The Pattern Lab, an artist collective researching the history and application of pattern in art and design with a focus on textiles and concern for working with archives of different kinds. In particular, this research addresses how such processes are used in or shape contemporary domestic environments. Her work involves using a variety of media, investigating how various processes translate images or information differently. Research into contemporary technology has also lead to an investigation of mediums and media from the past, continuing her interest in archival material and developing her interest in media archaeology.
Jennifer has works in collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum London and The Whitworth Museum and Art Gallery Manchester.More about Jennifer
Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and Art and Design
Esther has taught in Fine Art Theory and Practice for fifteen years. She is a curator, artist and writer and has curated at Camerawork Gallery and Darkroom, The Photographers’ Gallery, the ICA and The Royal British Society of Sculptors. Esther established two art school galleries, the waiting room, University of Wolverhampton and mirror, LCP London. She was director at Hull Time Based Arts and Co-directed, with Dallas Seitz, an artist led space 1000 000 mph, London. Her research looks at political subjectivities, femininity, re activated psychoanalytic texts and the exhibition as art work.More about Esther
Senior Lecturer in Fine Art
Franziska Schenk is an artist and researcher with an MA in Fine Art (with Distinction) and First Class Honours degrees in Fine Art (Birmingham City University), and in Art Education (Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt). A well-qualified, experienced Lecturer in Fine Art at Birmingham City University and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Birmingham.
She is initiator of, and principal investigator on, funded art and science projects focusing on the conversion of nature’s iridescent colour to the painter’s palette – thereby introducing flow, dynamism, transience and an evolutionary element into painting.More about Franziska