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Contemporary Arts China - MA

  • Level: Postgraduate Taught
  • Starting: January 2021
  • Study mode: Full Time
  • Location: City Centre and Margaret Street.

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

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Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

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New £10,906 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,906 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

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.

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

  • UK/EU students
  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • TBC

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • TBC

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. 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.

*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.

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

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 can apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


In order to complete this course you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 160 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 interdisciplinary and transcultural exchange; they offer an opportunity to redefine Chinese contemporary arts in a global context.

Professional Development and Practice
40 credits

The module will assist you in the central stages of your Master’s degree, supporting your professional and personal development as employability lie at the core of this module, requiring you to take a proactive lead and responsibility for your learning. It will provide you with core knowledge of professional development (including skill audit, personal development plan, reflexive thinking etc.), and give you opportunities to advance your personal research interests, skills and practice within a professional context by undertaking a live project or work placement/residency at one of the course’s partner organisation. Overall, the module will encourage you to become independent, self-directed in your studies and capable of original research.

Research in Practice
20 credits

The module consists of shared sessions common to all students on the ABM Programme and discipline specific sessions with individual Course Directors or nominated members of the staff team. While it is formally located in Stage 2 there are a series of sessions on research methodologies delivered in Stage 1 that introduce a range of research methodologies and strategies for students to consider. This is further supported by a ‘writing and making’ workshop thus helping students to think creatively about their proposed investigation. The module largely consists of independent learning, student led seminar presentations (where appropriate), group discussion and individual tutorial support.

Major Project
60 credits

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.

In order to complete this course you must successfully complete at least 20 credits from the following list of OPTIONAL modules.

Contemporary Philosophy and Aesthetics
20 credits
Models and Methods of Curatorial Practice
20 credits
Queer Strategies in Practice
20 credits
Small Arts Business Set Up
20 credits
Photography as Research
20 credits
Creative Publishing and Public Dissemination
20 credits
Technical Methods, Workshop Practice and Learning
20 credits
Social Practice in the Visual Arts
20 credits
Art and Transcultural Communication
20 credits
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.

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 Graduates

  • AHRC/M4C funded PhD researcher at the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, School of Art, BCU, UK
  • BCU funded PhD researcher at the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts, School of Art, BCU, UK
  • Haarlem Art Space Manager, Wirksworth, UK
  • Photography Lecturer at University in Nanjing, China
  • Spanish National Research Agency funded PhD researcher at University of the Basque Country, Spain

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.

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

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).