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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....

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.


Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time
  • Location Margaret Street
  • School Birmingham School of Art
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

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.

This course is open to International students.

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.

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.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements
Essential

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.

International Students

Entry requirements here

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £7,700 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £8,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 2 years
  • £3,900 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £7,700 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £8,500 per year

Award:

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below*)
  • £14,520 per year
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £13,200 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Jan 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 1 year
  • £13,200 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months (including Professional Placement - see below
  • £14,520 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.

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.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

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.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

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.

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.

Personal statement

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

Modules

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.

Course structure

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.


Student stories

Grace Williams

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)

Employability

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

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

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

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.


Our alumni

Hannah Honeywill

Hannah employs objects that already exist, in particular furniture, as it has a history and functionality. Her research has been heavily influenced by the ideas and concepts within queer theory. It is the play, history, silliness and the absurdity of queer methodologies that is present in her artwork.

She was selected for New Art West Midlands, 2016 and shortlisted for the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize, 2016. In 2015 her artwork was long-listed for the Aesthetica Art Prize and she won the Next Wave Prize in Birmingham in 2014. Her work was selected for the Art Laguna Prize in Venice in 2012 and the Threadneedle Prize in London in 2011.

Recent exhibitions have included:

  • Barber Institute Residency 2016-2017
  • Wellcome Trust Arts Grant 2015 -2016 
  • Pete Lloyd Lewis Studio Award 2015-2016
Feng Ru Lee - Winner of the prestigious Taipei Prize in 2000

Feng-Ru Lee’s practice is rooted in her Far-East Asian Cultural background her work crosses a range of different media and often-incorporates video, two dimensional works, performance and installation. Toying with ideas of mass production and genetic engineering, Lee’s practice is often seen as both a critique and an attempt to understand the seemingly controversial issues involved in the state of the contemporary human condition. Lee explores ideas that centre on the status of the transition/ migration between cultures and humanity, whilst also addressing notions of the materialisation of objects and beings. Subjects, such as Eastern philosophy and Western science that seem immediately differential, hold intrinsically deep and thought provoking issues for both the artist and viewer. Lee has exhibited throughout the UK, Taiwan and internationally including the USA, Middle East, Japan, and across Europe. In 2001 she represented Taipei, Taiwan in an artist residency programme between Taipei and Jerusalem. Lee has also completed residencies in Berlin and recently at the New Art Gallery Walsall.

Recent exhibitions have included:

  • Venice Biennale, 2015
  • Flux Fest at VIVID, Birmingham,
  • Jam: Cultural Congestions in Contemporary Asian Art at South Hills Park
  • Shift Time - The Festival of Ideas in Shrewsbury
  • Solo Exhibition at Entrance Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic.

International Students

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

Margaret Street exterior

Our Facilities

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.

Our staff

Mona Casey

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

Jennifer Wright

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art

Jennifer Wright is an artist and Senior Lecturer, teaching on B.A. (Hons.) and M.A. Fine Art programmes at the School of Art, Birmingham City University but also visiting and examining other Fine Art course in England and Holland. 

Originally trained as a painter, Jennifer has exhibited both in the UK and internationally since graduating from the M.A. Fine Art course at Birmingham. 

More about Jennifer

Franziska Schenk

Senior Lecturer in Fine Art

Franziska is an artist, researcher and educator whose practice has been located at the interface of Art, Science and Ecology for more than two decades. Notably, she has collaborated with scientists from the emerging fields of biomimetics and bio-photonics to introduce latest nature-inspired ‘smart’ materials and methodologies into Fine Art. Drawing on her prior SciArt experience and the lessons learnt, she is now bringing these to bear as part of her latest venture – the development of a new cross-faculty MA option module entitled ‘Art and Ecology: Creative Interventions’.

More about Franziska