Course specification and structure
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PFMAFIAR - Master of Fine Arts

Course Specification

Validation status Validated
Highest award Master of Fine Arts Level Masters
Possible interim awards Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
Total credits for course 180
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Subject Area Art
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 1 YEARS  
Part-time Day 2 YEARS  
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

The MFA Fine Arts is a practice-led postgraduate art, photography or design master’s degree course, grounded in the understanding that art, photography and design are key vehicles of critique as well as drivers for change in society and the environment. The programme offers students an introduction to practice at postgraduate level that may be further developed at doctoral level, as appropriate. The challenges and opportunities for artists, photographers and designers are being constantly reimagined as the unpredictability of the future tests our capacity to adapt, invent and apply creative solutions and responses to emerging needs and scenarios. Graduates of this course will produce work that defies narrow conceptions of the artist, photographer or designer as concerned solely with visual communication or practical and commercial content.

A key aim of the MFA Fine Arts course is to encourage postgraduate students to understand the role of the artist, photographer or designer in contributing to the societal creative economy as a dynamic agent, commentator and author of cultural change; and to pursue with rigour the advancement of aesthetic literacy or visual communication philosophies through a breadth of media. Our goal is to lead our postgraduate students to developing a sustainable art, photography or design practice to meet the requirements of either or both the commercial and experimental art, photography or design sectors, where deep analysis and fast, flexible, imaginative process across all media platforms are ever more in demand and expected.

There is an emphasis upon situating the postgraduate student in a real, complex and ambiguous context for project work, with parameters that cover social, political and economic contexts as well as the physical and mediated. The course focuses in an advanced and systematic way on current and relevant aspects of the profession and practice of art, photography or design, and this is enhanced using live projects and professional partners that are integral to the course.

The MFA Fine Arts course recognises the whole range of strategies and tools available to artists and designers, from traditional processes and media to emerging media platforms. Creative exploration of art, photography and design possibilities through traditional, digital and post-digital means is encouraged, the retrospective consideration of the traditional and the thrill of the new offering both creative and commercial opportunities. This course seeks to capitalise on these with its unique reservoir of creative and commercial staff expertise and physical resources.

Projects are delivered within selected studios that set the theme over the academic year. The studio, led by experienced artists, photographers or designers, initiates projects that offer the student a choice of a wide range of research interests and contemporary cultural and theoretical contexts. They will share a commitment to contemporary art and design and their global and local contexts and a desire to test the premises of art and design, theoretically as well as practically. The course offers students a realistic professional practice environment, with access to the extensive studios and making facilities of the School.

The course employs a range of teaching and learning strategies.

Projects enable students to develop and extend their individual intellectual and creative capabilities. ‘Live’ projects develop management skills, negotiation and collaborative working skills while developing their own approach to working in real- world/ public contexts and professional standards of practice.

Peer review, critiques and self-evaluation encourage students to analyse and critically evaluate and engage with their own work and the work of others and develop advanced communication and presentation skills.

Seminars, reading groups, lectures support students to rigorously and systematically interrogate core practice, material, theory and case studies and provide a platform for debate and engagement in the wider world of creative practice and culture.

Blended Learning (the Weblearn virtual learning environment) includes the provision of course and module information on the web, project proposal development, practical, illustrated guidance in website creation, instruction in social media techniques, lecture notes and feedback. Weblearn blogs are used to enhance independent learning and record project development and foster student to student communication and support.

Self-directed study is core to the course and used as the basis for tutorial discussion and critique. Students will be encouraged to engage with personal development planning (PDP) to enable them to reflect on, plan and review their own personal development as an ongoing process.

Technical/ ICT workshop inductions and workshop demonstrations are available along with open access to technical/ ICT facilities to enable students to test and produce work in an appropriate medium based on their own research plans.

Professional practice talks and workshops are shared across the School and support students to develop their entrepreneurial strategies and the skills necessary for subject-specific or related professional practice and open opportunities for cross-disciplinary practice.

Course aims

The overall course aims (CA) of the MFA Fine Arts course are to:

1. produce graduates who can negotiate complex, unstable, ambiguous ideas, problems and scenarios to realise a confident, professional, and advanced output in art, photography or design;

2. ensure that graduates understand the importance of, and have the knowledge and experience to carry out, appropriate, in-depth and ethical art or design development research techniques and methods;

3. develop collaborative, entrepreneurial, team-working and presentational skills relevant to contemporary professional art, photography or design practice;

4. promote a lively, creative and collaborative learning environment, where dialogue and exchange are supported through live projects and pop-up events;

5. champion a supportive and dynamic studio culture that encourages postgraduate students from a broad range of backgrounds, to engage in heuristic learning and creative, critical enquiry and debate;

6. prepare students for the challenges and demands of the changing nature of art and technology;

7. ensure that graduates have the knowledge, skill and approach necessary to continuously adapt to changing demands to remain relevant in their field or seek new directions;

8. identify, research, plan and deliver an ambitious postgraduate level project to support advancement of their practice and the progress of their careers.

The MFA Fine Arts course addresses the needs of students from art, photography or design where traditional roles are increasingly blurred and art, photography or design skills may be needed in a variety of guises. The course also addresses the needs of graduates from associated disciplines at undergraduate level, but who are looking to switch disciplines at master’s level, by locating the subject in a broad creative and intellectual context and providing opportunities to advance techniques and skills, encouraging alumni to seek and create opportunities for the practice of their evolving discipline. Students whose first degree is not directly aligned to the MFA Fine Arts course will be supported and guided appropriately to meet the requirements and learning objectives of master’s level study and will be carefully selected to ensure that a discipline gap is not too great to be successfully bridged.

The MFA Fine Arts course programme recognises the increasing complexity of cultural practices informed by social, economic and technological contexts. The MFA Fine Arts course programme therefore aims to equip students with the knowledge and practical, theoretical and conceptual skills and competencies, required to function effectively as flexible and adaptable practitioners within the expanding arts or design sectors.

Course learning outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes in Knowledge and Understanding (KU)

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. produce viable, creative, innovative art, photography or design outcomes through the application of a well-founded art or design research and development process (CA1, CA8);
2. interpret and evaluate art, photography or design from a range of critical perspectives, considering the cultural and socio-economical context of their distribution and mediated consumption (CA2);
3. reflect upon and respond to audience response and impact, and commercial, ethical, environmental and legal issues involved in art, photography or design(CA2);
4. develop an individual response and approach to the creative challenges of art, photography or design, and be prepared to defend their position and work in practical, conceptual and socially responsible terms (CA6).

Course Learning Outcomes in Cognitive Skills/ Intellectual Skills (CI)

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. construct and apply an iterative process that communicates, tests and evaluates ideas and art, photography or design propositions through critical, self-reflective and objective processes of analysis (CA2);
2. critically appraise art, photography or design concepts and media within a given social, commercial, cultural and interdisciplinary framework (CA5);
3. clearly formulate and express the critical framework of ideas supporting an art, photography or design proposal through appropriate models of representation or written argument (CA3);
4. reflect upon and evaluate their own contribution to contemporary art, photography or design (CA2).

Course Learning Outcomes in Subject-specific Skills (SSS)

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. produce and propose from inception to completion, art, photography or design projects at a postgraduate level, demonstrating an advanced and professional creative response to challenging and complex self-set and/or external art, photography or design problems (CA1);
2. carry out effective research into current and emerging 2D, 3D, digital, print and photographic media, and select and specify those appropriate for their own art, photography or design proposals (CA2);
3. exhibit art, photography or design project management expertise, directing and managing the development and making process with others to achieve a convincing and well-worked proposal (CA7);
4. collate, document and present proposals effectively and persuasively in written, verbal and visual means in accordance with art, photography or design conventions and professional or commercial expectations (CA3);
5. present advanced understanding and apply an individual response to mediated issues of social responsibility attaching to art, photography or design (CA6).

Course Learning Outcomes in Key Transferable Skills (TS)

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. independently plan and effectively manage learning and project development to completion and presentation (CA1);
2. work effectively as a member of a team, recognising an individual’s potential for contribution and negotiating task allocation appropriately (CA3, CA4, CA5);
3. reflect realistically on the progress and success of the art, photography or design project and revise tasks and priorities accordingly (CA7);
4. articulate and defend clearly to clients, commissioners, peers and related professionals the intentions of art, photography or design proposals produced and the rationale underpinning their development and production (CA8).

Course learning outcomes / Module cross reference

Module Title Module Code CLO CLO CLO CLO CLO

Research for Practice FA7044 KU1 CI3 SSS1 SSS2
Sustainable Practice FA7045 KU2 KU3 KU4 CI1
Networking FA7046 KU2 CI2 CI4 SSS5 TS3
Project Development FA7047 SSS3 SSS4 TS1 TS3
Project as Professional Practice FA7P48 SSS3 TS1 TS2 TS4

Principle QAA benchmark statements

Subject Benchmark Statement; Art & Design

Assessment strategy

Assessment is based on individual project development, written submissions, individual and group presentations and a culminating project. Students are required to submit a portfolio of their relevant practical work together with all supporting material. Assessment includes a combination of diagnostic, formative and summative methods.

Assessment of knowledge and understanding is through coursework and projects. This may include as appropriate, oral presentations, group critiques, practical outcomes, continuous coursework, groupwork, practical (group and individual) critical review, study plans, learning agreements, reports, portfolios, verbal and visual presentations. Group critiques are used to assess students’ ability to identify and communicate their intentions both verbally and through their design practice.

Students are expected to participate reflectively in assessment. Self-evaluation involves students in reflection on their own progress in relation to the learning outcomes, and mirrors the assessment process conducted by the course team, providing the basis for discussion at assessment feedback sessions after formal coursework assessment has taken place.

There will be formative assessment and feedback throughout the course, delivered in-class, through tutorials, in critique sessions and at presentations of work in progress. Feedback will be recorded and provided to students in line with approved School procedures and timelines. Feedback will follow the School policy of ‘feed forward’ clearly identifying both strengths of the work reviewed as well as areas and ways to improve work for the future. Students are expected to maintain appropriate records of their work as it develops across their agreed programme of studies and to take part in seminar discussion of their own and others’ work.

Summative assessment involves a formal presentation of work produced and considers the measure of achievement in relation to module learning outcomes.

Organised work experience, work based learning, sandwich year or year abroad

Work-based learning is embedded within the course, through engagement with practitioners and through live projects and exhibitions. Students are required to take on organisational and entrepreneurial activities, to support the marketing and presentation of their own art or design practice or a collaborative venture, via outputs then sustainable beyond graduation: website, blog and social media. There is a group work assessment set to a work based brief commissioned by a professional art or design organisation outside the university.

Course specific regulations

The course will undertake a formal academic review of student performance at the end of each semester. Students performing below threshold standard will be recommended and/or required to revise their programme of study.
Specifically, students must have completed and passed FA7044 Research for Practice and FA7047 Project Development; and have completed FA7045 Sustainable Practice and FA7046 Networking in order to progress to FA7P48 Project as Professional Practice. They must undertake reassessment at the first available reassessment point.
CASS PGT Students can be considered for APL into the MFA (from a relevant PG course) up to 60 credits based on submission of a portfolio of work and interview.
Students returning from an intermission of study are required to submit a revised project proposal of an appropriate standard prior to re-enrolment.

Modules required for interim awards

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits):
Any combination of modules is valid for this award.

Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits):
Any combination of modules is valid for this award.

Master’s (180 credits):
All modules are core and required for this award.

Part time study (24 months)
Year 1: FA7044 Research for Practice (40), FA7045 Sustainable Practice (20), FA7046 Networking (20)
Year 2: FA7047 Project Development (40), FA7P48 Project as Professional Practice (60)

Part-time and full-time students will be taught together.

The Project module must be taken in the final year of MA study. Alternate sequencing of the other modules may be considered with academic consent.

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The course places a high value upon enabling postgraduate students to develop their confidence and independence as learners and practitioners of art, photography or design. The course has developed three reflective learning strategies including: peer-review, self-evaluation and the regular use of a research journal. These three elements taken collectively encourage analytical, critical and evaluative skills.

Opportunities for professional and personal development planning are built into this course through the curriculum, the choice of projects, studios and live projects. These allow the student to tailor the course around their specific interests. The self-directed nature of the ‘Project as Professional Practice’ module encourages meaningful engagement with personal development throughout the curriculum, enabling postgraduate students to reflect on, plan and review their own progress and development.

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

This MFA is a qualification to help you establish yourself as a professional, employed or self-employed artist, photographer or designer. The course exposes you to ideas, practices and individuals active in your field. There are professional practice and networking modules designed to help you develop your professional knowledge.

The Cass has a strong, long-standing and wide-ranging involvement with its associated professions and industries and previous Cass graduates have worked at Artsadmin, Pentagram, the Tate, the Royal Academy, Tom Dixon, Arts Council England, Heatherwick Studio, the Venice Biennale, Sotheby’s, Conran and many others.

Alternatively, we encourage graduates from the MFA to continue to study with us for an art or design PhD.

Career opportunities

The MFA qualification helps you establish yourself as an artist or designer, either self-employed or working professional. You can use the experience gained to self-organise and network to win contracts, commissions and shows. Our professional practice and networking module will help you learn how to do this.

You can also use the MFA qualification to help you to find work with major employers in the art and design sector such as:

  • Artsadmin
  • Pentagram
  • The Tate
  • The Royal Academy
  • Tom Dixon
  • Arts Council England
  • Heatherwick’s
  • The Venice Biennale
  • Sotheby’s
  • Conrans

You can also use the MFA to go on to study for an art and design PhD. A PhD can help you get into a higher education art or design career to teach or research at art universities all over the world.

Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • an upper second-class (2:1) honours degree in an art or design subject

If your application passes all requirements, the University will invite you to choose from a series of interview dates at which interviewers assess your portfolio before making an offer.

Upon receipt of an invitation to choose an interview date, applicants who live too far away for the interview may request submission of a digital portfolio.

Relevant professional qualifications or extensive professional experience will also be considered.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2017/18 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 07 Jun 2017 Last validation date 07 Jun 2017  
JACS codes W100 (Fine Art): 100%
Route code MAFIAR

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 07 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
FA7044 Research for Practice Core 40 CITY AUT+SPR MON AM
FA7045 Sustainable Practice Core 20        
FA7046 Networking Core 20        
FA7047 Project Development Core 40        
FA7P48 Project as Professional Practice Core 60 CITY SUM THU AM&PM