About this course
The Ruskin Master of Fine Art (MFA) degree is an intensive one year studio-based programme in the practice of contemporary art. You will be part of a small cohort on a course designed to direct and develop your artistic practice and theoretical knowledge in a supportive environment. The MFA provides an outstanding artistic environment for developing your practice in the context of a postgraduate, arts research culture.
The tutorial system is at the heart of teaching on the MFA and you will be supported by tutors of the highest calibre, with a student-to-staff ratio and contact time that are exceptional in UK art schools. The light and spacious MFA studios are located on the first floor of Ruskin's Bullingdon Road building, with easy access to workshops and media facilities downstairs.
The programme encompasses a diversity of disciplines including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, writing, installation, video, sound, performance, and other expanded forms in contemporary art. It aims to encourage experimentation and nurture a critical focus for your work.
Your artistic interests and those of your peers will be embedded in tutorials, seminars, and presentations, determining the direction of your creative development. You will engage with what it means to work as an artist today, considering how an artist’s work and ideas register in different social, artistic, historical, and theoretical contexts. You will be guided and supported by tutors in regular one-to-one tutorials and weekly seminars, focused on your making, key concerns, ideas, and their interdependent development.
Studio-based learning is facilitated through regular group reflection, which is characterised by collective participation in generous and robust discussion. A programme of dedicated masterclasses and skills workshops is designed specifically for the MFA. Facilities, such as the media lab and editing suites, printmaking workshop, casting, metal, and wood workshops, are on site in the Bullingdon Road building (https://www.rsa.ox.ac.uk/study/resources).
Ruskin students benefit from being part of a large University, with access to lectures and seminars in other departments and colleges and to specialist libraries and collections. The city’s varied cultural organisations include the Ashmolean Museum, Pitt Rivers Museum, and Modern Art Oxford, and students can freely access the Botanical Gardens and many other green spaces in and around Oxford.
The MFA is built around three compact eight-week terms, with students expected to continue working through the winter and spring breaks. A typical week on the MFA during the first two terms (Michaelmas and Hilary) includes: a half day research or practice seminar, an individual tutorial, and a skills workshop or masterclass.
The rest of your time on the course is dedicated to independent study: artistic practice and research in the studio, utilising Ruskin’s workshops and facilities and using the libraries. At the end of second term (Hilary), you will submit an Extended Text in support of the studio project. The last term (Trinity) is focused on the preparation of artwork for the final exhibition and a digital portfolio of studio practice for examination. MFA students and staff work together to curate and install the degree show in the MFA space at Bullingdon Road, which opens at the end of term.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Ruskin School of Art and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
MFA students see their allocated Studio Practice tutor and their allocated Extended Text tutor regularly for individual and group tutorials throughout the year. Meetings with tutors happen three times a term at the minimum.
The MFA has three main modes of assessment:
A presentation of fully realised artwork, or body of works, made during the MFA programme. This requires students to develop, create and present a coherent, thoughtful installation of work within a group exhibition.
Portfolio of Studio Practice
A digital portfolio of studio practice documented by photographic or other means. Throughout the programme, students are encouraged to construct approaches to documentation appropriate to their practice and research.
A written text of 4-6,000 words in support of the studio project. Students are encouraged to take an experimental approach to writing as they develop an account of the methodology used in the final project, an exposition of its theoretical framework, or an essay on a topic of direct relevance to their practice.
Many alumni from the Ruskin have pursued careers as practising artists, teachers, curators and gallery professionals in both public and private galleries. Others have gone on to pursue careers in diverse areas such as education, architecture and the film industry.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in fine art or a related subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA generally sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
Details of any exhibitions, publications, awards, or residencies you have held that would be of interest to the assessors should be included in the application.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Shortlisted candidates are invited to a fifteen-minute interview, conducted by a panel of Academic staff and MFA tutors. Interviews are held online on Microsoft Teams as part of the admissions process.
At the interview candidates will initially be asked to speak about work from the portfolio they have already submitted and then respond to questions from the panel. We strongly suggest that candidates do not read prepared notes during the interview so that they can engage freely and responsively in discussion.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Intellectual life and community
The Ruskin School of Art is home to a closely-integrated creative and intellectual culture between graduate and undergraduate programmes, students and staff. Its intimate scale fosters highly productive, informal collaborations across all parts of the school, allowing you to work closely with some of the UK's leading contemporary artists, writers and art historians.
Studio and technical resources
The Ruskin has dedicated studio space for all students to work together or individually, as well as workshops for specialist training in digital, 2D and 3D media. The project space at the Ruskin’s Bullingdon Road site is equipped for contemporary art practices, from performance and digital installations to painting and sculptural work. There is also a communal kitchen, shared by all Ruskin programmes, which has facilities for some food preparation. More information about the Ruskin's facilities is available on the department's website.
Museums and galleries
The Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History are important centres for the research and display of artefacts and artworks, Modern Art Oxford has a national and international reputation for the quality of its exhibitions of contemporary art, and for its accompanying community and education programmes. Ruskin students and staff have participated in exhibitions and public presentations at Modern Art Oxford.
Libraries and archives
The University of Oxford's libraries, centred on the Bodleian, are the UK’s largest academic collection. The University's integrated library service comprises nearly 40 libraries, many offering borrowing rights. The Ruskin has its own specialised library of more than 7,000 volumes, including lending and reference collections focused on art history, art theory, art techniques, exhibition catalogues and artists’ monographs. The Ruskin holds around 20 sets of art journals and more than 2,000 art-related pamphlets.
TORCH, The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities, offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities.
Ruskin School of Art
Oxford’s Ruskin School of Art provides an exceptional teaching and research environment that enables contemporary artists, art historians and art theorists to work closely together in a world-leading, research-intensive university.
The Ruskin offers a one-year (three terms) Masters in Fine Art (MFA) and a graduate research programme, the DPhil in Fine Art, with a cohort of both practice-led and theory-based doctoral researchers.
It also supports a wide-ranging portfolio of art making and research activities by its students, staff and visiting scholars in which fine art is prized as a vital component of contemporary culture with a broad range of practical, historical and theoretical references.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the school's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
The fees do not include the costs of materials that you may use as part of your course. Each MFA student receives a materials grant of £500 from the Ruskin School of Art, shortly after arrival. On application to the Ruskin School of Art Graduate Studies Committee up to a further £150 is available for preparing and installing work for the final show. The school stocks a wide range of materials, which you can purchase at cost, and students are able to borrow an extensive selection of equipment on a sign-up basis. There is no expectation for students to arrive with any additional equipment or materials beyond those they may already possess. Some basic materials with very low unit costs - eg basic ironware for fixtures and fittings, glue, etc. - are available without charge. You will need to meet any course-related costs incurred in excess of the £500 plus £150 grants. In the first week of the first term, all students pay an equipment deposit of £100. The deposit system is to secure against the borrowing of departmental equipment and the deposit is returned to the student, less any costs incurred by the School for loss or damage, at the end of the course. MFA students stage a public exhibition of their work following the final examination and they collectively raise funds for this through sponsorship, drawing sales, and other activities.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students for the Master of Fine Art:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.
Queries about the course can be directed to the Ruskin's Graduate Administrator.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Ideally, you should provide at least two academic references. If you have been out of education for a substantial period of time, you may use up to two professional references relevant to the course.
Your references will support artistic achievement and creativity, intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and your ability to work individually and in a group.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words
Your statement should be written in English and describe your art practice and its relationship to other artists’ work and relevant discourses within contemporary art. You should explain your motivation for applying for the MFA course at Ruskin and indicate specific interests you might want to pursue in the development of your art practice.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
In the application process, you will be prompted to upload an example of 'written work': you should upload a single page PDF with just one URL to an online portfolio of your work. Please note, you should not upload a PDF of the portfolio itself or your application could be invalidated. Please do not use the University’s large file upload portal for your portfolio.
Your digital portfolio should consist of recently-completed studio work. You can submit up to 15 still images and/or 12 minutes in total of moving image (film/video), time-based (eg performance documentation), or sound work. Within the portfolio, you should include title, medium, size, and date of individual works and avoid all other textual annotations.
Portfolios should be accessible online via a working link, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure the link is operative throughout the admissions and interview period. Dedicated section(s) of a website or platforms such as Vimeo or Google Drive (without password protection) are recommended. Password-protected sites, ad-heavy platforms (eg Flickr), and those requiring individual access permissions (eg Dropbox) should be avoided.
The department will not accept portfolios submitted via email. If you cannot provide a web-based portfolio, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss alternative arrangements.