Master of Fine Art (MFA) | University of Oxford
White paint dripping into a tray
Art installation in the Ruskin School of Art
(Image Credit: Ruskin School of Art)

Master of Fine Art (MFA)

About this course

The Ruskin 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 programme encompasses a diversity of disciplines including painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, art writing, installation, video, sound, performance and other expanded and experimental forms in contemporary art. It aims to encourage experimentation while supporting the development of a critical focus for the work.

The MFA is located on one floor with a series of individual studio spaces, alongside shared and open spaces, all of which contribute to an intimate environment of self-directed peer learning, supported by permanent and visiting staff of the highest calibre. It is an exceptional artistic environment, distinct from larger art schools in the UK.

The course encompasses regular one-to-one tutorials and weekly studio seminars, focused on your artmaking, your key concerns and ideas, and inter-dependent development. A program of dedicated masterclasses and skill-based workshops, designed specifically for the MFA, is available alongside a weekly school-wide high profile and diverse Visiting Speakers Program.

Our studio-based learning programme is facilitated through a regular seminar series characterised by a collective dynamic of mutual participation in generous and robust discussion; engaging with what it means to work as an artist today and considering how an artist's work and ideas are understood in and across different social, artistic and intellectual contexts. As part of this holistic approach to practice and theory, dissertation tutorials with specifically allocated tutors take place on a regular basis in the studios. You are encouraged to understand your work contextually and to discuss it in relation to contemporary, theoretical and historical discourse. Your personal artistic interests, and those of the cohort as a whole, are embedded into tutorials, seminars and presentations, determining the direction of your creative development, guided by the Ruskin faculty.

You will also have access to humanities and sciences lectures and seminars in affiliated departments and colleges across a world-leading University. The University’s specialised libraries are open to Ruskin students as are activities generated by the colleges. Oxford offers a wide range of cultural engagements, including the Ashmolean Museum, the Pitt Rivers Museum as well as Modern Art Oxford.

Varied teaching situations will be employed to identify and provide for individual student’s needs, these include a studio programme of individual tutorials over all three (or six for part-time students) terms, with an allocated tutor who will oversee your artistic development alongside a dissertation tutor to support your academic input. An additional provision of elective tutorials will also be made, enabling you to benefit from the research strengths of other permanent staff as well as regular visiting staff across the school, complemented by input from a weekly program of visiting speakers who are also available for individual tutorials.

Two programmes of group seminars throughout the first and second terms; one dedicated to the presentation and group analysis of your own studio work and one to the reading and discussion of contemporary art and its associated history and theories.

Complementary support through access to technical training for new skills and techniques in the areas of welding, metalwork, printmaking and media, delivered by the Ruskin’s regular technical staff, alongside supplementary skills workshops.

Masterclasses in the areas of writing, performance and research methodologies, amongst others.

Supervision

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. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Ruskin School of Art.

Assessment

The MFA will have three main modes of assessment:

  • an exhibition or other presentation of a fully realised artwork or body of artworks made by you during the MFA programme. This will require you to develop, create and present a coherent, thoughtful exhibition, or other presentation as appropriate, of artwork. Other presentations may include websites, live performances, etc;
  • an extended written text of 4,000 to 6,000 words. This piece of written work will require you to reflect upon your studio practice, drawing together aspects of the technical and formal processes of art making and considering them in relation to art-historical contexts and theoretical debates;
  • a portfolio of documentation of studio work. Throughout the programme, you will be required to make thorough, scholarly documentation of your work, to be submitted at the conclusion of the programme. This supports the assessment of the final exhibition or presentation in demonstrating the provenance of the processes, strategies and ideas manifest there.

Graduate destinations

Many alumni from the Ruskin have pursued careers in the fine arts 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, finance, 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 (including Covid-19), 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.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the school

History of Art and Visual Culture MSt
Film Aesthetics MSt
Fine Art DPhil

All graduate courses offered by the Ruskin School of Art

Fine Art DPhil
Fine Art DPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2021-22

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in fine art or a related subject. 

However, entrance is very competitive and most successful applicants have a good first-class degree or the equivalent.

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 publications and/or exhibitions you have held that would be of interest to the assessors should be included in the application.

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.

English language requirement

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.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*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.

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process.

Although the department prefers to conduct interviews in person, overseas candidates or applicants unable to attend are offered the option of skype or telephone interviews. In all cases, there will be a minimum of two interviewers. Additional supporting material (such as a more extensive portfolio) may be requested before the interview.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

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. Students and researchers at the Ruskin are also able to draw upon the expertise of staff, resources and facilities across the rest of the University of Oxford, including the extraordinary collections in its world-famous museums and libraries.

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 by Ruskin tutors in digital, 2D and 3D media. A new project space at the Ruskin's redeveloped Bullingdon Road site is equipped for the full breadth of contemporary art practices, from performance and digital installations to painting and sculptural work. The project space opens to the street for maximum public engagement with new work by students and staff. There are also communal spaces to foster dialogue and collaboration across all levels of the Ruskin's undergraduate and graduate programmes.

Museums and galleries

Oxford holds some of the world's richest collections of art and artefacts. The Ashmolean, Pitt Rivers Museum and Museum of Natural History are important centres for the research and display of artefacts and artworks within the University of Oxford and the Ruskin has excellent connections with the museums' network of curators, facilities and holdings.

Oxford also hosts important exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. 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. The Ruskin works closely with Modern Art Oxford in the provision of its undergraduate and graduate courses, and 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 Bodleian Library is a copyright library and as such it has long collected copies of all works published in the United Kingdom, in addition to an extensive range of foreign publications. Since it is not a lending library, its holdings are immediately available on request.

A main point of reference for most Ruskin graduate students is the Sackler Library, one of the principal research libraries of the university, which has incorporated the collections of the former Ashmolean Library (Western art), history of art, Eastern art and Classics. Its holdings are in excess of 200,000 volumes, and include monographs, catalogues, periodicals on fine and decorative art, theory, criticism, historiography, as well as the collections of Edgar Wind and Francis Haskell. All books and periodicals are open access.

The Ruskin has its own specialised in-house library of more than 6,500 volumes, which has been entirely reconfigured over the past three years. Since summer 2004 the Ruskin has evolved fully functioning lending and reference collections. Both collections include written material 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. The library is fully integrated into the University’s electronic circulation system and a digital archive of the slide collection, comprising 15,000 images, is available on the departmental server. Ruskin library terminals offer full access to the electronic resources of the University of Oxford.

The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities (TORCH) offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer up to 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2021-22. 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 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 college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the school's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2021-22

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£13,600
Overseas (including EU)£27,460

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home (UK, Republic of Ireland,
Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£6,799
Overseas (including EU)£13,731

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 likely increases 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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

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.

Living costs

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 2021-22 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,175 and £1,710 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2021-22, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). 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. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

How to apply

Queries about the MFA can be directed to the Ruskin's Graduate Administrator. It is not necessary to contact a member of academic staff before you apply.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

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.

CV/résumé

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 explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying
  • an understanding of your artistic work within broader contexts of contemporary art practice and discourse
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability.

Portfolio:
Up to 15 images and/or 12 minutes of moving image or sound work

A digital portfolio of recently completed studio work documented through images or other mode of documentation is required.

Your portfolio should be provided in digital format with your application, although you may be asked to bring along originals at the interview. Portfolios should be hosted on a website or service that is publicly accessible via the internet, eg via Vimeo, YouTube, Flickr or your own website.

A PDF document comprising the URL (and password, if necessary) for your portfolio should be uploaded to your application as written work.

The department will not accept portfolios submitted via email. If you cannot provide a web-based portfolio, please send an email to graduate@rsa.ox.ac.uk to discuss alternative arrangements.

Portfolios will be assessed for evidence of creative thinking and artistic accomplishment, and clarity in the exposition of ideas.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two must generally 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. 

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant button below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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