Master of Fine Art (MFA) | University of Oxford
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, interdisciplinary programme in the practice of contemporary art, designed to support studio-based and theoretical components of your artistic practice.

The course will provide an intensive series of one-to-one tutorials and weekly studio seminars, focused upon your own art-making, its key concerns and ideas, and your inter-dependent development with the other artists in the MFA group.

This studio-based learning programme will be supported by a regular seminar series engaged with current debates in contemporary art history and theory. The curriculum of reading and discussion will be tailored to the emergent concerns of the group and their dialogue with wider discourses of contemporary art and visual culture.

This student-centric approach to your own art making, as well as to its historical and theoretical context, will be possible because of the unusually small cohort size of the Ruskin MFA. Great attention will be paid to individual concerns, whilst generating a collective dynamic of mutual participation in generous and robust discussion. Through this process, you will be provided with a demanding yet supportive environment that allows you to engage with what it means to work as an artist today, considering how an artist's practice and ideas are understood in and across different social, artistic and intellectual contexts.

The course benefits from the extraordinary resources of knowledge across the University, placing special emphasis upon the experimental histories of art and art education, and their potential to transform knowledge, forms and situations. You will be expected to develop your artistic practice within the programme, researching and generating an advanced body of art work, employing the technical resources and facilities of the Ruskin and drawing upon Oxford’s extensive library and museum resources.

Varied teaching situations will be employed to identify and provide for each individual student's needs, and to draw individual artistic concerns into group dialogue to promote extensive contextual knowledge and awareness. 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 academic development. An additional provision of elective tutorials will also be made, enabling you to benefit from the individual research strengths of other permanent staff as well as regular visiting staff across the school, complemented by input from high-profile visiting lecturers;
  • two programmes of group seminars throughout the first and second terms, one dedicated to the presentation and analysis of studio work (such as group critiques) and one to the reading and analysis of contemporary art history and theory. These will be timetabled to facilitate the attendance of part-time students; and
  • complementary support through access to technical training for new skills and techniques, delivered by the Ruskin’s regular technical staff, as well as occasional skills workshops.

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.

Other courses in this area

Changes to the course

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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, 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 you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

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(s)

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.


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

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Ruskin School of Art to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision 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.

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 sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

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.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.


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.


There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of awards are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each year, to support graduate students in a range of disciplines. To find out more about your eligibility for these studentships, please see the AHRC Doctoral Training Programme website.


Annual fees for entry in 2019-20

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£12,570

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£6,285

The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.

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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.

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.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

Full-time study

Students are provided with basic materials such as paint, canvas, cartridge paper, glue, etc. There is no expectation for students to arrive with any additional equipment or materials beyond those they may already possess. Each MFA student receives a materials grant of £500 from the Ruskin School for each year of the course. On application to the Ruskin Graduate Studies Committee up to a further £150 is available for their work in the final show. Throughout the course, students are able to borrow an extensive selection of equipment on a sign-up basis. 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 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

Students are provided with basic materials such as paint, canvas, cartridge paper, glue, etc. There is no expectation for students to arrive with any additional equipment or materials beyond those they may already possess. Each MFA student receives a materials grant of £500 from the Ruskin School for each year of the course (half this amount per year for part-time students). On application to the Ruskin Graduate Studies Committee up to a further £150 is available for their work in the final show. Throughout the course, students are able to borrow an extensive selection of equipment on a sign-up basis. 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 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.

Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, 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.

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.


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:
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.

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.

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 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. 

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