Our MA in Contemporary Art Theory encourages practices that are speculative and reflective, encouraging research on and in a range of media. It is concerned with research methods that are experiential – embodied through and understood by the acquisition of a practice. The Theory MA supports an applied knowledge of art now, grounding schooling in the practices of art and contemporary art theory as well as extra-disciplinary and intermedial approaches.

MA students will be given a desk space in our masters studio, where you will develop a distinctive and ambitious research-practice by learning from and working as part of a community of artists.  The curriculum is an innovative blend of projects, seminars and workshops. For assessment, you submit project-work designed to engage and develop new hypereconomies of contemporary art and its variety of media, technologies, images, artefacts, tactics, texts, cultural contexts and professional practices.

Who is it for?

The programme is aimed both at aspiring arts professionals and professional artists who want to develop a research-based practice by extending their practical, theoretical, organisational and economic engagement with contemporary art. It develops from a broad to a specialist understanding of the technical resources and validating contexts in which artists work today, drawing inspiration and nourishment from the experience of our international student cohort.

Our Philosophy and Values

A defining aspect of our theory programme is the emphasis it places upon speculative scepticism - not proceeding from the position of knowing what art is; rather, being motivated by speculation on what it might be. We generate an atmosphere that supports mutual co-operation, a dynamic, intellectually ambitious environment in which staff and students can learn together. Our students generate and embody an assemblage of practices, combining process of production, translation and consumption.

Theory students work collaboratively, therefore we are very eager to select applicants based on their ability to work well as part of a creative team as much as we are interested in their artistic and academic potential. We attract students from all over the world with very different backgrounds and experiences. The focus on building a supportive creative community, on the rigorous and experimental combination of theory and practice and the international profile of the student body makes our Masters programme unique.

A defining aspect of our Masters Theory programme is that it places emphasis upon questioning accepted notions of artistic production as a means of encouraging you to develop a highly ambitious research-practice. To this end, we seek to provide specialist support for students wishing to pursue research on and in established fields of contemporary art practices and theory while fully engaging with the ever changing context of emerging media and innovative forms of critical and organisational praxis.

As such, the theory programme has the following specific aims;

• To undertake a systematic examination of major international art practices.
• To enable you to analyse the major strands of theory and criticism that inform your research-practice.
• To explore some of the principal critical and theoretical positions informing the interpretation of your research-practice and its organisational contexts.
• To provide you with a set of competencies, skills and understanding that will enable you to pursue a rewarding life as a researcher-practitioner.

What do we do?

The School of Art contributes to Edinburgh’s contemporary art sector. Students benefit directly from our partners’ teaching and research input into their work, as well as from the considerable resources and experience they offer.

The School invites prominent artists, critics and curators to deliver our Friday Talks. Visitors also run workshops for our masters students and lead critiques.

What could you do?

The Theory MA will nurture the creative, organisational and economic knowledge required for a career in the contemporary art world that traverses the roles of artist, academic, artwriter and curator. The Theory programme is intended, equally, to bridge the gap between undergraduate and doctoral research, enabling you to prepare a successful application to a PhD programme. The Theory MA will also qualify you to teach studio art and theory in higher education.

Five reasons to join us:

- You are given access to a wide range of studio equipment, technicians and resources, including printmaking, metal, wood, casting, painting, photography, reprographic and digital facilities.

- Contemporary art is a moving target; staff and students engage in new practical and theoretical research, learning together. We nurture a democracy of creative experience, encouraging you to make your personal imagination social.

- Our staff are a mixture of professional artists, artwriters, critics, visual culture scholars and curators – enabling you to combine the practices of making, writing, theorising and organisation in their widest sense.

-  You will build and join a supportive community of international artists in our masters studios, one founded on the rigorous and experimental combination of studio, curatorial and theoretical practice.

- You will benefit directly from our partners’ teaching and research input, as well as from the considerable resources and experience they offer, allowing you to fully contribute to the creative, intellectual and social life of Scotland’s celebrated contemporary art scene.


Permanent Faculty includes a mixture of practicing artists, critics, visual culture scholars and curators. Many members of staff combine two or more of these roles bringing an exceptional diversity of expertise and experience to our postgraduate programmes.
John Beagles (Programme Director), Keith Farquhar, Torsten Lauschmann, Andrew Sneddon, Kristin Mojsiewicz, Rachel Maclean, Ruth Pelzer and  Deborah Jackson.
Visitors to the Masters in recent years have included: Maria Fusco, Laura Edbrook, Sue Tompkins, Stephen Sutcliffe, Michelle Hannah, Erica Eyres, Dave Sherry, Rob Churm, Ilana Halperin, Michael Wilkinson, Clara Ursitti, Michael White, Andy Cranston, Stacy Boldrick, Sarah Tripp, Anne Colvin, Guy Veale,  and Anthony Schrag.
Ellen Munro - (2006)ellen_munro_3
They Do Things Differently There, Talbot Rice Gallery, June 2010They Do Things Differently There, Talbot Rice Gallery, June 2010
Masters Students at Cove Park, Argyll, Scotland, January 2010Masters Students at Cove Park, Argyll, Scotland, January 2010