University of Chester

Programme Specification
Fine Art MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts

Fine Art

Fine Art

University of Chester

University of Chester

 University of Chester, Kingsway Campus

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time

6 Years

Annual - October




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Art and Design


Art and Design (2008)

Masters Degree Characteristics

Not applicable

Art and Design

Wednesday 10th December 2014

  • Promote studio practice through which students can deepen artistic knowledge, extend expertise and develop artistic potential as independent learners.
  • By relating theory to practice, allow students to understand critical ideas and subject their work to robust scrutiny thus negotiating contexts that will lead to new artistic insights.
  • By developing an attitude of scepticism and enquiry enable students to give their work a sharpened focus and purpose. 
  • Promote a level of self-confidence that will enable students to extend the ambition of their work and to practice and exhibit as artists in a professional context or to continue as practice-based researchers.



  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of a wide range of practice strategies and working procedures, research methods and contextual/theoretical frameworks, in order to be able to systematically map the territory they are working in and orientate and position their practice/research (AD7001, AD7506).
  • Demonstrate highly developed creative thinking, discrimination and critical rigour in the formulation and evaluation of practice based solutions; and the capacity to independently generate connections between individual studio enquiry and its resonance with the historical, cultural, social, theoretical, philosophical, critical and contextual factors that impact on contemporary fine art practice (AD7003, AD7004).
  • Demonstrate original insight into the relationship between practice and theory through a highly creative and imaginative interrogation of materials, processes and contextual and conceptual frameworks; and be able to assimilate and communicate the outcomes of this interrogation in a coherent and sophisticated manner (AD7005).




  • Demonstrate the ability to challenge established ways of working; systematically interrogate concepts, contexts and appropriate research methodologies to inform the development of their studio enquiry and employ discernment in the selection of appropriate practice strategies in the presentation of their work (AD7001, AD7506).
  • Employ advanced creative and critical thinking in the interrogation of speculative lines of enquiry and the generation of innovative outcomes in order to develop and define a focused research agenda that maps out a coherent relationship between theory and practice (AD7003, AD7004).
  • Be able to articulate and synthesise complex artistic ideas and research concerns showing aesthetic and conceptual originality and resolution (AD7005).




  • Be able to demonstrate rigour in the formulation and evaluation of appropriate research strategies and personal working procedures in establishing the parameters of their field of enquiry (AD7001, AD7506).
  • Demonstrate a sophisticated level of discrimination and discernment in relation to a working knowledge of materials and processes and the development of a personal visual language that is aesthetically articulate and conceptually coherent, which clearly identifies a robust personal research agenda (AD7003, AD7004).
  • Demonstrate a highly advanced level of creative independence, critically informed subject specific knowledge and understanding, technical competence and sophisticated reflective judgement in the context of a professionally curated exhibition (AD7005).




  • Be able to employ an extensive range of communication strategies to shape, record and present the complexity of their own creative practice and research concerns, within contexts of ambiguity, uncertainty and unfamiliarity (AD7001, AD7506).
  • Be able to effectively communicate creative concepts, complex knowledge and critical thinking in visual and written form in order to rigorously defend and confirm a focused research agenda (AD7003, AD7004).
  • Be able to clearly and confidently articulate an extremely robust synthesis of practice and theoretical concerns through both visual and written forms in a variety of complex contexts and situations (AD7005).



The MA (Level 7) programme is based on a relationship between practice and theory that allows students to understand critical ideas and subject their work to robust scrutiny, thus negotiating contexts that will lead to new artistic insights and an invigoration of their practice. All routes take account of professional artistic practice and in this sense have a strong vocational rationale. However, the award of Masters (Level 7), takes cognisance of developments in practice-based research in the creative arts and the emphasis is on appropriate research methods occupying a central position in artistic practice.    

The first two core modules AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice (40 credits) and AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design (20 credits) run parallel and complement each other, informing and supporting a developing understanding of the relationship between practice and research. These modules constitute the award of Postgraduate Certificate and provide the means by which students are able to establish their practice and working procedures allowing them to assume an informed position in relation to the development of their own work. The emphasis in the initial stages of both modules is on practice and research methodologies appropriate to the study of fine art at postgraduate level and the application of those methodologies to models of theory and practice more broadly within creative arts research and to individual emerging programmes of studio enquiry.

AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice is conceived as two distinctive stages. The first half of the module focuses on strategies for establishing practice through the mapping and positioning of practice, visual research, and speculative making. It provides students with the opportunity to generate a body of evidence which will provide the necessary clues as to the purposeful development of their practice and potential lines of research enquiry. The second half of AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice provides students with the opportunity to develop a number of projects which further test the viability of areas of enquiry identified in the first half of the module and to establish a more confident personal visual language. The reflective journal provides the vehicle in which students’ document and reflect on their process of development. Engagement in contextual research at this stage will focus on the range of possible territories in which students may find their developing practice positioned, providing them with an external frame of reference with which to reflect on the possible meaning(s) and motivation(s) of their work.  

AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design allows students to locate and articulate their practice within a research context. It provides an introduction to some of the broader critical debates and associated approaches and strategies relevant to contemporary art and design research. Students will be exposed to a range of research methods and encouraged to critically appraise the appropriateness of these methods to their individual working procedures and emerging concerns. The emphasis will be on a practical understanding of how existing research conventions and academic discourses can be used to position emerging practice and inform the development of an individual research agenda.  

The pattern of complementary practice and theory modules is then repeated with a further 40 credit studio module - AD7003 Reflective Practice and a parallel 20 credit critical and contextual module - AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice, the successful completion of which constitute the award of Postgraduate Diploma. 

AD7003 Reflective Practice provides students with the opportunity to accumulate a body of studio enquiry that allows them to develop their projects in greater depth. It provides the necessary studio time where they are able to follow intuitive 'hunches' and continue to experiment and take risks and a crucial ‘incubation’ period where research strategies and contextual frameworks  identified through AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design naturally begin to inform practical development and conceptual understanding. Assessment is based on the  presentation of a piece of work for exhibition which ‘sets the agenda’ for the students’ final AD7005 MA Major Exhibition/Research project, accompanied by a body of supporting studio work completed during the course of the module.     

AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice runs alongside AD7003 Reflective Practice and provides students with the opportunity to build on the Research Methods in Art and Design module and develop a personal research agenda which allows them to secure a more robust relationship between theory and practice. The module will place an emphasis on the artist as researcher where the primary concern is the positioning of the practice within a research context. It is expected that students will be able to situate their work within an appropriate artistic/cultural/theoretical context that will be interrogated as a means of both subjecting their work to robust critique and articulating their emerging concerns.

There are two key elements to the module:

  • Individual self-directed critical and contextual research - identifying contextual resources, establishing a personal research bibliography, contextual/literature review, critical analysis of key texts, critical reflection on the significance of research material to studio practice. In order to facilitate the above there will be a further emphasis on research skills.
  • Lectures/seminars designed to extend the students’ knowledge and understanding of a number of theoretical approaches relevant to fine art practice.

It is expected that the majority of the groundwork research for the critical rationale that accompanies AD7005 MA Major Exhibition/Research Project will be conducted during this module. The 'writing up' and final synthesis of the research and its relationship to practice will, however, take place during the MA Major Exhibition/Research Project itself. Assessment is based on a contextual presentation part way through the module, the submission of the research journal, together with a 500 word abstract that outlines studio strategies and the contextual framework for the practice thus setting the agenda for the MA Major Exhibition/Research Project.  

AD7005 MA Major Exhibition/Research Project (60 credits) is an independent project where students realise individual project proposals and give focus to their artistic concerns through the production of a creative project that will be publicly exhibited. The major project extends over the summer when students will be expected to work with a considerable amount of autonomy. Reflecting on the work produced for exhibition and drawing on research undertaken in AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice, students write a 1,800 word critical rationale where they will be expected to frame their practice within a research context. This is presented alongside visual documentation of their exhibition, providing a professional visual and written record of their project.


Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
AD7001 7 Orientating and Developing Practice 40 Comp
AD7003 7 Reflective Practice 40 Comp
AD7004 7 Contextualising and Articulating Practice 20 Comp
AD7005 7 MA Major Exhibition/Research Project 60 Comp
AD7506 7 Research Methods in Art & Design 20 Comp

Postgraduate Certificate - 60 credits (Successful completion of AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice and AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design)

Postgraduate Diploma - 120 credits (Successful completion of AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice, AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design, AD7003 Reflective Practice, and AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice)

MA (Level 7) - 180 credits (Successful completion of AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice, AD7506 Research Methods in Art and Design, AD7003 Reflective Practice, AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice, and AD7005 MA Major Exhibition/Research Project)



The programme accommodates students with diverse entry profiles; from more recent graduates to individuals wishing to reengage with their practice having been outside of education for a number of years. Entry into the programme will depend on candidates being able to demonstrate during the admissions procedure that they have reached a level of competence appropriate to meeting the demands of the programme and having the potential to benefit from it. Candidates will normally hold a minimum 2:1 honours degree in Fine Art or Art and Design (or equivalent). They should also have evidence of recent work. Consistent with the University's commitment to widen access to higher education, the department has a flexible admissions policy, and encourages applications from students from groups normally under-represented in higher education. Where students do not hold a 2:1 honours degree or their degree is in a subject outside of the field of Art and Design, the candidates’ suitability for the programme will be assessed through interview. Interviews are normally conducted by the programme leader and at least one other member of the programme team, allowing a shared assessment of the candidates' potential to benefit from the course. In such cases, and in line with the University's admissions regulations, the programme leader will complete an Admissions Equivalence form, stating in what ways the applicant is qualified to undertake the programme of study. A definitive version of the admissions criteria may be found in the University’s postgraduate prospectus and the University website. Non-UK candidates with evidence of successful completion of an equivalent higher education course in Art and/or Design should consult the Admissions’ Tutor or the International Office at the University. 

In addition to the generic University application, applications for the MA in Fine Art should include a short appended statement of intent, outlining the form, content and context of current work and proposals for its development. This should be supported by eight to twelve colour slides or digital images showing evidence of recent work. Suitable candidates will then be invited for interview, to which they should bring a portfolio of recent original work (or photographs in the case of three-dimensional or installation based work). 

Whilst all students have full access to the department’s specialist workshops, equipment, ICT facilities and technical support, it is expected that students on the part-time programme will also have their own appropriately equipped workspace.

The programme accords with the QAA subject benchmark statements for Art & Design and the Masters Degree Characteristics available on the QAA website (

Although the QAA Subject Benchmark for Art and Design is primarily intended for undergraduate study, this programme is conceived and structured to build on and extend students’ achievement at undergraduate level.  Indeed the benchmarks for art and design are de facto prerequisites for entry to the programme. In particular the programme acknowledges that: “Art and design curricula are designed to support individual development and creativity as artists... as well as the progressive acquisition of independent learning skills.” To expand, the document states that typically programmes are “designed to encourage the development of intellectual maturity, curiosity, personal innovation, risk-taking, independent enquiry, and effective management and planning skills.” The student experience embraces both subject specific and generic knowledge and understanding, attributes and skills. Learning in art and design stimulates the development of an enquiring, analytical and creative approach, and encourages the acquisition of independent judgment and critical self-awareness. “Art and design programmes encourage and prepare students to take increasing responsibility for the content and direction of their creative work, and require students to undertake significant and sustained periods of independent study. Typically, this takes the form of a major project presented in the latter stages of the programme.”  

The programme is conceived in a way that is entirely consistent. In alignment with the FHEQ generic level descriptors for level 7 a Master's degree in Fine Art is awarded to students who have demonstrated: 

  • a systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of fine art practice and research.
  • a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own area of practice and research.
  • originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how established techniques of research and practical enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline of fine art.
  • conceptual understanding that enables the student:
    • to evaluate critically current practice, research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.
    • to evaluate methodologies and develop critiques of them and, where appropriate, to propose new hypotheses.  

Typically, holders of the qualification will be able to:  

  • deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements, and communicate their concerns clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level.
  • continue to advance their knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills to a high level.  

And holders will have:  

  • the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
  • the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility
  • decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations
  • the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development

The programme is structured to facilitate the progressive establishment of a studio methodology and the acquisition of critical and contextual insights as well as the ability to engage in research relevant to studio practice; so that upon exit, students are able to complete a declared focused project autonomously.   

There are three essential elements to students’ learning: 

  • Skills: the development of an ability to apply appropriate studio practices and procedures in the autonomous production of creative work at a professional level.
  • Knowledge and understanding: the systematic development of working procedures, including research methods, the acquisition of new insights into relevant critical, artistic and cultural contexts that are at the forefront of contemporary artistic endeavour and understood in relation to the production of creative work. 
  • Learner autonomy: the development of ability to devise and complete, using appropriate means, a self-initiated artistic project that arises out of a body of personal work having a distinct artistic identity, which can be publicly exhibited.  

Reflective studio practice is at the core of the learning for the programme, which offers sufficient flexibility to facilitate personal artistic development where students can realise their creative ambitions. A variety of learning and teaching strategies are used in order to help students to achieve the learning outcomes. Seminars, lectures, individual tutorials, exhibitions and critiques of work in progress and student led presentations, stimulate the essential activity, self-directed studio work. There is also a programme of lectures by visiting speakers organised through the undergraduate Professional Practice module which postgraduate students are welcome to attend. Additionally, students on the MA programme have the opportunity to attend research events organised through Chester Centre for Research in Arts and Media (CCRAM). 

The need for effective but tactful monitoring of student progress throughout the course is recognised. Students’ learning is effected through their own learning programme, devised in consultation with the tutor and documented in a learning agreement. This should reflect students’ intentions within each module and the means by which it is to be achieved, taking account of module aims and learning outcomes. Following tutorials, students are expected to complete a tutorial report through which they record and reflect on the content of the discussion and summarise agreed courses of action. 

Critical and contextual modules that expose students to broad critical paradigms and theoretical issues mediate complex ideas and build confidence in engaging with critical analysis thus allowing the student to identify an intellectually robust reflective framework for their practice.  Students are expected to respond to critical ideas either by accommodation to personal practice or by structured critique.  

Study skills and research methods are delivered through the discrete research methods module, but they are also embedded within the practice module AD7001 Orientating and Developing Practice and the critical studies module AD7004 Contextualising and Articulating Practice

The focus on the individual should, however, not diminish the significance of an interactive learning community and the programme team is mindful of the need to create a strong group identity. The concept of the artist as thinker and innovative practitioner is fundamental to the programme and is seen to form a hub around which students with diverse interests can create a dynamic community where the interchange of ideas is an important feature of the learning process. The instigation of group activities in the form of seminars, criticisms, exhibitions, and occasionally, social events, is important to the success of the programme and this is especially so where part-time students often work in the isolation of their own studios.  

The maintenance of self-motivation within a student-driven programme depends also on the quality of interaction with teaching staff and the programme team recognises the need for an alert and flexible tutorial organisation in order to maximise on the tutorial base. Although student progress is monitored by the Programme Leader, students gain feedback from different members of staff through their presentations of work in progress and can request one-to one tutorials from any member of the programme team.   

Whilst the reflective journal is the instrument by which students articulate their learning intentions, the tutorial report is the means by which the substance of tutorial discussion and any ensuing action plan is documented.  Students are expected to complete a tutorial report form providing a summary of issues discussed during the course of the tutorial and a summary of agreed courses of action. A copy of this is sent to the tutor and a copy filed within the reflective journal.   

Following summative assessment, the module tutor will provide students with written feedback. However, the nature of seminar and tutorial discussion within Fine Art means that formative assessment and feedback is embedded at every point in the student experience throughout the programme.

The assessment methods for the programme reflect the belief that assessment should measure student performance in as close a relationship to the nature of the learning as possible.  For this programme, learning ranges between studio practice and the study of critical texts, from visual research to reflection on the outcomes of studio procedures. Thus assessment involves:

  • Practical work developed as a result of studio practice.  Students present work either as a portfolio, an exhibition or presentation of work in progress.  Assessment recognises the breadth of practical outputs that constitute contemporary fine art practice.
  • Reflective journals that are compiled to reflect students’ research and understanding of contexts, self-critical analyses of work and procedures.
  • Critical statements, proposals, or rationales that articulate students’ critical and contextual positions in relationship to the production of creative work.
  • Seminar presentations that demonstrate students’ understanding of issues and ideas and their ability to defend a position under questioning.
  • Essays and critical reviews that demonstrate students’ knowledge and understanding of theoretical positions and ability to articulate and develop critical and contextual arguments.

This is essentially a vocational programme and students who graduate from it are equipped to practice independently as artists. Because of its recognition of developments in practice-based research, the programme also equips graduates to continue an academic career as potential doctoral research students. Beyond this, a postgraduate degree, because of its focus and specialisation, often equips graduates to teach in further and higher education. As autonomous critical and creative thinkers, the knowledge and skills acquired through fine art practice can be applied to many professional contexts.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.

Research: Research within the Department of Art and Design is organised at faculty level through Chester Centre for Research in Arts and Media (CCRAM).  By encouraging critical exploration of contemporary practice and its reception and interpretation, the centre seeks to further the gathering body of knowledge in the areas of Art and Design, Media, and Performing Arts, and develop innovative models of best practice in the methodology and realisation of this knowledge. CCRAM aims to promote the growth and development of Arts and Media based research providing a creative, intellectual and organisational resource for all researchers in the Faculty.  Its members consist of staff and postgraduate students studying for MRes, MPhil, PhD and taught Master Degrees. 

Programme Information and University Regulations: All students are issued with a comprehensive MA Fine Art Handbook and have access to an online version of the handbook and relevant information concerning the University's regulations through the University's intranet Portal   

Academic/Learning Support: The Universities Learning Resources section provides a specialist subject librarian within the field of Fine Art and also provides dedicated learning support.    

Careers Advice: Careers' Advisors have been allocated to the Faculty of Arts and Media and students of Fine Art are able to access information concerning both vocational and educational opportunities following graduation.    

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