Royal College of Art

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Royal College of Art
Type Public
  • 1837 – Government School of Design
  • 1896 – Royal College of Art
Chancellor Sir Jonathan Ive
Rector Paul Thompson
United Kingdom
Campus Urban

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom, with campuses in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. The only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world, [1] :118 it offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries. [2] As of 2019, the RCA has placed first in the QS World University Rankings in the Art and Design subject area for five consecutive years, since the introduction of subject area rankings in 2014. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]



The RCA was founded in Somerset House in 1837 as the Government School of Design [8] or Metropolitan School of Design. [9] Richard Burchett became head of the school in 1852. [10] In 1853 it was expanded and moved to Marlborough House, and then, in 1853 [8] or 1857, [9] [10] to South Kensington, on the same site as the South Kensington Museum. It was renamed the Normal Training School of Art in 1857 [9] and the National Art Training School in 1863. [10] During the later 19th century it was primarily a teacher training college; pupils during this period included George Clausen, Christopher Dresser, Luke Fildes, Kate Greenaway and Gertrude Jekyll. [10]

In 1896 [8] or 1897 [9] the school received the name Royal College of Art, and the emphasis of teaching there shifted to the practice of art and design. [8] Teaching of graphic design, industrial design and product design began in the mid-twentieth century. The school expanded further in the 1960s, and in 1967 it received a Royal Charter which gave it the status of an independent university with the power to grant its own degrees. [8]


The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore Darwin Building, Royal College of Art in London, spring 2013.JPG
The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore

The RCA has three campuses, in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. [11] The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore dates from the 1960s and is a Grade II listed building. It was designed by a team of RCA staff members, H. T. Cadbury-Brown, Hugh Casson and Robert Goodden. [12]

In 1991 the sculpture department moved to a converted factory across the river Thames in Battersea. In the early 2000s the college conceived a substantial second campus being created on the site, with a minibus service linking it to Kensington. Thus, after a successful redevelopment of the premises by Wright & Wright (budget £4.3m, floor area 2,500 sq m), the present Sculpture Building opened in January 2009. [13] [14]

A masterplan was commissioned by Haworth Tompkins and phase 1 of their three phase design was completed with the opening of the Sackler Building on 19 November 2009, to house the painting department. Its name commemorates a major gift by The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. [15] [16] [17]

The Dyson Building, named in honour of James Dyson, whose educational charity donated £5m to the development, was opened on 24 September 2012. It is the home for printmaking and photography, and contains an innovation wing where start-up designers can launch their businesses. [18] [19]

The Woo Building was opened on 30 September 2015, completing the Battersea project. It is named in honour of Sir Po-Shing and Lady Helen Woo, who have funded scholarships at the RCA since the 1990s. It accommodates the Ceramics & Glass and Jewellery & Metal programmes. The building's anodised aluminium gates were designed by alumnus Max Lamb. [20] [21]


The RCA offers a Graduate Diploma pre-masters conversion programme, MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees [22] in twenty-eight subject areas, divided into four schools: architecture, arts & humanities, communication, and design. The history of design programme is in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum; there are two double MA/MSc programmes with Imperial College London. [23]

In addition to formal qualifications the RCA also offers Summer school and Executive education courses throughout the year. English for academic purposes (EAP) courses are offered to applicants who need to improve their academic English ability to meet the College's entry requirements.

In early 2019, the RCA announced the launch of its new GenerationRCA programme. GenerationRCA -among other initiatives- will also "inject science disciplines into the mix of creative disciplines traditionally on offer." The new programmes will include Environmental Architecture and Digital Direction; with future programmes centred on nano and soft robotics, computer science, and machine learning, material science and the circular economy. [24]


In 2019, the RCA was placed first in the art and design subject area in the QS World University Rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds for the fifth year in a row, increasing its overall score from 96.0/100 to 99.1/100. [25] [26] [27]

In August 2015 it was ranked first on a list of master's courses in fashion by Business of Fashion, a fashion website. [28] [29]

In April 2011 the RCA was ranked first on a list of UK graduate art schools compiled by Modern Painters magazine from a survey of professionals in the art world. [30]

In the Research Assessment Exercise of December 2008, 40% of the research output of the school received the highest (4* or "world-leading") assessment, the third-highest rating in the art and design subject area; over all subject areas only about fifty institutions received a higher rating. [31]


The Royal College of Art and its predecessor schools have numerous notable alumni in many fields.

Among those who studied in the predecessor schools in the nineteenth century were Sir George Clausen, Christopher Dresser, Sir Luke Fildes, Kate Greenaway, Gertrude Jekyll [10] and Edwin Lutyens.

Alumni from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries include the sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Sir Peter Blake and Charles Tunnicliffe, artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin and R. B. Kitaj, fashion designers Ossie Clark and Zandra Rhodes, industrial designers James Dyson and David Mellor, film directors Tony and Ridley Scott, designers Thomas Heatherwick and Sir David Adjaye, prominent member of the suffragette movement Sylvia Pankhurst, the musician Ian Dury and the actor Alan Rickman.

See also: The Royal College of Art Society amalgamated with OSARCA (the Old Students Association of the RCA 1912) for the benefit of graduates and associates of the Royal College of Art

Awards and prizes

The Royal College of Art has several awards and prizes which it confers on its graduating students. These include the Sheila Robinson Drawing Prize.

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  22. Royal College of Art. "Degree Programmes". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
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Further reading