Royal College of Art

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Royal College of Art
Royal College of Art, South Kensington - - 4338339.jpg
Royal College of Art in South Kensington
Dieu et mon droit
Motto in English
God and my right
Type Public
  • 1837 – Government School of Design
  • 1896 – Royal College of Art
  • 1967 – University status
Endowment £28.5 million (2022) [1]
Budget £89.5 million (2021-22) [1]
Chancellor Sir Jonathan Ive
Rector Paul Thompson
Undergraduates 0
United Kingdom
Campus Urban
Language English

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom, with campuses in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. It is the only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the United Kingdom. [2] :118 It offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries. [3]



The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore Darwin Building, Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore looking east.jpg
The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore

The RCA was founded in Somerset House in 1837 as the Government School of Design [4] or Metropolitan School of Design. [5] Richard Burchett became head of the school in 1852. [6] In 1853 it was expanded and moved to Marlborough House, and then, in 1853 [4] or 1857, [5] [6] to South Kensington, on the same site as the South Kensington Museum. It was renamed the Normal Training School of Art in 1857 [5] and the National Art Training School in 1863. [6] 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. [6]

In September 1896 the school received the name Royal College of Art, [7] and the emphasis of teaching there shifted to the practice of art and design. [4] 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. [4]

In July 2020, the Royal College of Art launched its first-ever online graduate exhibition, RCA2020.


The RCA today has three campuses located in South Kensington, Battersea and White City. [8]

The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore, South Kensington, was completed 1960–1963. It is a short distance from the RCA's home 1896–1967 in the Henry Cole Building, now part of the V&A Museum. The Darwin Building was designed by a team of RCA staff members, H. T. Cadbury-Brown, Hugh Casson and Robert Goodden, [9] and since 2001 has been a Grade II listed building. It is named after painter Sir Robert Vere Darwin, known as Robin Darwin, who was the rector at the time the building was commissioned. Although there was modest development into the mews behind the Darwin Building, the restricted site meant further expansion had to be in another part of London.

In 1991 the sculpture department moved to a converted factory in Battersea. In the early 2000s the college conceived a substantial extension on the site, with a minibus service linking it to Kensington. After a redevelopment by Wright & Wright (budget £4.3m, floor area 2,500 sq m), the Sculpture Building opened in Battersea in January 2009. [10] [11] In 2018 the RCA was granted planning permission to redevelop the Sculpture building into a new Arts & Humanities building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, with work planned for completion in late 2021. [12]

A masterplan was commissioned from Haworth Tompkins and phase one 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. [13] [14] [15]

Entrance Darwin Building Entrance, Royal College of Art, Jay Mews.jpg

The Dyson Building, named in honour of James Dyson, whose charity donated £5m towards the £21m cost, was opened on 24 September 2012. It houses printmaking and photography, and contains an innovation wing where start-up designers can launch their businesses. [16] [17] 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. [18] [19]

In 2017 RCA White City became the third RCA campus, co-located with the BBC Media Village and accommodating the School of Communication, Animation and Digital Direction and Communication Design [20] in buildings designed by Allies and Morrison.


The RCA offers a Graduate Diploma pre-masters conversion programme, MA, MRes, MPhil and PhD degrees [21] 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. [22]

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. [23]


In 2023, the RCA was placed first in the art and design subject area in the QS World University Rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds for the ninth year in a row, with an overall score of 99.4/100. [24] [25] [26]

In August 2015 it was ranked first on a list of master's courses in fashion by Business of Fashion, a fashion website. [27] [28]

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. [29]

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. [30]


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

Among those who studied in the RCA predecessor bodies in the nineteenth century were Sir George Clausen, Christopher Dresser, Sir Luke Fildes, Kate Greenaway, Gertrude Jekyll [6] and Edwin Lutyens.

Alumni Sir Ridley Scott being made an Honorary Doctor at the college during a ceremony in July 2015. Ridley Scott at the RCA July 2015.jpg
Alumni Sir Ridley Scott being made an Honorary Doctor at the college during a ceremony in July 2015.

Alumni from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries include the sculptors Jean Gibson, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Sir Peter Blake, Gavin Turk 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, Sir Jonathan Ive and David Mellor, film directors Tony and Ridley Scott, writer Travis Jeppesen, designers Thomas Heatherwick and architect Sir David Adjaye, prominent member of the suffragette movement Sylvia Pankhurst, the musician Ian Dury, sound artist Janek Schaefer, and the actor Alan Rickman.

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. [31]


Academic and research staff include:

Professor Neville Brody Professor of Communication
Professor Johnny Golding Professor of Philosophy & Fine Art
Nicky Hamlyn Tutor, Visual Communication
Professor Peter Kennard Professor of Political Art
Rut Blees Luxemburg Reader in Urban Aesthetics and Senior Research Fellow
Flora McLean Senior Tutor, Fashion
Professor Olivier Richon Professor of Photography
Tai Shani Tutor, Critical Practice
Alexandria Smith Head of Programme, Painting

On February 25, 2021, Virgil Abloh joined staff as a Visiting Professor [ citation needed ] "to reinforce the importance of education and hands on mentorship of future generations." [32]

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.

See also

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  1. 1 2 "ANNUAL REPORT & ACCOUNTS 2021/22" (PDF). Royal College of Art. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  2. Alice Wignall (2012). The Guardian Postgraduate Guide. London: Guardian Books. ISBN   9780852651049.
  3. "RCA Annual Review 2013/2014" (PDF): 4–5. Retrieved 2 May 2015.{{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. 1 2 3 4 Janet Foster (2000–2008). GB 1134 Royal College of Art Archive. AIM25: Archives in London and the M25 area. Accessed February 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 Albertopolis: Royal College Of Art. Royal Institute of British Architects. Archived 22 July 2011.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 Anne Pimlott Baker (2004 ). Burchett, Richard (1815–1875). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Accessed February 2015. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3956 (subscription required)
  7. "No. 26774". The London Gazette . 4 September 1896. p. 4987.
  8. College Buildings. Royal College of Art. Accessed August 2015.
  9. James Dunnett (2006). The Royal College of Art: a Study in Modern Architecture and Urbanism. Architectural Research Quarterly10: 3–12. doi:10.1017/S1359135506000029 (subscription required)
  10. "Royal College of Art Sculpture Building officially reopens" . Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  11. Bizley, Graham. "Wright & Wright's RCA sculpture department refurb". BD online 23 January 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2015.(subscription required)
  12. "Royal College of Art's Ambitious Battersea Expansion Plans Approved by Wandsworth Council". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  13. "The new RCA Painting Building is now open" . Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  14. "The Sackler Building by Haworth Tompkins". Dezeen 2 December 2009. 2 December 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  15. "RCA Sackler Building". AJ Building Study video. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  16. "The Dyson Building by Haworth Tompkins". Dezeen 28 September 2012. 28 September 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  17. Hunter, Will (27 February 2013). "Royal College of Art by Haworth Tompkins". AR online 27 February 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015.(subscription required)
  18. Jordan, Sarah (2 October 2015). "RCA opens state of the art Woo Building for jewellery and silversmithing students". Retail Jeweller 2 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  19. "New Gates installed for the opening of the Woo Building Battersea" . Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  20. "RCA White City". Royal College of Art.
  21. Royal College of Art. "Degree Programmes". Royal College of Art. Retrieved 22 September 2019.
  22. Schools & programmes. Royal College of Art. Accessed August 2015.
  23. Tamara Orlova-Alvarez; Joe Alvarez (29 January 2019). "The Royal College of Art Launches Its New GenerationRCA". Ikon London Magazine. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  24. Rebecca Ratcliffe, Claire Shaw (29 April 2015). Six UK universities reach the top of worldwide subject league tables. The Guardian. Accessed August 2015.
  25. Laura Bridgestock (1 May 2015). New Rankings of the World's Top Art Schools. Quacquarelli Symonds. Accessed August 2015.
  26. "QS World University Rankings for Art & Design 2023 | Top Universities". Top Universities. 22 March 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. Liz Lightfoot (24 August 2015). UK fashion schools top global rankings, but are their students ready for work?. The Guardian. Accessed August 2015.
  28. Global fashion school rankings 2015. Business of Fashion. Accessed August 2015.
  29. [s.n.] (31 March 2011). Modern Painters Survey Ranks School as 3rd Best UK Graduate Arts Programme Archived 28 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine . City & Guilds of London Art School. Accessed August 2015.
  30. RAE 2008 quality profiles: UOA 63 Art and Design. Research Assessment Exercise 2008. Accessed February 2015.
  31. "RCA Society | RCA Society".
  32. Abloh, Virgil. "Royal College of Art on Instagram: "@virgilabloh 'It's with great honour I join the RCA as a Visiting Professor to reinforce the importance of education and hands on mentorship of future generations' Today we announce that @virgilabloh will join us as a Visiting Professor. Virgil's appointment will enable students from across the College to benefit from his wealth of experience as a leading figure in international fashion and design. Both as Artistic Director of @louisvuitton's menswear collection and Chief Executive Officer of his own fashion house @off____white. Head to the link in our bio for more details! As Visiting Professor he will present masterclasses and talks throughout the year as well as share unique employment opportunities with our students and alumni. #GenerationRCA"". Instagram. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 7 May 2021.

Further reading