Art in the Contemporary World

What to Expect
Art in the Contemporary World is a taught masters programme that examines contemporary art practices and their contexts. The course offers an opportunity for focused engagement with the varied challenges presented by today’s most ambitious art. It bridges the relationship between theory and practice by creating exciting study options for artists, curators, writers and other practitioners. We welcome graduates from a variety of backgrounds, including: fine art; art history; philosophy; literature; film studies; architecture; communications; or design; and we are also happy to consider applications from students from other backgrounds.

There are 2 pathways available:
- A ‘theory only’ MA (1 year FT/ 2 year PT);
- A longer theory/ practice MFA.

All students take the theory modules in their first period of study. MA students complete a major research topic (typically a written thesis) by the end of the year; MFA students undertake a further 2 semesters of practice. A key feature of the MFA is that practice is understood in an expanded sense to include not only studio practices (represented by NCAD studio expertise) but also practices facilitated by Visual Culture staff including: curating; critical and creative writing; event organisation.

Course content for the Visual Culture theory modules is divided into four thematic strands:

‘Practices’ explores the range of current international art practices;

‘Situations’ is comprised of elective options addressing social and cultural contexts for art practice today or occasions of interdisciplinary crossover with other fields;

‘Theories’ is a series of seminars focusing on key theoretical approaches relevant to contemporary art;

‘Writing’ explores different models and strategies for writing on art.

Opportunities to Engage
Art in the Contemporary World regularly collaborates with key cultural institutions in Ireland, running courses and events with the Irish Museum of Modern Art; Goethe Institut; Irish Film Institute; Dublin City Gallery; Kerlin Gallery; Paper Visual Art (journal). Art in the Contemporary World functions as a forum for debate on contemporary art theory and practice, regularly hosting public events involving course participants. In past years guests at such events have included: Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the Venice Biennale, 2013, and Director of Exhibitions at the New Museum, New York; Katrina Brown, director of The Common Guild, Glasgow; Frieze magazine senior editor Dan Fox; comedian Stewart Lee; film-maker Kenneth Anger; writer Rebecca Solnit; art critic Irving Sandler; and artists Lynda Benglis, Liam Gillick, Susan Philipsz and Walid Raad.

The intellectual and cultural life of Art in the Contemporary World staff and students is mapped on the student website at, where details of the activities above can be found as well as recommendations of books, films and music. Art in the Contemporary World also has a residency at Dublin Digital Radio where the team shares ideas and opinion on a regular podcast.

Entry requirements

Educational Standard
All applicants are expected to present an approved Bachelor degree at minimum level of 2nd class honours (2.2)

Applicants who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements may be considered on the basis of prior work or learning experience (RPEL). Candidates may be required to pass a qualifying examination set by the relevant department before being accepted to a Masters degree programme. Attendance at selected undergraduate lecture courses at NCAD, together with related written work may be prescribed.

You may apply for the programme if you are currently completing your Undergraduate Degree. NCAD will review the rest of your application If necessary, we can make you a Conditional Offer. When your degree is completed and you send us final transcripts we will upgrade this to a Full Offer.

Essential Supporting documents
- A Statement of Interest - 500 words framing your reasons for applying to the programme.
- 1 Example of previous written work,
- A recent CV
- Certified transcripts of previous programmes followed
- Certified copies of degree/ certificates and/or other appropriate third level qualifications bearing the official stamp of the institution.
- Reference 1 (Academic - Head of School/Department preferred)
- Reference 2 (Tutor or Current/Recent Employer)

*Some referees prefer to submit the reference directly to the college. If this is the case, please instruct your referee to email a standard reference to

*Please make sure all references contain the letterhead and the institution contact email address for the referee.

English Language Requirements
All programmes in NCAD are taught through English. International Applicants are asked to provide proof of their English Language Proficiency.

Full details of acceptable tests and the standard required can be found at the following link:

Application dates

Applications now open.

The priority deadline for receipt of applications to postgraduate programmes starting in Sept. 2024 is Friday 31st March 2024. Applications made by 31st March are guaranteed to be reviewed by NCAD. If you apply after this date, we may not be in a position to review your application.

There is an application fee of €55.00*


MA: 90 ECTS credits/Taught Masters/Visual Culture Pathway
MFA: 120 ECTS credits/Theory-Practice Pathway


MA: 1 year. full-time or 2 years part-time.
MFA: 2 years.

Enrolment dates

Start Date: Programme commences in September 2024.

Post Course Info

After Your Degree
Graduates from Art in the Contemporary World have gone on to receive international awards and residencies, to take up respected curatorial positions and to publish their writings in prominent academic journals and art magazines.

More details
  • Qualification letters

    MA / MFA

  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time

  • Apply to

    Course provider