MA/MFA Art in the Contemporary World

Art in the Contemporary World is a taught Masters programme that examines contemporary art practices and their contexts


Duration : 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
90 ECTS credits/Taught Masters/Visual Culture Pathway


Duration : 2 years
120 ECTS credits/Theory-Practice Pathway

Watch the presentation on the programmes from the Postgrad Futures Week, May 2023

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 MFAS

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.

Scholarship for MA

A tuition fee scholarship is available for a student on the School's MA programme Art in the Contemporary World to sudy either part time or full time. It will be awarded on the basis of prior academic achievement and future potential. The recipient of the Art in the Contemporary World award will act as a champion for the programme (sometimes for example by editing the programme  website).

If you wish to be considered  you should apply for admission to the programme in the normal way. In addition you should submit a one page covering letter outlining your academic achievements and the reason why you should be considered for the scholarship.

The deadline for application in order to be considered for the Art in the Contemporary World MA Scholarship is 30th June 2023, the programmes commence in September 2023. 

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 Proficiency certificate.
    • This is only required if English is not your first language. 
    • See below for more

Document Description

When uploading documents please make sure you clearly label them using the Description Box like in the example below 

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 English Language Requirement.

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.


For information on tuition fees please follow this Link 

There is an application fee of €55.00*


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Links to apply 


MFA Art in the Contemporary World (Full Time)

MA in Art in the Contemporary World (Part Time)

MA in Art in the Contemporary World (Full Time)

Programme Team

Dr Declan Long, MA PhD

Declan Long lectures on contemporary art theory and practice. He is a contributor to Artforum, Frieze and Source Photographic Review. He is the author of Ghost Haunted Land: Contemporary Art and Post-Troubles Northern Ireland (Manchester University Press, 2017; paperback edition 2020). In 2013 he was a member of the judging panel for the Turner Prize. More information can be found at

Dr Francis Halsall, MA PhD

Francis Halsall is a lecturer in the history and theory of modern and contemporary art at NCAD and also visiting research fellow in Art History at University of the Free State, Bloemfontaine, South Africa.
His research covers three main areas:

The history, theory and practice of modern and contemporary art;

Philosophical aesthetics;

The cultural reception of Systems Theory. He has lectured and published extensively in all these areas in academic and non-academic contexts.

Admissions Team

+353 01 636 4200