Royal College of Art

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Royal College of Art
  • 1837 - Government School of Design
  • 1896 - Royal College of Art
Type Public
Provost Sir James Dyson
Rector Paul Thompson
Postgraduates 1420 in 2013/14[1]
Location London, United Kingdom
Campus Urban

The Royal College of Art or RCA is a public research university in London, in the United Kingdom. It offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries;[1] it is the only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world.[2]:118 In the QS World University Rankings in 2015, the RCA was placed first in the art and design subject area.[3][4]


The RCA was founded in Somerset House in 1837 as the Government School of Design[5] or Metropolitan School of Design.[6] Richard Burchett became head of the school in 1852.[7] In 1853 it was expanded and moved to Marlborough House, and then, in 1853[5] or 1857,[6][7] to South Kensington, on the same site as the South Kensington Museum. It was renamed the Normal Training School of Art in 1857[6] and the National Art Training School in 1863.[7] 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.[7]

In 1896[5] or 1897[6] the school received the name Royal College of Art, and the emphasis of teaching there shifted to the practice of art and design.[5] 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.[5]


The Darwin Building in Kensington Gore

The RCA has two campuses, in South Kensington and in Battersea.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] [11]

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.[12] [13] [14]

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.[15] [16]

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.[17] [18]


The RCA offers MA, MPhil and PhD degrees in twenty-four subject areas, divided into six schools: architecture, communication, design, fine art, humanities, and materials. The history of design programme is in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum; there are two double MA/MSc programmes in design engineering with Imperial College London, one of which also includes periods of study at Keio University in Tokyo and at the Pratt Institute in New York.[19]


In the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, in 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.[20]

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.[21]

In 2015 the RCA was placed first in the art and design subject area in the QS World University Rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds.[3][4]

In August 2015 it was ranked first on a list of master's courses in fashion by Business of Fashion, a fashion website.[22][23]


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[7] 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 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, the musician Ian Dury and the actor Alan Rickman.


  1. ^ a b "RCA Annual Review 2013/2014" (PDF). pp. 4–5. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Alice Wignall (2012). The Guardian Postgraduate Guide. London: Guardian Books. ISBN 9780852651049.
  3. ^ a b Rebecca Ratcliffe, Claire Shaw (29 April 2015). Six UK universities reach the top of worldwide subject league tables. The Guardian. Accessed August 2015.
  4. ^ a b Laura Bridgestock (1 May 2015). New Rankings of the World's Top Art Schools. Quacquarelli Symonds. Accessed August 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e Janet Foster (2000–2008). GB 1134 Royal College of Art Archive. AIM25: Archives in London and the M25 area. Accessed February 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Albertopolis: Royal College Of Art. Royal Institute of British Architects. Archived 22 July 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e 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)
  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 Quarterly 10: 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. ^ "The new RCA Painting Building is now open". Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  13. ^ "The Sackler Building by Haworth Tompkins". Dezeen 2 December 2009. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  14. ^ "RCA Sackler Building". AJ Building Study video. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Dyson Building by Haworth Tompkins". Dezeen 28 September 2012. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  16. ^ Hunter, Will. "Royal College of Art by Haworth Tompkins". AR online 27 February 2013. Retrieved 6 October 2015. (subscription required)
  17. ^ Jordan, Sarah. "RCA opens state of the art Woo Building for jewellery and silversmithing students". Retail Jeweller 2 October 2015. Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  18. ^ "New Gates installed for the opening of the Woo Building Battersea". Retrieved 6 October 2015. 
  19. ^ Schools & programmes. Royal College of Art. Accessed August 2015.
  20. ^ RAE 2008 quality profiles: UOA 63 Art and Design. Research Assessment Exercise 2008. Accessed February 2015.
  21. ^ [s.n.] (31 March 2011). Modern Painters Survey Ranks School as 3rd Best UK Graduate Arts Programme. City & Guilds of London Art School. Accessed August 2015.
  22. ^ Liz Lightfoot (24 August 2015). UK fashion schools top global rankings, but are their students ready for work?. The Guardian. Accessed August 2015.
  23. ^ Global fashion school rankings 2015. Business of Fashion. Accessed August 2015.

Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 51°30′05″N 0°10′44″W / 51.50139°N 0.17889°W / 51.50139; -0.17889