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Why study with us?

  • Leading visual arts education

    Sydney College of the Arts (SCA) has been Sydney’s premier training ground for contemporary visual artists for more than 40 years.

  • World class research

    The Australian Government's most recent assessment of research excellence awarded SCA the highest possible ranking as a global standard-setter in Creative Arts Research.

Overview

The Master of Fine Arts by research is designed to provide you with the opportunity to develop your art practice through advanced research in one or more discipline area. 

Delivered by Sydney College of the Arts (SCA), the Master of Fine Arts is primarily undertaken as a supervised independent study program of written work and studio research.

You will develop a level of proficiency, self-direction and focus through investigating a proposed area of research, and will be encouraged to produce work of an original and speculative nature. Your research supervisor will provide personalised and dedicated attention to the development of your research outcomes. 

From 2021, Higher Degree by Research students will be required to complete some coursework as part of their candidature. Students will have access to a range of specialist units of study relevant for research students.

Subject areas
Shared pool

Entry, fees, funding & how to apply

Depends on your qualification, citizenship status
The details on this page based on your selections are a guide only, and are subject to change.

Your entry requirements

English language proficiency

Find out if you need to prove English language proficiency (depends on your country of origin and educational background).

For academic requirements check the ‘Admission requirements’ section on this page.

Your fee

How to apply

1. Develop a preliminary research proposal of 3-5 pages that outlines the subject area, objectives and significance of your research. Include the proposed method of candidature: by thesis comprising a body of creative work for exhibition and a written component; or by written thesis only.

2. Prepare a portfolio that reflects your recent art practice and demonstrates the level of proficiency expected of an advanced research applicant. Please submit up to 10 examples of your work to date. You can include digital photographs of installations, performance, and exhibitions (preferably as one JPG, TIFF or PDF file); showreel or excerpts of film, animation or digital video work (.MOV); website or Vimeo channel (please provide the site address in a Word or PDF document); original storyboards, treatments or scripts for short films (Word or PDF). (Maximum length of treatment - 5 pages. Maximum length of screenplay - 25 pages. DO NOT submit screenplays or scripts for feature films). The maximum file size for each document or compressed file upload is 10MB.

3. If you intend to study part-time towards a PhD, you will also need to supply: evidence that shows you will have sufficient time available to plan and carry out the research under the supervision of the University, and complete the course within the maximum period allowed for a part-time PhD enrolment a declaration from your employer (if relevant) confirming that you will be permitted to take the time required to effectively pursue your studies.

4. Your research proposal should be submitted along with your portfolio, CV, academic transcripts and other supporting documents.

5. Applications are made via the University's online application portal. When you are ready to apply, select the `Apply Now' button on the right hand side of this page.

6. Although rare, you may be invited to attend an admission interview in support of your application for a research degree. You will be notified if this is necessary.

Applications are open all year round, however you must apply by 31 October to be considered for Research Period 2. Applications are reviewed by an admissions panel in November, with offers to be issued in December. Applications received after 31 October will be assessed the following year. Separate scholarship application deadlines apply.  

 

Starting date

Research Period 2: Start date 1 March

Refer to key research dates on the `How to Apply website.

To apply for a research degree, you will submit a formal application online, and will be required to upload some or all of the following documents electronically with your application:

(i) academic transcript or transcripts for your previous study, if they were not completed at The University of Sydney;

(ii) a CV, providing a summary of your work experience and other relevant activities;

(iii) up to two academic references (international applicants);

(iv) a research proposal;

(v) proof of your Australian residency status (a certified copy of the main page your Australian passport, or a copy of the main page(s) of your own passport with evidence of your visa);

(vi) English language qualifications (if your prior study was completed at an institution where English is not the medium of instruction).

(vii) a portfolio of recent creative work

Applications are open all year round, however you must apply by 31 October to be considered for Research Period 2. Applications are reviewed by an admissions panel in November, with offers to be issued in December. Applications received after 31 October will be assessed the following year. Separate scholarship application deadlines apply.  

Starting date

Research Period 2: Start date 1 March

Refer to key research dates on the `How to Apply website.

What you'll study

Changes to higher degree research in 2021

In 2021, the University is introducing a new coursework curriculum to support research success. Masters students will complete 6 credit points of coursework and be able to choose from a pool of 270+ units from any faculty. The pool comprises a range of development opportunities that include specialist analytical methods, professional development units, and discipline-specific subjects relevant for research students. Browse all available units here.

There is no separate tuition fee cost for the coursework units of study you will undertake, it is part of the tuition fee for the course. See the 'Your Fee' section for fee information. Additional non-tuition course costs vary depending on the units of study.

Units of Study

Applying for admission

Prospective students should consult the Postgraduate Research Coordinator before making an application.

  1. Develop a preliminary research proposal of 3-5 pages that outlines the subject area, objectives and significance of your research. Include the proposed method of candidature: by thesis comprising a body of creative work for exhibition and a written component; or by written thesis only.
  2. Prepare a portfolio that reflects your recent art practice and demonstrates the level of proficiency expected of an advanced research applicant. Please submit up to 10 examples of your work to date. You can include:
    • digital photographs of installations, performance, and exhibitions (preferably as one JPG, TIFF or PDF file); 
    • showreel or excerpts of film, animation or digital video work (.MOV); 
    • website or Vimeo channel (please provide the site address in a Word or PDF document);
    • original storyboards, treatments or scripts for short films (Word or PDF). (Maximum length of treatment - 5 pages. Maximum length of screenplay - 25 pages. DO NOT submit screenplays or scripts for feature films). 
    • The maximum file size for each document or compressed file upload is 10MB.
    • Applicants who nominated the written thesis only option are not required to submit a portfolio.
  3. Your research proposal should be submitted along with your portfolio, CV, academic transcripts and other supporting documents.
  4. Applications are made via the University's online application portal. When you are ready to apply, select the `Apply Now' button on the right hand side of this page.
  5. Although rare, you may be invited to attend an admission interview in support of your application for a research degree. You will be notified if this is necessary.

Completion requirement

To satisfy the requirements of the Master of FIne Arts you must complete any specified probationary requirements:

  • complete a minimum of 6 credit points from Table R; and
  • attend any prescribed weekly seminars and fora; and
  • conduct research on the approved topic, resulting in a thesis of :
    • 25,000 to 35,000 words (progress by thesis and coursework); or
    • 10,000 to 12,000 words (progress by body of creative work for exhibition, thesis and coursework).

If you are proceeding by thesis you must also write a thesis embodying the results of the research. If you are proceeding by creative work and research paper you must also submit for examination, at a joint exhibition by candidates, a substantial exhibition, screening, performance or installation of works; and a research paper on an area relevant to the creative work.

Examination of both the thesis and the creative work and research paper will be conducted in general accordance with standards prescribed by Academic Board for the Doctor of Philosophy, except that two examiners will be appointed by the Faculty, at least one of whom shall be external to the University.

In the case of you proceeding by creative work and research paper, the examiners will examine the creative work and the research paper at an oral examination chaired, in a non-voting capacity, by the HRD Coordinator or his/her nominee. Thesis submission requirements and examination procedure as set out in the Academic Board resolutions for this course and the Higher Degree (HDR) Rule 2011.

Admission requirement

To be eligible for admission to the Master of Fine Arts, you must present a portfolio of work that demonstrates you have the level of art practice proficiency expected of an advanced research applicant.

In addition, you must have completed the equivalent of one of the following in visual arts or other subject area related to your proposed research area:

  • bachelor's degree with honours; or
  • bachelor's degree and graduate diploma; or
  • master's degree by coursework with an independent research component such as a thesis, dissertation or research project.

These criteria constitute the minimum requirements for eligibility and do not guarantee admission. That remains at the discretion of the relevant supervisors and departments, and access to supervision remains highly competitive. The University must certify that there are sufficient supervisory and other resources and facilities available to enable your candidature to be completed successfully.

Course opportunities

SCA will provide you with intellectual challenges and creative support, within a community of students and artists. There is a strong record of providing students with exhibition opportunities.

Career pathways

The Master of Fine Arts is designed to provide visual artists with the opportunity to extend their professional practice through advanced research in one or more discipline area.

Future study options

Domestic students

International students

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.