Royal College of Art
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Royal College of Art: Where change is part of the process

People are not static. We evolve, which sometimes means that our passions may change with us. It is human nature, after all. By that same token, only a few people are able to stay in the same line of work or field and feel fulfilled. Often switching careers means getting new qualifications and experiences, which is a big step. Other times, a slight pivot can land you in a field that is perfect for you. 

The Royal College of Art (RCA) has programmes specially designed for the bold and courageous career changers and non-artists from diverse academic backgrounds. These entry points include a Graduate Diploma in Art & Design, a Master of Research, interdisciplinary programmes such as MA in Information Experience Design and MFA Arts & Humanities, or programmes with a business or humanities focus, such as MA Service Design and MA Writing.

When these RCA students write new chapters for themselves, many find progress and better fit for their aspirations. Yanna Marie Orcel, for instance, has a Bachelor of Arts in Art Therapy from Emmanuel College, and after the Black Lives Matter protests, she found herself conducting free workshops online for the Black community and its allies. “This work led me to apply to RCA to continue my research of multicultural art therapy, specifically for the Black community,” she says.

Where will the RCA take you?

Ranked as QS’s World No 1 University for Art and Design for nine consecutive years, RCA attracts a diverse range of students. Shafina Jaffer, a Graduate Diploma in Art & Design graduate and now an MA Painting student from Tanzania, chose RCA for its focus on abstract art — and found a platform with “almost limitless”channels to explore and develop one’s talent. “The faculty at the RCA is very diverse and comes from many countries – there is always an expert for every topic where one is interested,” she says. “There are so many technical departments from print, ceramics, photography, metal works and so on.”

An interview with Shafina Jaffer

Their insights and zeal not only enliven classes but elevate the work of their students beyond the confines of campus. “The main  unique opportunity that being at the RCA gave me was the chance to submit my painting and to be selected by the BBC to be featured in the coronation concert of their majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla,” says Jaffer. “The experience taught me many things, but most of all it taught me that putting your best foot forward is important, even when you know that the chances of rejection are high!”

That’s what MA Contemporary Art Practice student Ashraf Malek did too. His artwork “Until the Path Becomes” was projected on Windsor Castle while the Royal Shakespeare Company performed excerpts from a Shakespeare play during the coronation concert. “What is exciting about these opportunities is the collaborative element to these projects and seeing your work come together as part of a wider ensemble,” he says.

Being in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world is an unmatched perk. There are world-class museums and galleries, such as the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The college also has partnerships with leading institutions. For example, the MA History of Design is jointly delivered with the V&A London, and MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering with Imperial College London. A partnership with Outernet London, the media and culture district in central London, gives students on relevant programmes a platform to showcase their digital work on its immense wrap-around immersive screens. As a founding member of  non-profit Design for Good, RCA  School of Design students work in multidisciplinary teams to work with NGOs on the ground developing products and services with communities. MA Service Design student Sara Alhajri tackled the issue of lack of safe, sanitary toilet experience for women in India’s urban slums, while MA Design Products student Sam Jones contributed to the design of a social media campaign in collaboration with NGO WaterWise. 

“Since I was a research student, RCA’s research resources and inter-institution networks were the best takeaways,” says Yiyun Kang, a PhD graduate from the School of Communication. “For example, during my PhD, I could do my artist residency at the V&A Museum, spending six months to create a site-specific, research-based project at the museum. Then I reflected on those experiences and learning back into my PhD thesis. This very close relationship between RCA and V&A was really beneficial.” 

Today, she’s an assistant professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology where she runs the Experience Design Lab that aims to explore immersive storytelling and multi-sensory experiences that happen in the technology-embedded environment. She’s also launched a special collaboration with watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre, with exhibitions travelling from Singapore and Seoul to Zurich and New York throughout the year. 

Outernet London: A digital showcase from the RCA

These experiences are transformative. They shape graduates into visionaries who will, in turn, redefine the industries they join. One such creation is Dotplot, an InnovationRCA start-up from MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering graduates, Shefali Bohra and Debra Babalola. The partners developed a handheld device designed to provide month-by-month comparisons of breast tissue, helping to flag anomalies as soon as possible as part of self-checking. “InnovationRCA’s mentorship was also massively useful, especially as neither of us comes from a finance background,” says Babalola. “The community at InnovationRCA has also been great, being able to sit in the incubator and talk to people who are ahead of you to learn from them is always fruitful.” They were selected as the national winner of the James Dyson Award 2022.

To attend this year’s Graduate Shows and Exhibitions or one of their events or to visit the Royal College of Art’s campus, click here

To sign up for more information about studying at the RCA, click here.

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