Royal College of Art

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The Royal College of Art (informally the RCA) is a public research university specialising in art and design located in London, United Kingdom. It is a wholly postgraduate institution offering Master of Arts (M.A.), Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). It was founded in 1837 and has had university status since 1967.


The RCA was founded in 1837 as the Government School of Design. In 1853, it became the National Art Training School with the Female School of Art in separate buildings; and, in 1896, it received the name Royal College of Art. During the 19th century, it was often referred to as the South Kensington Schools. See Richard Burchett, an early Headmaster, for more details on this period. After 130 years in operation, the Royal College of Art was granted its Royal Charter in 1967, which gave it the status of an independent university with the power to grant its own degrees.

Its Royal Charter specifies that the objects of the College are "to advance learning, knowledge and professional competence particularly in the field of fine arts, in the principles and practice of art and design in their relation to industrial and commercial processes and social developments and other subjects relating thereto through teaching, research and collaboration with industry and commerce".


The RCA is based in the South Kensington and Battersea areas of Central London.

The main 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.


The most recent Research Assessment Exercise (December 2008) confirmed the Royal College of Art as a leading specialist art and design institution in the United Kingdom, with 40% of its research output judged to be of quality that is World-Leading in terms of originality, significance, and rigor. A further 25% was considered Internationally Excellent.

Rankings and reputation

The RCA has an international reputation for its teaching in the fields of architecture, painting, sculpture, automotive design, photography, industrial design, communication design, interaction design, textiles, fashion, ceramics and silversmithing. An M.A. in design history is offered in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum, while an M.A./M.Sc. in Innovation Design Engineering is offered jointly with Imperial College London.

In 2013, the RCA and Imperial also began offering the first transnational design program: a dual-masters, joint program in Global Innovation Design, where students also spend significant time studying at Pratt's graduate industrial design department in Brooklyn, New York and Keio University's graduate school of media design in Tokyo, Japan.

According to the latest statistics (2002–07) on all graduate destinations from the RCA, an average of 93% gained work in directly related employment and at the right level. The current enrolment tally measures roughly 900 students, all taking fine art, applied art, design, communication design and humanities courses.

In April 2011, Modern Painters surveyed art world professionals to create a list of the top 10 UK art schools which ranked them: 1. Royal College of Art; 2. Royal Academy Schools; 3. City and Guilds of London Art School; 4. Slade School of Art; and 5. Goldsmiths College, University of London.

The Royal College of Art played a major role in the birth of the modern school of British sculpture in the 1920s and in the development of Pop Art in the 1960s.

Notable alumni

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19th century

  • Helen Allingham, painter
  • HRH The Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll
  • Maxwell Ayrton, architect
  • Sir George Clausen, painter
  • Austin Dobson, poet
  • Christopher Dresser, designer
  • Conrad Dressler, sculptor and potter
  • Sir Luke Fildes, painter
  • Kate Greenaway, illustrator
  • William Harbutt, sculptor and inventor of Plasticine
  • Gertrude Jekyll, garden designer
  • Alfred Garth Jones, illustrator
  • Edwin Lutyens, architect
  • Walter Sykes George, architect
  • Henrietta Montalba, sculptor
  • Mortimer Menpes, artist
  • Edward Poynter, artist
  • Elizabeth Thompson (Lady Butler), painter
  • Sir Hubert von Herkomer painter, composer, film maker
  • Fred Whisstock, illustrator

20th century

  • Kristian Aadnevik, Fashion Designer
  • Faisal Abdu'Allah, printmaker
  • M. R. Acharekar, painter, art director
  • David Adjaye, architect
  • Victor Ambrus, illustrator
  • Leonard Appelbee, painter
  • Billy Apple, artist and designer
  • Frank Auerbach, painter
  • Mathias Augustyniak, graphic designer and art director, founder of M/M (Paris)
  • Christopher Bailey, Creative Director for Burberry
  • Tom Barker, technologist, design engineer, and a professor at RCA.
  • Jonathan Barnbrook, typographer and graphic designer, one of the 'Young British Artists'
  • Sebastian Bergne, industrial designer
  • Allen Boothroyd, industrial designer
  • John Bridgeman (sculptor) head of sculpture Birmingham College of Art
  • Cressida Bell, textile designer
  • Henry Bird, muralist
  • David Blackburn (artist), landscape artist
  • Peter Blake, painter
  • Quentin Blake, cartoonist, author and illustrator of Roald Dahl's books
  • Derek Boshier, painter
  • Frank Bowling, painter
  • Victor Burgin, 1986 Turner Prize nominee
  • Ian Callum, Design Director (Jaguar cars)
  • Moray Callum, automotive designer (Ford)
  • Gillian Carnegie, 2005 Turner Prize nominee
  • Benedict Carpenter, 2001 Jerwood Sculpture Prize winner
  • Henry Carr, painter
  • Michelle Cartlidge, illustrator
  • Patrick Caulfield, 1987 Turner Prize nominee
  • Jake and Dinos Chapman, 2003 Turner Prize nominees
  • Betty Churcher, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, 1990–1997
  • John Clappison, ceramic and glass designer
  • Ossie Clark, fashion designer
  • Benjamin Clemens, sculptor
  • Clarice Cliff, ceramic designer, modeller and sculptor
  • Sue Coe, political artist
  • Richard Cook, painter
  • Jean Cooke, artist
  • Susie Cooper, ceramic designer
  • Jack Coutu, printmaker and sculptor
  • Tony Cragg, 1988 Turner Prize winner
  • Bill Culbert, painter, sculptor, photographer, 2013 Biennale of Venice
  • Charles Cundall, war artist
  • Adam Dant, 2002 Jerwood Prize winner
  • Alki David, writer, actor, director, philanthropist, explorer and businessman
  • Robin Day, designer
  • Richard Deacon, sculptor, 1987 Turner Prize winner
  • Roger Dean, artist
  • Len Deighton, historian and author
  • Mukul Dey, Painter-Engraver
  • Charles Dillon, designer
  • Jane Dillon (née Young), designer and artist
  • Evelyn Dunbar, artist
  • Ian Dury, musician, singer
  • James Dyson, designer
  • Benoit Pierre Emery, silk scarf fashion designer
  • Tracey Emin, artist, 1999 Turner Prize nominee
  • Cathie Felstead, illustrator
  • Alan Fletcher, graphic designer, founder of Pentagram
  • Marion Foale, fashion designer
  • Elizabeth Fritsch, ceramic artist, potter
  • Anton Furst, production designer
  • Evelyn Gibbs, artist
  • Mary Gillick, sculptor
  • John Goldschmidt, film director and producer
  • James Henry Govier, painter, etcher, and engraver [R.C.A. etching demonstrator]
  • Raymond Hawkey, designer and author
  • Thomas Heatherwick, designer and sculptor
  • John Hedgecoe, photographer, founder of the photography department at RCA
  • Barbara Hepworth, sculptor
  • Hilda Hewlett, pioneer aviator and aviation entrepreneur
  • David Hockney, painter
  • Eileen Hogan, painter
  • Peter Horbury, automotive designer (Ford)
  • Laurence Housman, playwright
  • Albert Houthuesen, artist
  • Erlund Hudson, artist
  • Michele Jannuzzi, graphic designer
  • Chantal Joffe, painter
  • Jasper Joffe, artist
  • Allen Jones, artist
  • Panayiotis Kalorkoti, artist
  • John Kirby, painter
  • R. B. Kitaj, artist
  • Simon Larbalestier, photographer
  • Noel Harry Leaver, painter
  • Dante Leonelli, artist
  • Frances Macdonald, painter
  • David Mach, 1988 Turner Prize nominee
  • Steve Mackey, Pulp bassist and producer
  • Jeremy Marre, film director
  • Kenneth Martin, sculptor
  • Simon Martin, epigrapher and Mayanist scholar
  • Donald Maxwell, artist and illustrator
  • David Mellor, cutler and industrial designer
  • John W. Mills, sculptor
  • Russell Mills, multimedia artist and musician
  • Henry Moore, sculptor
  • Malcolm Morley, 1984 Turner Prize winner
  • Jasper Morrison, designer
  • Peter Musson, Silversmith
  • Paul Neale, graphic designer
  • Chris Ofili, 1998 Turner Prize winner
  • Marilene Oliver, sculptor
  • M. C. Oliver, calligrapher
  • Vaughan Oliver, designer and graphic designer
  • Chris Orr, English artist
  • Christopher Orr, Scottish artist
  • Jay Osgerby, designer
  • Susan Parkinson (née Sanderson), ceramic artist, teacher, co-founder of Arts Dyslexia Trust
  • Vivian Pitchforth, painter
  • John Edgar Platt, artist
  • Brothers Quay, stop-motion animators
  • Zandra Rhodes, fashion designer
  • Ceri Richards, painter
  • Alan Rickman, Actor
  • Bridget Riley, artist
  • Sir Ridley Scott, film director (brother of Tony)
  • Asif Kapadia, film director
  • Johnny Rozsa, photographer
  • Michael Rowe, Silversmith
  • Tony Scott, film director (brother of Ridley)
  • Janek Schaefer, sound artist, British Composer of the Year in Sonic Art 2008
  • Uday Shankar, choreographer
  • George Shaw, artist, Turner Prize nominee 2011
  • Norman Sillman, coin designer
  • Peter Sís, artist and illustrator
  • Graham Smith, photographer
  • Martin Smith, automotive designer (Ford)
  • Richard Smith, graphic designer
  • Alan Sorrell, archaeological reconstruction artist
  • Cecil Stephenson, artist
  • Peter Stevens, automotive designer
  • Stuart Stockdale, fashion designer
  • Linda Sutton (painter), RCA 100 mural prize 1972
  • Storm Thorgerson, photographer and designer
  • Jake Tilson, artist
  • Joe Tilson, artist
  • David Tremlett, artist, Turner Prize nominee 1992
  • John Tunnard, artist
  • Charles Tunnicliffe, painter
  • Gavin Turk, artist
  • Sidney Tushingham, painter and etcher
  • Dirk van Braeckel, Director of design (Bentley Motors)
  • Lee Wagstaff, photographer performance artist
  • Ray Walker, mural artist, 1945–1984
  • Suling Wang, artist
  • Richard Wentworth, sculptor
  • Alison Wilding, 1992 Turner Prize nominee
  • Christopher Williams (Welsh artist), 1873–1934
  • Joash Woodrow, painter
  • Jon Wozencroft, graphic designer and cofounder of Touch Music
  • Andrea Wulf, History of Design 1999
  • Althea Wynne, sculptor
  • Carey Young, artist

21st century

  • Christine Berrie, illustrator
  • Gillian Carnegie
  • Guy Hendrix Dyas, designer and feature film production designer, BAFTA winner 2010
  • Max Hattler, visual artist, animator
  • Idris Khan
  • Liz Neal
  • Xavier Pick, artist
  • Sophy Rickett, visual artist, awarded the Arts Council of England Helen Chadwick Fellowship, and the British School at Rome, Italy
  • Suzie Templeton, director of animated films, winner of Academy Award 2008
  • Erdem Moralio?lu, fashion designer
  • David Wightman - Painter

Further reading

  • Christopher Frayling, The Royal College of Art: 150 Years of Art & Design (1987)




  • Dunnet James, 2006, "The Royal College of Art: a Study in Modern Architecture and Urbanism" Architectural Research Quarterley supplement

External links

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