Full Time MA in Art and Social Action

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90 (Level 9 NFQ)




18th September

What is this course about?

The MA in Art and Social Action is a postgraduate programme focused on trans-disciplinary practice that emphasises collaboration and creative approaches to social transformation, with a focus on the capacity of arts practice to imagine our world differently.


Engaging with theory and practice, and delivered by a diverse team, this programme provides its student cohort with dynamic educational experiences in local and national contexts, and across and beyond academic boundaries, to develop their practices in response to their own research and engagements within diverse contexts, including urban and rural place-based sites, temporary and online communities, and public and cultural settings.


Building on NCAD’s long history of socially engaged pedagogical programmes and projects at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, this two year part time postgraduate programme is offered to practitioners and researchers from the fields of art, design, urban studies, theatre, education, community work, youth work, dance, music, architecture, film, activism and related areas, whose practices respond creatively to social issues, spatial injustices and civic life through community collaboration, public intervention or collective action.


This programme places artistic and creative practice centrally, in the firm belief that it can illuminate social issues and relations in distinct and impactful ways, and generate significant and meaningful experiences that can have lasting effects on society and the environments that we share.

Opportunities to Engage

Socially engaged artists, designers, activists, educators, community workers from diverse backgrounds with distinct benefits for peer-to-peer learning and breadth of experience. Based in an EU capital and taught through English, Dublin offers a significant arts infrastructure and arts community, strong cultural heritage and tradition across art forms, including a well established and thriving field of contemporary collaborative/socially engaged art practice. The location of NCAD, based in the heart of Dublin with long-standing connections to national and local practice, and a connection to multiple civic society and cultural organisations and institutions.

Who is it for?

The Art and Social Action MA places a strong emphasis on artistic and creative practice, taking an expanded view of that field and welcomes applications from all arts practitioners and curators, writers, designers, architects and others who wish to explore the forms of public engagement supported by the programme.


Applicants who have prior experience of community /public engagement and/or a mature art practice. The programme also welcomes applicants with a background in community work, education, youth work, activism who are committed to engaging with creative practices in their work. Applicants of a BA in Fine Art or other studio fields will need to demonstrate an affinity for socially-engaged practice and or community/public engagement.

What will I study?

The MA programme consists of 90 credits.


It aims to function as an innovative centre of practice. We encourage our students to conceive of their work as a practice and to engage with wider communities of interest beyond the college, particularly in the latter phases of their studies. As such, we value and recognise the public nature of practice. The team recognises that peer learning has a key role to play in the life of the programme and the experience of the students. It recognises that students joining the MA may have a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds, and welcomes the opportunities for intellectual exchange that this provides. This is reflected in the design of the curriculum as well as in the types of learning and teaching modes which are employed.  


The programme employs a range of learning and teaching modes, including seminars, tutorials, staff lectures, visiting lectures, crits, visits, writing practice, engagement workshops, and technical training. It emphasises learning by means of practice, where students undertake live projects and define their own field of practice.


The aims of the programme are to:

  • advance the practice of socially-engaged art in Ireland and internationally, by providing a rich, highly current and changing set of learning opportunities;
  • offer ‘real world’ learning opportunities in close partnership with key community and arts organisations in Dublin as well as other practitioners in the field;
  • support students to develop their own practice and careers  in the field of  art and social action. This may be as an artist, community worker, curator, educator, writer or other;
  • provide a rigorous ethical and critical framework for the understanding and practice of diverse approaches to and forms of social-engagement in art;  
  • welcome a diverse community of learners by offering flexible modes of study and a deep engagement with cultural differences. 


Future Careers

The Art and Social Action programme has been designed to support the professional practice needs of a range of learners. Although not a narrowly vocational programme, it recognises the value and importance of ‘real world’ learning, and so features modules which are offered in formal partnership with external organisations including Create – the National Development Agency for Collaborative Arts.


Some students may choose to develop projects which constitute a deep investigation of theories of social-engagement in art, however it is expected that the large majority of students on the MA/ MFA programme will engage directly with different stakeholders to realise public projects. As such, the programme is committed to supporting the acquisition of skills required for successful professional practice in art as well as in related fields such as education, public programming in museums and galleries and community based arts.

Minimum Entry Requirements

All applicants are expected to present an approved Bachelor degree at minimum level of 2nd class honours (2.2)

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)  – Applicants who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements for admission may be considered on the basis of a recognition of previous  learning  whether based on prior relevant experience or other relevant credited or non credited or learning (RPL). In such cases each applicant will be considered on a case-by-case basis based on a review of the applicant’s CV and other supporting documentation.
Please contact ncad@creativefutures.ie for further information.
Qualifying Examination –  In certain cases the academic team may choose to set a qualifying assignment in order to assess an applicant’s suitability for admission.

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 framing your reasons for applying to the programme, i.e. how attending the above selected course will benefit you and your practice  (500 words)
  • 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)
  • Portfolio / Evidence of previous work:
    • Applications must be supported by documentation that best represents your practice.
    • Applicants are requested to upload a document via the online application with access to a portfolio/collection of documentation of your previous work. This document can include a link to an on-line portfolio or a link to a folder on Google Drive.
    • Whatever your background or discipline, we do require evidence of previous work undertaken. What you include will depend on your experience and background. Whether you are coming from a background in art, education, community work, theatre, dance, youth work, music, architecture, activism or other related areas,  feel free to submit any material you feel showcases an aspect of your practice and skill-set that is relevant to the programme you are applying for.
    • We are open to reviewing written work, short video presentations, or any form of documentation of a project, including that which is theoretical or technical in nature. Some candidates may chose to describe projects they have been involved with in a “case study” format, eg. for the MA in Art and Social Action, you could consider writing or presenting a case study of a project you have been involved in, outlining the intentions, methods, approaches and challenges that were encountered and your role in the process.
    • There is no set requirement on the number of pages, images or projects that you share with us – this is up to each individual applicant.

Fees and application process

There is a fee of €8,100


Apply via NCAD HERE


CFA and Kilkenny Arts Office Bursaries:

Kilkenny Arts Office has joined forces with CFA to offer bursaries this Autumn to artists seeking to gain new qualifications and skills to expand their practice. The bursaries range from €500 to a maximum of €2,000. Find out more HERE



Contact the Programme Leaders

Dr Fiona Whelan, whelanf@staff.ncad.ie

Brian Hand, handb@staff.ncad.ie

Dr Emma Mahony, mahonye@staff.ncad.ie

Contact the Admissions Staff



CFA Scholarship

A CFA scholarship encourages the participation of learners from sections of society that are significantly under-represented in higher education by offering one free place on all of our CFA short courses.

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