Our MA Graphic Design programme is a two-year part-time course.

Through online delivery the course is accessible to anyone who, because of work, caring or family commitments, would not otherwise be able to consider studying at a higher degree level.

What is MA Graphic Design?

The MA Graphic Design online course at the OCA is an opportunity to create a dialogue about what Graphic Design is as a discipline and how we can cross boundaries into other disciplines such as: Games Design; Service Design; Sculpture; Programming; Activism; Performance; Moving Image and Spatial Design.

Our master’s in graphic design online programme offers you an opportunity to work in a medium of your choice. The course itself starts with a short, ‘Unlearning Programme’ encouraging incoming students to explore processes and mediums before committing to a platform of study, for example, Design Activism, Experiential Design, Digital Domains, Motion, Typography, Brand… These platforms will help you locate your practice within the broad subject of Graphic design, whilst offering up opportunities to collaborate with students from other platforms and broadening your professional outlook and experiences.

As you progress through the Graphic Design Master’s course you will be able to share experiences and learning through group and individual work. The curriculum builds from a more structured programme towards autonomous study, with an emphasis on enquiry, critical reflection and exploration.

Photo by Kerde Severin on Unsplash

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available units – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which OCA might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 14 December 2022.

How is the course delivered?

The master’s in graphic design online course is delivered primarily by e-learning technologies, incorporating online seminars and peer group discussion. Independent research and studio practice is a significant element of the course.

Through varied teaching approaches, such as lectures, seminars, tutorials and critiques as well as one-to-one tutorial support, you’ll benefit from the expertise of core course tutors. These professionals have an outstanding range of expertise and are practicing designers in the field in addition to being experienced educators. 

The master’s in graphic design online course includes:

  • One to one tuition via video conferencing
  • Online seminars
  • Group work such as critiques or studio sessions
  • Access to the world class Bridgeman Education Art Library and digital resources from the University for the Creative Arts
  • Online Group Orientation
  • Study resources and other relevant materials

Consideration has been given to the participation of overseas students within the MA Graphic Design programme. We recognise that they may be in a different time zone and online participation within the UK’s time zone may be a challenge. Sessions are carefully scheduled bearing in mind the location of overseas participants, however some session may be outside the working day for some students. In addition, OCA schedules one to one sessions across time zones and some sessions are optionally asynchronous.

Photo by HalGate on Unsplash

Course Philosophy and Progression

The master’s graphic design online course embraces all aspects of graphic design, allowing you to explore the boundaries of what a graphic design practice can be. Through conversation and debate we will tackle the boundaries and possibly re-define them in your own image. You will become an independent practitioner with the ability to initiate, interrogate and resolve complex problems through creative and skilfully applied activity. Your practice will be the coming together or speculation and technical expertise, creating work that is both meaningful and of a high standard.

Progression routes are individual as well as collective, and you will be supported to develop your increasingly sophisticated practice towards public presentation of your work and effective and appropriate communication of your ideas. Whatever your aspiration, whether it is increasing the range and impact of your networks nationally and internationally, moving on to further related study, or work in the graphic design industry, you will benefit from this course. Our MA Graphic Design introduces professional practice in your chosen discipline and offers support of your aspirations.

This master’s in graphic design online course is extremely flexible, and its structure means you can earn while you learn and at the same time advance your career prospects. People studying our Graphic Design Master’s will be better placed to gain higher level teaching posts in the field of art or move into creative sectors of employment.

Craig Roberts

Course Content

There are a total of 180 HE credits in this degree which are split into three 60 credit units covering essential elements including the following aims:
  • The unit supports you in developing an advanced awareness of graphic design through practical projects and independent research. The aim of the unit is to develop a highly critical and creative conversation between your practice and research interests. This will introduce you to:

    1. innovate professional design practices
    2. relevant academic literature and theories
    3. current debates around graphic design and its subject boundaries
    4. strategies to apply research and practice to inform your creative approach and critical position.
  • The unit provides the opportunity to identify, develop and manage a substantial self-directed project, and presenting the outcomes through suitable publications, exhibitions or presentations. The aim of the unit is to apply highly fluent creativity to resolve professional and innovative ideas. A Professional Practice folder will gather and reflect on external facing aspects of the project. 

    The unit encourages you to apply specialist graphic design skills by undertaking projects with a focus on professional practice, enterprise, collaboration, or other external partners. The aim of the unit is to apply specialist design skills in research, creativity, critical-thinking and problem-solving, and to develop a professional understanding of how to operate as a graphic designer.

  • The unit provides the opportunity to identify, develop and manage a substantial self-directed project, and presenting the outcomes through suitable publications, exhibitions or presentations. The aim of the unit is to apply highly fluent creativity to resolve professional and innovative ideas. A Professional Practice folder will gather and reflect on external facing aspects of the project. 

    A contextual study in Unit 1 provides an opportunity to demonstrate your advanced awareness of contextual knowledge and critical thinking. In Unit 2 you can explore ideas through a contextual study, or produce a suitable project report or business case. These can be developed through written, presentation, or visual essay formats. Throughout the course you will document your work through a learning log and produce reflective presentations to help synthesize your learning.

Programme Specification 2022/23

Review Programme Specification Here

Programme Specification 2023/34

Review Programme Specification Here

Accessibility Statements

Review Accessibility Statements here

“At its core, the MA Graphic Design Programme is open, flexible, and International. The course encourages students to navigate a complex, volatile uncertain world with strategies and ideas that reframe conventional perceptions and force us to rethink possibilities and solutions.

The course embraces technology whilst harnessing craft-based design skills. Students learn to communicate across multiple platforms, forging professional collaborations that address potential social, cultural, technological, economic, and environmental change. The OCA’s diverse team of expert tutors, inspire graphic design students to be proactive, adaptable, entrepreneurial in spirit, innovative with responses and above all life-long learners.”

Barry Hurd - Programme Leader for MA Graphic Design

Application Process

All applicants to the MA Graphic Design will be required to complete the OCA Master’s application form and submit a written statement with a recent portfolio of artwork to be considered for the course.

The statement should be between 500 – 1000 words and reason why you wish to study an MA with OCA and what are your aspirations for the course. Refer to your portfolio work and let us know about you as an artist. Your portfolio should include 8 – 10 images of work from last two years, and we advise focusing on the work you would like to develop on the course. It would be useful to include development work to show your methods of working.

Within the application form, you need to claim a minimum of 50 points of the entry criteria for your statement and portfolio to be reviewed. When claiming criteria points, you must provide supporting evidence e.g. if you have a degree in Fine Art, include a digital copy of that certificate with your submission.

  • Criteria Points
    Degree in any subject 40
    Degree in the visual arts 50
    Evidenced experience of working in any relevant creative industry or context. For example, as a practising Fine Artist. 50
    Higher National Diploma/Foundation degree or equivalent in Art 30
    Higher National Certificate or equivalent in Art 20
    A-Level Art or equivalent 10
    Other experience or learning, whether certified or not, will be considered on an individual basis

    Equivalency to the qualifications stated include international qualifications, provided these are accompanied by a UK NARIC equivalency certificate and/or un-certificated training or work experience to an equivalent level. In all cases acceptance is at the discretion of Open College of the Arts.

  • This programme is conducted centrally online. It is therefore essential that you are adept at communicating and using online tools and have a desktop computer or laptop with internet access that you are able to use regularly, and that you are able to easily manage a range of basic functions through ICT.

    If accepted to the course, an IT survey must be taken to ensure sufficient skills, knowledge and internet / online capabilities as well as establishing a sufficient broadband speed.

  • For applicants where English is not their first language, they will be required to provide evidence of English Language proficiency equivalent to B2 CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference).

    You can evidence you meet this requirement through one of the following documents:

    • A Secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course. IELTS for UKVI or IELTS Academic may be accepted as meeting these requirements, provided the student has achieved a minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four elements of language learning.
    • Have successfully completed an academic course (not professional or vocational) at Bachelors degree level or above from an educational institution in the UK or in a majority English speaking country as listed below.
    • A passport provided as evidence of nationality of a majority English speaking country as listed above.
    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) iBT taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course, with minimum scores in each of the four elements of language learning as follows: reading 18, listening 17, speaking 20 and writing 17.
    • Cambridge English B2 First qualification with scale range 160-179 taken in the last two years as of the date of enrolment to the course.

    The above list is not exhaustive and other evidence can be accepted providing it is clear the evidence equates to Level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In all cases acceptance is at the discretion of Open College of the Arts.

    If you do not have any of the above documents, then you may be interested in taking an online test through Duolingo. You would need an overall score of 90 or above to meet Level B2 of the CEFR, and a minimum score of 85 in each category (providing your overall score is still above 90).

    A nationality of a majority English speaking country includes: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Great Britain, Grenada, Guyana, Republic of Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

  • Each 60 credit course unit is studied over approximately 28 weeks, and requires 21 study hours per week.

    Prepare to set aside around 2 hours each week for a scheduled group tutorial (arranged once the cohort is established).

  • OCA courses are studied and paid for on a unit by unit basis with fees being reviewed annually. On the MA Graphic Design course, you will study three 60 credit units, equating to 180 credits required to complete a Masters.

    OCA courses are studied and paid for on a unit by unit basis with fees being reviewed annually. You will study three 60 credit units, equating to 180 credits required to complete a Masters.

    For the academic year 2023/2024, a single 60 credit unit costs £2,970 for UK based students, and £3,960 for international students, meaning the course overall will be roughly £8,910 for UK students, and £11,880 for international students. Payments are made at three points across the two years.

    You can pay for a course unit fee upfront or break down the payment through a deposit and instalment option.

    You can apply through Student Finance England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and Scotland. Please check the relevant government website to check your eligibility.

  • The next cohort is October 2023. The deadline for applications is 31st July 2023.

  • These regulations are applicable to all taught courses leading to an undergraduate or postgraduate award of the University or Higher Education credit allocated at levels 3 – 7 of the National Qualifications Framework. Any exemptions from these regulations must be exceptional and must be approved by the
    Academic Board.

    To review the Academic Framework, click the link below:

    Academic Framework

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