Study an MA in Graphic Design with OCA

The Graphic Design MA 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.

Applications are now closed for 2020/2021.

Download the Programme Specification here

Programme Specification

What is Graphic Design?

Our MA Graphic Design programme is a two-year part-time course, beginning January 2021.

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.

The MA Graphic Design 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 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.

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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.

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.


Course Philosophy

The 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.

The 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
  • Access to the world class Bridgeman Education Art library and digital resources from the University for the Creative Arts 
  • Study resources and other relevant materials

Jonny Briggs - Programme Leader for MA Graphic Design

My practice is broad and exploratory, covering Graphic Design practice, through my design studio (, My exploratory coding and image collaboration which goes under the name of Project Something and finally my teaching covering my role at the OCA and Leeds Beckett University. If I had to describe my practice in one sentence, I would say it’s a collection of Loose parts and foraged ideas.

Jonny Briggs

Course Content

There are a total of 180 HE credits in this degree, which cover essential elements including the following aims:

Research and Practice

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.

Innovation and Development

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.

Resolution and Presentation

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.

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More Information

  • Tutors who support our MA in Graphic Design are both practising artists and experienced HE educators. Visit our tutor page here to see profiles of the MA tutors.

  • This year, OCA will be establishing a two year teaching model for the MA Graphic Design programme which will differ from the previous three year model. Details on the course structure are currently under development. To receive updates, please submit an enquiry form. The two year teaching model is expected to be ready for the 2020/2021 intake, beginning January 2021.

  • The 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.

  • Consideration has been given to the participation of overseas students within the MA 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.

  • Prior to application, an IT survey must be taken to ensure sufficient skills, knowledge and internet / online capabilities as well as establishing a sufficient broadband speed.

    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.

    Summary of ICT competencies for students in higher education:

    Information: Browsing, researching, filtering information, evaluatinginformation, storing and retrieving information, including
    from cloud storage

    Communication: Interacting through technologies, sharing information and content, engaging in online citizenship, collaborating through digital channels, netiquette, managing digital identity

    Content Creation: Developing content, integrating and re-elaborating copyright and licences, programming

    Safety: Protecting devices, protecting personal data, protecting health, protecting the environment

    Problem Solving: Solving technical problems, identifying needs and technological responses, innovating and creating using technology, identifying digital competency gaps

  • 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).

    Please refer to the list below which advise the type of qualifications that meet the B2 CEFR entry requirement. This list is not exhaustive, and we can accept alternative evidence.

    • A secure English Language Test (SELT) from an approved provider, taken two years or less before the date of enrolment to the course, equivalent to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR). 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. Integrated Skills in English II from Trinity College may be accepted if the student has achieved a pass 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.
    • Have previously studied an academic qualification at Bachelors degree level or above taught in a majority English speaking country: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States of America.
    • A passport provided as evidence of nationality of a majority English speaking country: Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, and the United States of America.
    • 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.


    If you are unable to supply any of the above documents or an equivalent, you may wish to take an English test via Duolingo where you will need to achieve a score equivalent to B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

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

    The written statement will detail reasons for wishing to join the course and the portfolio of artwork will have been produced during the two years prior to application.

    Then, OCA will normally accept students onto the course who can apply and claim for 50 points, made up from any of the following:

    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.

    OCA Masters programmes run through a cohort model and require a minimum number of students to run. Students who meet the above criteria will be issued with a conditional offer which will be made unconditional once the minimum number to run the course has been reached.

  • This 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 this MA will be better placed to gain higher level teaching posts in the field of art, or move into creative sectors of employment.

  • The course fee for the new two year MA Fine Art course for the academic year 20/21 are (per 60 credit unit):

    UK – £2,600

    International – £3,510

    The OCA Learner Support Scheme can provide partial bursaries towards course fees for students who are not eligible for funding via Student Finance, based on financial hardship.

    Other sources of funding may include employer contributions, Enhanced Learning Credits (for Armed Forces Serving Personnel and Service Leavers) and Prisoner Education Trust.

    As a student with OCA, most reading materials can be accessed through the digital library services and eBooks, or sent to you in the post.

    Other costs you may find on your degree include purchasing materials/books/texts to assist in your practice and research. These can be  around £350 at HE7. Students are also encouraged to attend exhibitions and costs may vary. Work is largely submitted to tutors and for assessment through the OCA Learn VLE or by email, however postal costs are expected to be around £40 per assessment for sending materials depending on quantity and weight of materials. Rates for overseas students will be higher and depend upon the country of origin.

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