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Head of Taught Postgraduate Awards Q&A

An MA is an intensive, rigorous and above all questioning period of study. It is a testing ground for the development and acquisition of advanced knowledge and thinking and focuses the individual on the pursuit of innovation and understanding of professional context.

Paul Fieldsend-Danks
Head of Taught Postgraduate Awards

Paul Fieldsend-Danks

My practice and research considers the expanded field of contemporary drawing practice in a Fine Art context, and is largely concerned with the materiality of drawing. The relationship between landscape, place, and drawing is a central concern within my work. Recent exhibitions include: Imagined Landscapes, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (2016); Anonymous Drawings, Galerie Nord, Berlin (2015); Drawology, Lanchester Gallery, Coventry (2014) & Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham (2013); All over the place: Drawing space, drawing place, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, Leeds (2010).

I was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2010, and I have exhibited in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, USA, Japan and Australia. Recent publications include: All over the place: drawing space, drawing place, Caseroom Press, Lincoln (2009). I am currently on the editorial board for Drawing: Research, Theory, Practice (intellectbooks), a co-editor of the drawing research journal Tracey (Loughborough University), and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

What makes the postgraduate community at NUA special?

We are privileged at NUA to be in such a wonderful place to work and study, and to be able to attract the very best industry practitioners. The MA philosophy spans all of the creative subjects at this level and has at its core a shared sense of purpose and dynamic. We believe that excellence is achieved by creating a community driven by curiosity, ambition and ingenuity, and this is what we try to engender. The Graduate Centre places this community at the heart of the University campus.

What are the key features of postgraduate study at NUA?

The emphasis for all our MA courses is on practice-based enquiry. MA students are encouraged to push the boundaries of their own subject knowledge, and we place a great emphasis on understanding the professional context for enquiry and production. In all aspects of study we encourage our students to be innovative in their work and to aspire to be leaders in their chosen field.

The key characteristics of Masters study at NUA are:

  • Belonging to a creative and challenging community of postgraduate students
  • Undertaking independent research projects
  • Interdisciplinary discussion and debate

Our taught postgraduate courses are comprised of 5 units of study:

  • ‘Award Specific’ units 1 & 2: there are two distinct award specific units that enable you to extend your capabilities as a practitioners. They promote the acquisition of new knowledge/skills within your specialist subject area.
  • ‘Research into Practice Unit’ provides you with the the opportunity to consider and develop practice-based methodologies, through theory informed study and critical reflection of your emerging practice.
  • ‘Self-Negotiated Unit’ allows you to engage in a self-initiated creative project, focusing on the production of a body of new work, and the development of a critically reflective practice.
  • ‘Masters Projects’: provides you with the opportunity to undertake a significant independent research project. The presentation of your project in the MA Degree show, is the culmination of your Masters study.

All of our MA courses are taught programmes of study. We use a range of approaches to maximize opportunities for learning and teaching, and to provide a stimulating and rich environment in which to study.

These include:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Individual and Group Tutorials
  • Interdisciplinary discussion
  • Self-initiated study
  • Independent fieldwork
  • Presentation
  • Critique
  • Peer learning

Much of our teaching is focused on nurturing and supporting the development of individual research projects, encouraging students to focus their creative thinking towards innovative practice-based outcomes.

How important is collaboration between students?

Collaborative working and the sharing of research and practice is a central part of professional creative practice and the MA at NUA seeks to emulate this. In ‘Research into practice’ we encourage interdisciplinary working and actively support collaborations both in and between disciplines where this is mutually beneficial to your understanding and knowledge. We are keen to work within both established relationships such as the artist and curator or photographer and fashion designer and also to invite different perspectives that provoke new ways of approaching a creative problem.

How does an MA go beyond a BA?

An MA is an intensive, rigorous and above all questioning period of study. It is a testing ground for the development and acquisition of advanced knowledge and thinking and focuses the individual on the pursuit of innovation and understanding of professional context. In many ways, it could be argued that an MA has become a refined professional filter for those entering the creative industries. It acknowledges a sustained individual approach through focused enquiry and a mastery of the subject.

What do you look for in applicants?

Applicants would usually be expected to hold an upper second-class honours or higher at undergraduate level in a related subject. Occasionally applicants from another disciplines or those with experiential knowledge or significant industry experience may be considered without formal qualifications. We are looking for motivated and talented students with a desire to engage in advanced knowledge and understanding of their subject.