Master of Fine Arts
The information on this page applies to future students. Current students should refer to their faculty handbooks for course information.
Due to the potential merger of the Sydney College of the Arts with UNSW Art & Design changes, the University of Sydney are not currently accepting applications for the Bachelor of Visual Arts for 2017.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will keep our website updated with information as it becomes available.
The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) by research is designed to provide graduate visual artists with the opportunity to develop their art practice within the structure of a research culture.
You will develop a level of proficiency, self-direction and focus through investigating a proposed area of research, and will be encouraged to produce work of an original and speculative nature. Your research supervisor will provide personalised and dedicated attention to the development of your research outcomes.
You can complete the Master of Fine Arts by creative work and research paper culminating in a substantial exhibition, screening, performance or installation of creative works, and a research paper on an area of relevance to the creative work; or by thesis in the field of art theory, art history, cultural studies or professional studies in visual art.
It is assumed that those entering this degree are trained and competent in their particular field and are seeking to extend their practice at a higher level.
Further course information
Further information about research courses
Research at Sydney
Your research at Sydney
Research at The University of Sydney is dynamic and always evolving; inspiring the active mind and providing new tools and ways of thinking that lead to innovation. A postgraduate research degree is a training exercise in which the candidate acquires knowledge of research methods and experience in planning, performing and publishing research under the guidance of a supervisor. The success of that training is assessed through a thesis, which in the case of a PhD is expected to provide some evidence of originality and thereby make some significant contribution to knowledge, at least some of which is publishable. A successful research master’s thesis will likewise demonstrate a grasp of training in research methodology but may make a less original contribution than a doctoral thesis. Over the years, The University of Sydney has consistently outperformed other Australian universities in the measure of research performance used by the Australian Government to allocate funding. The numbers are impressive, but what really matters is the research this funding supports. This exceptional outcome is testament to the breadth, depth and scale of Sydney’s research enterprise and demonstrates the superior quality of Sydney researchers in the eyes of their research peers
The supervisor is that member of the academic or, as appropriate, senior research staff, appointed to take primary responsibility for the conduct of a student's research candidature. The supervisor must be available at all stages of the candidature for advice, assistance and direction and is responsible for the progress of the candidature to the head of department/school and the faculty or college. At least one associate supervisor is also appointed. The role of the supervisory team will change over the course of the candidature but will generally always comprise: ensuring sufficient resources are available to support the candidate; providing advice about an initial research plan; ensuring that the candidate is aware of the particular research skills to be acquired and that appropriate techniques are established for gathering and analysing data; monitoring progress made within the context of the research plan; agreeing on a timetable for frequent and regular contact and acknowledging the need for periodic review of these arrangements; establishing agreed indicators of progress; providing regular and constructive feedback on written analysis and drafts; and providing sound advice about relevant administrative matters.
The University of Sydney offers a number of research scholarships to outstanding domestic and international students. Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and citizens of New Zealand are domestic applicants. Scholarships information for domestic applicants http://sydney.edu.au/future-students/domestic/postgraduate/research/scholarships/. Overseas nationals (citizens of all other countries) are international applicants. Scholarships information for international applicants http://sydney.edu.au/future-students/international/postgraduate/research/scholarships.shtml
The Research Training Scheme (RTS), http://sydney.edu.au/future-students/domestic/postgraduate/research/costs/ administered by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), provides course fee exemptions for Commonwealth-funded higher degree by research (HDR) students for the duration of an accredited HDR course, up to a maximum of four years full-time equivalent study for a doctorate by research (including a professional doctorate which meets the research program criteria), and two years’ full-time equivalent study for a master's by research. RTS students may be enrolled full-time or part-time.
Progression and completion
A candidate for the Master of Fine Arts will have an annual review of progress, in which the candidate will be required to provide evidence of progress in their research and towards the completion of their creative work and research paper or thesis. On the basis of the evidence provided, the faculty will recommend the conditions of candidature to apply in the following year, and may request a further review at the end of a semester.
If a candidate is not progressing satisfactorily towards the completion of the degree, they may be asked by the faculty to explain why their candidature should not be terminated.
Annual progress review
The Academic Board has determined that all research candidates are required to undertake an annual progress review (APR). The APR comprises a written report and a mandatory interview. The report requires written statements from the candidate, the supervisory panel, the staff member responsible for coordinating or directing research within the department, and the Chair of the review panel. The interview is conducted by the review panel, which should include the participation of an academic staff member or members from outside the department. Members of the candidate's supervisory panel may be present for part of the interview, but the interview must provide the candidate with the opportunity to speak freely to the review panel without the presence of supervisors. On the basis of evidence provided and the interview, the head of the department recommends the conditions of candidature to apply for the following year.
To satisfy the requirements of the Master of FIne Arts you must complete any specified probationary requirements; complete any prescribed units of study; attend any prescribed weekly seminars and Graduate School fora; and conduct research on the approved topic. If you are proceeding by thesis you must also write a thesis embodying the results of the research. If you are proceeding by creative work and research paper you must also submit for examination, at a joint exhibition by candidates, a substantial exhibition, screening, performance or installation of works; and a research paper on an area relevant to the creative work.
Examination of both the thesis and the creative work and research paper will be conducted in general accordance with standards prescribed by Academic Board for the Doctor of Philosophy, except that you will submit three copies of the thesis or research paper and
two examiners will be appointed by the Faculty, at least one of whom shall be external to the University. In the case of you proceeding by creative work and research paper, the examiners will examine the creative work and the research paper at an oral examination chaired, in a non-voting capacity, by the Director of the Faculty’s Graduate School or his/her nominee.
Thesis submission requirements and examination procedure as set out in the Academic Board resolutions for this course and the Higher Degree (HDR) Rule 2011.
After successful completion of the Master of Fine Arts you can apply for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at Sydney College of the Arts
How to apply
To be eligible for admission to the Master of Fine Arts, you must present a portfolio of work that demonstrates you have the level of art practice proficiency expected of an advanced research applicant. In addition, you must have completed the equivalent of one of the following in visual arts or other subject area related to your proposed research area:
• bachelor’s degree with honours
• bachelor’s degree and graduate diploma
• master’s degree by coursework with an independent research component such as a thesis, dissertation or research project.
These criteria constitute the minimum requirements for eligibility and do not guarantee admission. That remains at the discretion of the relevant supervisors and departments, and access to supervision remains highly competitive. The University must certify that there are sufficient supervisory and other resources and facilities available to enable your candidature to be completed successfully.
Applying for admission
1. Find a supervisor within the University whose academic background aligns with your research. You may visit Research Supervisor Connect to start.
2. Contact a research supervisor either through Research Supervisor Connect or email and provide:
• your academic/educational background and research experience with examples such as an academic transcript
• your CV/resume
• examples of your recent art practice
• the area of interest for your PhD
• why you believe your research topics align with this supervisor
3. In conjunction with your supervisor, develop a preliminary research proposal of 3-5 pages that outlines the subject area, objectives and significance of your research. Include the proposed method of candidature: by thesis comprising a body of creative work for exhibition and a written component; or by written thesis only. See proposal guidelines.
4. Prepare a portfolio that reflects your recent art practice and demonstrates the level of proficiency expected of an advanced research applicant. Please submit up to 10 examples of your work to date. See portfolio guidelines
5. If you intend to study part-time towards a PhD, you will also need to supply:
• evidence that shows you will have sufficient time available to plan and carry out the research under the supervision of the University, and complete the course within the maximum period allowed for a part-time PhD enrolment
• a declaration from your employer (if relevant) confirming that you will be permitted to take the time required to effectively pursue your studies.
6. Your research proposal should be submitted along with your portfolio, CV, academic transcripts and other supporting documents.
7. Applications are made via the University’s online application portal. When you are ready to apply, select the ‘Apply Now’ button on the right hand side of this page.
8. You may be invited to attend an admission interview in support of your application for a research degree. You will be notified if this is necessary.
Additional application requirements
You will be required to upload all of the following documents when you submit your application:
• certified academic transcripts for all your previous tertiary study, if they were not completed at The University of Sydney
• CV, providing a summary of your work experience and other relevant activities
• two academic references (international applicants)
• research proposal
• Statement for capacity to undertake part-time candidature (if applicable –domestic applicants)
• cover letter outlining your reasons for applying
• evidence that your supervisor supports your application. This can be PDF copies of emails and correspondence between you and your supervisor
• proof of your Australian residency status (a certified copy of the main page your Australian passport, or a certified copy of the main page(s) of your own passport with evidence of your visa)
• English language qualifications (if your prior study was completed at an institution where English is not the medium of instruction).
• portfolio of creative work.
You may also be invited to an interview.
Postgraduate Domestic Tuition Fee
This 2016, tuition fee for a domestic postgraduate student represents the fee that is payable by you in the calendar year you commence your course, commencing in 2015 for a standard annual full time load of 48 credit points (1.0 EFTSL). If your study load is more or less than the 1.0 EFTSL your fee will differ.
Annual review for postgraduate domestic tuition fee
Importantly, tuition fees are subject to annual review by the University, and are likely to increase each year of your period of study, effective at the start of each calendar year.
Additional incidental fees
For some courses there are incidental fees additional to the student contribution and/or course fee. Some of those fees are significant, for example, faculty-specific materials, tools, protected clothing and equipment. For further information about these additional incidental fees, please visit the University's Future Students' website.
Potential for inaccuracy
Whilst every reasonable effort has been made to include correct and up to date information in this prospectus, you are also advised to consult directly with the Student Centre for domestic students or the International Office for international students so that they can provide you with specific and up to date information about those fees.
The academic requirements that are displayed are applicable to currently available courses only, and are updated annually in October and may be changed without notice. The Faculty Handbook and the University of Sydney Calendar are the official legal source of information relating to study at the University of Sydney, and you are referred to those documents
Please note that if you are classified by the University as a Research Training Scheme student in accordance with the Other Grants Guidelines (Research) 2010, you will be exempt from the payment of any SCA or tuition fees for courses undertaken as part of a Research Masters degree and Research Doctoral degree. More information about your eligibility for this Scheme is available here.
International tuition fees for postgraduate students
This 2016, tuition fee for international postgraduate students represents the fees that are payable by you in the calendar year you commence your course, commencing in 2016, for a standard annual full time load of 48 credit points (1.0 EFTSL). If your study load is more or less than the 1.0 EFTSL your fee will differ.
Importantly, tuition fees are subject to annual review, and are likely to increase each year of your period of study, effective at the start of each calendar year.
Additional incidental fees and health insurance
For some courses there are incidental fees additional to the tuition fees. Some of those fees are significant, for example, faculty-specific materials, tools, protected clothing, and equipment. The University's Future Students' webpage has further information about these additional incidental fees for postgraduate coursework students and postgraduate research students.
In addition to the fees indicated here for the course of study, International Students studying on an Australian Student Visa must have appropriate health insurance for the duration of their studies on a Student Visa through an approved provider of the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) scheme. This is a requirement of the Australian Government, unless otherwise exempted by the Government.
Potential for inaccuracy
Whilst every reasonable effort has been made to include correct and up to date information here, you are also advised to consult directly with the Student Centre for domestic students or the International Office for international students so that they can provide you with specific and up to date information about those fees.