Master of Fine Arts Program

The degree of Master of Fine Arts is designed to provide visual artists with the opportunity to extend their professional practice through advanced research in one or more discipline area. The MFA is primarily undertaken as a supervised independent study program of written work and studio research. Candidates develop a level of proficiency, self direction and focus through investigating a proposed area of research to produce work of an original and speculative nature.

The course is normally undertaken full-time over four semesters with examination in the final semester. Full-time candidates are expected to devote the equivalent of a 35-hour week to their research.

Research candidates at SCA are required to complete their first year as full-time students, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as major personal hardship or health problems. Part-time study is available from second year for candidates who have established a visual arts practice or are engaged in related employment which limits their study time. Candidates enrolled on a part-time basis may not receive their own studio space as this is subject to availability and priority is given to those enrolled on a full-time basis.

The following chapters will assist you with your study:

Course Structure and Requirements



At the beginning of your course you are required to nominate one of the following methods of candidature:

  • creative work and research paper, culminating in a substantial exhibition, performance or installation of works in a joint show of candidates at the end of candidature, together with a research paper of 10,000–12,000 words and oral presentation, or
  • thesis of 35,000–50,000 words in the field of art theory, art history, cultural studies or professional studies in visual art.

You must confirm the method of your candidature at your first Progress Review, which will take place towards the end of your first year.

MFA Seminar Program

At the commencement of candidatures, all first year MFA candidates attend an introductory seminar program, which aims to to support the proposed research project through extending research and critical skills. You will make presentations on your project and engage in peer group discussion on written and visual aspects of your work, and learn how to shape your research proposal and select appropriate research methods to achieve your project goals. Seminars are held weekly and you must attend no less than 90% of each seminar program. Students with non-satisfactory attendance will have to repeat the required seminars unless there is an evidence of extenuating circumstances or approval from the HDR Coordinator.

At the start of the second year of candidature MFA candidates attend a weekly seminar program dedicated to contemporary exhibition practices and critical writing. The program is integrated with the Graduate School Gallery curatorial program. Candidates must attend 90% of the program unless there is an evidence of extenuating circumstances or approval from the HDR Coordinator.

Studio Crits

In the second and fourth semesters of candidature (or equivalent), MFA candidates attend studio crits, usually scheduled in six-week blocks, and overseen by a member of SCA's academic staff. These crits are designed to encourage dialogue between candidates and develop each candidate's practice and presentation skills.

Seminar and Studio Crit Units of Study

All Master of Fine Arts seminars and studio crits are structured as the following units of study:

  • Introduction to Research Methodology (CART7001)
  • Exhibition Practices (CART 7002)
  • Critical Analysis in Studio (CART7003 + CART 7004)

Graduate School Forum

While not compulsory, MFA candidates are welcome to attend the Graduate School Forum, which is held on Wednesday afternoons during semester time (except public holidays and non-teaching weeks).

Upgrade requirements

MFA candidates may seek permission to transfer to the Doctor of Philosophy at the end of their first year of study, provided that they have the support of their supervisor. Each candidate wishing to upgrade will make a presentation on the current state of their research alongside the first-year PhD cohort during PhD probation reviews, in order to demonstrate successful completion of work to a standard commensurate with the requirements of the PhD. These upgrading candidates will also need to demonstrate that they have met the first-year PhD milestones.


Submission for Examination

At the end of your final year, you must submit for examination:

  • a substantial exhibition, performance or installation of artwork with supporting visual material of work completed during candidature; a presentation addressing the structure and mode of exhibition and developmental process; and a research paper of 10,000 -12,000 words relevant to the work and its development, its cultural and historical or theoretical references; or
  • a thesis of 35,000-50,000 words which is the result of original investigation in the fields of art theory, art history, cultural studies or professional studies in visual arts.

You must present your written work in English and identify those components of assessable work which are respectively the your own and that of others.

The research paper should achieve, via its own internal consistency and nominated methodology, the following objectives:

  • Be a coherent document which illustrates your concerns as a creative work practitioner through words and images
  • Present a clearly sequenced and expressed discussion, including introduction, analysis and conclusion at a level appropriate to a Masters degree
  • Indicate the location of the creative work within the context of contemporary art practice
  • Show evidence of your familiarity with recent literature relevant to general developments in the discipline and to the concerns of your own creative work
  • State your intentions in the development of the exhibited works; and more broadly, the intentions in work developed over the course of study. (Both should relate clearly to the your original research proposal)
  • Included appropriately presented and labelled illustrations to which the text makes specific reference and which represent the your creative work
  • Include all relevant bibliographic and pictorial reference data
  • Observe the required work length
  • Observe all formal presentation requirements (number of copies, binding, etc)

The research paper is seen as a complement to a your creative work. Some candidates wish to extend the creative possibilities of their work into the written component. Should you elect to take this approach, you should indicate this in the Introduction (or Foreword, if there is one) to the research paper, in order to clearly establish expectations of form and scholarship for examiners.

Please refer to the Research Examination page for full details of the examination procedure and timeline.