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MA1 Showcase/Exhibition

Since 2020, RCA graduation shows have included an online platform. This year, graduating students on both the one-year MA and two-year MA will have an online showcase of their work, alongside other physical outputs (which depend on their year/course)

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MA1 Showcase/Exhibition: Will action by MA1 Fashion Students lead to a later launch of the Digital Platform?

Since 2020, RCA graduation shows have included an online platform. This year, graduating students on both the one-year MA and two-year MA will have an online showcase of their work, alongside other physical outputs (which depend on their year and course). Fashion students on the one-year MA have asked the college to revise the dates of their showcase, or to push back the dates of the digital platform upload, stating that the current plan does not enable them to show themselves and their work in the best possible light. Below we detail the course of the appeal, including the college’s responses, and current status of the case.

We (the Students’ Union) support our students in these requests, and believe that the college should listen to the students who have direct on-the-ground experience of the timelines they are immersed in. We are constantly focused on improving student experience at the college, and understand that this situation is deeply affecting students.

Where the discussion started: The School of Design Assembly of Term 2

On March 2nd, the Royal College of Art Students' Union held the Term 2 School of Design Assembly, where Paul Anderson, the Dean of the School of Design and Chair of the Show Committee, addressed concerns raised by students about the MA1 Showcase/Exhibition being six weeks before the end of the course. See the minutes of this assembly here.

Paul Anderson responded by saying that the MA1 Showcase/Exhibition is not a final year show, but rather an exhibition or event that is part of the students' program and forms part of the credits. Therefore, it is not necessary for the showcase to be at the end of the year, as the work continues until the end of term, at which point students will be formally assessed for the master's degree by the Royal College of Art.

The Dean stated that “there is no gap” after the show, but that “the work continues as usual”. The final six weeks should include professional development opportunities. The change in the nature of the show for the one year MA is meant to give more flexibility to programmes for which an exhibition is not necessarily the most beneficial outcome. Instead they might do another form of output, e.g. a symposium, a trip, or a screening.  The college aims to ensure that students have some time to spend after the show preparing themselves for life in the industry beyond the end of their master's degree. 

This response did not satisfy the students. On March 28th, the MA 1-year Fashion Course Students, on behalf of the MA1 students, held a sit-in protest at the Kensington Campus. They raised concerns that the RCA had failed to plan and schedule their course to enable the MA1 students to fully explore their ideas.


The Initial Demands

The MA1 Fashion students requested that their June event/exhibition be postponed until August. This was because they wanted their individual research project to be counted towards their final event/exhibition, so that they could show high-quality finished work and fully explored ideas. They also requested that their June event be a Graduation Show and not a work-in-progress presentation. The students' requests were made in solidarity with MA2 students, who have been notified that they will no longer have access to workshops or studios after June 23rd (two weeks before their graduation show) to allow MA1s to set up their show. The MA1 Fashion students felt that the college had not been transparent and democratic in the planning of events such as degree shows, dates, and venues.

Because the new one-year MA (which is running for the first time this year) has a longer timeline (e.g. students finish in August, rather than June, as was the case with the two-year MA), the show comes earlier in the run of the course than it did for MA2s. This means that students are being asked to present work that will not necessarily be finished, as that work will be due weeks after the show. Students are unclear about what else they are meant to do in the period of time after the show. They had only heard general assurances that there would be some professional development during those last six weeks, but were not offered any specifics, and were not convinced that this would be of more value to them than the presentation of finished work in their final show would be. From the student perspective, it seems logical to move their show later, so that they can display their best and most complete work.

The Protest

To draw attention to this request, and to their frustrations with the school's administration regarding the scheduling and programming of their degrees, students decided to hold a protest. On March 28th, the one-year MA Fashion Students held a sit in. They stayed on campus after closing time (10pm/22:00), and invited students from other courses to join in in solidarity.

Please see the appendix for a transcript of the posters that students distributed  around Kensington Campus ahead of the protest, detailing their aims. 

The College Response

In response to the protests, the Assistant Dean in the School of Design sent a message to the students on behalf of the College. The key points included the below. 

  • The College declined the students’ request to postpone the event from 30th June - 3rd July in the Battersea Hanger, stating that this date was set specifically as part of term 3 activities related to the MA Fashion programme, to support students’ assessment, and with the appropriate technical resources being set aside to deliver a successful event. 

  • The College further explained that the MA had been validated and designed to have a June Event which is a work-in-progress presentation as its public-facing event, as part of the Independent Research Project. 

  • The College plans to support second-year MA students to prepare their presentation for their Graduation Show 2023 in July through the external events agency KitMapper. However, all second-year MA students will no longer have access to all College facilities after the term finishes on June 23rd, and will be asked to vacate their studios. 

  • The College also confirmed that the Senior Show Committee meets every two weeks to plan activities associated with the new one-year MA Events and two-year MA Graduate Show, and that they take student feedback from programme and school forums.

Regarding the protest, the College stated that it expected any form of protest to be respectful and peaceful. The published College opening hours are set out in the student handbook and on the intranet, and students were reminded that the College closes at 10pm and that remaining on college premises past 10pm could lead to disciplinary action. The College also encouraged students to speak with their Heads of Programme about their concerns. 

The Demands Change

After receiving the college’s response, the students adapted their request. Rather than asking for a later show altogether, they accepted that the physical show would remain at the end of June, but requested that only the digital component of their show be moved later. They asked for a later website launch in August or September, in which they could display the finished work they achieved during their time at the RCA.

To do this, the students suggested two alternatives:

  1. Launching the website for all students in August/September without any digital presence in June, 


  1. Only having the Fashion section withdraw from the digital platform at the June event and launch their section in August/September.

The Second College Response

The College replied to the Students’ Union, stating that they would not facilitate a second later upload for the MA1. 

Here are the reasons provided:

“1) The online exhibition should adhere with what has been validated - i.e. it is not an exhibition of finished outputs. 

2) The additional costs to support specific programmes for a second upload are not available.  Supporting specific programmes also does not offer a fair opportunity for all students as a concession for these programmes means that other students would question why they cannot have the same opportunity. It would likely result in complaints / upset / unhappiness for other Schools.

3) An additional upload would also reduce our ability to promote physical public activities which the work on the online exhibition will be used to do.”

This means that both requests from students have now been denied.

What the RCA Students’ Union is doing

The RCA Students’ Union is the representative organ of the student body. For the last several weeks we have been escalating the matter through various committees, and speaking to higher management on students’ behalf. We have also been in direct contact with the students involved in the protests. 

We were disappointed to hear that students' requests have been denied. We are now assessing if there are any further avenues of appeal open to us. We will keep students updated of any further developments.

If you are an MA1 student and you think you and your course would benefit from postponing the digital component of the show to August, or if you have any other ideas of solutions/improvements to this issue, please email us.



Transcript of posters that MA1 Fashion students distributed through Kensington Campus ahead of the March 28th protest.


Tuesday 28th March 22:00 - late. 

The MA1 Fashion Course are doing a sit-in at the Kensington Campus on Tuesday the 28th of March and our reasons are the following: The RCA fails to meet the service that was sold to its students who are enrolled on the first year of the restructured MA course. The MA course has not been planned and scheduled to enable students the best and most of their time at the RCA and fails to involve us in decisions and update us clearly within a significant timeframe.

Despite raising our concerns at multiple rep meetings, we are not listened to and often feel very disrespected by Senior members of the RCA who don’t acknowledge the problems and difficulties we face in return of the ill-considered programming of our degrees. 

Our demands are as follows:

- MA1 wants their June event/exhibition to be postponed until August. We want our individual research project to go towards our final event/exhibition since we want to be able to show high quality work and fully explored ideas. 

- MA1 wants their June event to be a Graduation Show, not a work in progress presentation. 

- We are also supporting MA2. They have been notified that no workshop access will be granted after the 23rd of June, this is 2 weeks before their graduation show. We support them and hope that they can receive access to the workshops and campus these dates prior to their show.

We are very disappointed that RCA has made all these decisions without the students' input. The college has not been transparent and democratic in the planning of these events such as degree shows, dates and venues. The sit-in at the Campus will be our way for us to reclaim a small amount of time back against the 6 weeks that we lose not being able to work towards our final event. 

We hope that other courses that are facing the same problems will support us. If so, please stay at the Kensington Campus on Tuesday the 28th of March when the building closes at 22:00. Some of us will stay all night and some an hour. It is a great opportunity to stay and do work late and silently protest. We all are in this together