Art and Social Practice MA | Middlesex University London
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Art and Social Practice MA

Learn about the course below
October 2018
September 2018 (EU/INT induction)
1 year full-time
2 years part-time
£7,800 (UK/EU) *
£13,500 (INT) *
Course leader
Loraine Leeson

This unique course, the first of its kind in the UK, builds on this country’s significant history of community-based and socially engaged art initiatives addressing social and environmental issues. You will be encouraged to take creative practice beyond the institution to build on your own interests, networks and communities. Creative skills are developed in an effective and targeted way, and grounded in critical understanding and theory.

Why study MA Art and Social Practice at Middlesex University?

Middlesex University hosts some of the UK's most experienced and renowned practitioners with cross-disciplinary experience in the fields of community-based and socially engaged art practice.

The MA Art and Social Practice builds on Middlesex University's historical roots in the progressive Hornsey College of Art, at the forefront of encouraging artists to engage and participate with communities and institutions to positively impact the world around them. It will provide you with a productive environment for debate and critical enquiry across creative disciplines where ideas can be shared and collaborations fostered. Visits to external projects, organisations and events together with virtual interactions with peers from other universities will connect you with others immersed in parallel fields of study to extend your horizons, widen your knowledge and forge connections for the future.

This practice-based course is one of the few postgraduate programmes in the UK specifically designed for cultural practitioners who wish to make a difference by developing their work in an outward-facing way. You will leave the course well-equipped to pursue self-initiated projects and commissions or develop your work through the cultural and community sectors.

Course highlights

  • Experienced practitioner-led teaching.
  • Off-site project work based on your own interests, contacts and communities.
  • A programme of lectures, seminars and external visits to inform and enhance your practice.
  • Studio space for both full and part-time students.
  • State of the art facilities and workshops with contemporary and traditional equipment, archives and a full range of digital tools including software labs, 3D printing and media studios.
  • An active research context with staff specialism in social practice.
  • An university context that supports interdisciplinary working.
  • Access to London's thriving scene of social engagement, cultural activism and urban renewal.
  • International university partnerships offering opportunity for exchange and placements.
  • Collaborative events such as the Art and Social Practice virtual symposia and seminars with University of Highlands and Islands to share work in progress and ideas with peers across institutions.
  • As a student of this course you'll receive a free electronic textbook for every module.

What will you study on the MA Art and Social Practice?

This new course is divided into five modules taken over three semesters (if studied full-time). Each module is designed to be flexible, allowing you to bring your own interests to the assignments while extending the boundaries of your current artistic practice through experimentation, research, analysis and creative exploration.

What will you gain?

You will gain experience in conducting your work in the public domain, as well as instigating, negotiating and developing projects through engagement with the wider community. These transferable skills will be an asset to whatever form of outreach work you choose to take up as an artist or cultural professional following the course.

  • Modules

    • Developing Practice (30 credits)

      In this module you will explore appropriate contexts for conducting socially engaged art practice in a way that is effective and meaningful in relation to your wider interests and networks. This will allow you to establish a reflective and critical context for the development of advanced work in this field, informed by research and contextual knowledge.

    • Critical Debates (30 credits)

      In this module you will explore key critical and disciplinary debates in contemporary creative and cultural practice and theory at an advanced level. This will enable you to establish a comprehensive investigative approach to creative practice and methodologies, and one that explores the critical interrelationship between theory and practice.

    • Advanced Research (30 credits)

      In this module you will examine a diverse range of advanced approaches to art and design research, enabling you to produce an advanced, articulate and coherent body of work that reflects a personal vision and language that is appropriate to your chosen field. You will also examine, critically evaluate and develop the language(s) used to articulate research in art and design.

    • Practice through Engagement (30 credits)

      In this module you will develop a proposal for work within a community or collaborative context focusing on the needs of a particular group. You will develop the skills and knowledge required to create collaborative and participatory work in a wider social environment, resulting in a research-backed proposal for a practical project.

    • Major Project (60 credits)

      Using research methodologies, concepts and processes previously explored in the course you will realise a significant project in the public domain that is rooted in social engagement and aims for social change. This will be accompanied by a critical and reflective piece of writing that demonstrates your resolution and expertise.

You can find more information about this course in the programme specification. Module and programme information is indicative and may be subject to change.

How is the MA Art and Social Practice taught?

This course is taught through tutorials, lectures, seminars and workshops delivered by academic and professional practitioners with a diverse range of skills and expertise. The focus is on engagement with outside agencies, however students are supported through all processes of development, negotiation and delivery of this work.

Seminars, discussions, visits to outreach projects and input by experienced project partners active in the cultural and community field help stimulate ideas, providing a wider context against which individual projects are developed. One-to-one tutorials help students to develop an individual programme of work built around their own interests, networks and communities, while extending existing artistic skills and competencies.

The MA Art and Social Practice does not have formal placements; rather, students negotiate with or build groups with whom they wish to work. As well as cultural institutions and SMEs it is also possible to work within a more formal organisation, such as a school or hospital.


Assessment is through the realisation of your major project outcome in an appropriate setting and coursework, including production of a journal, presentations and project documentation.

The assessment criteria consider your ability to:

  • Develop, realise, document and communicate your practical project
  • Plan, realise, document and effectively communicate process-based work relating to the needs of groups and individuals external to the institution
  • Critically reflect upon socially engaged art practice in differing contexts
  • Understand the ways in which socially engaged art operates within the wider social and cultural sphere.
  1. UK & EU
  2. International
  3. How to apply
  1. UK & EU
  2. International

How will the MA Art and Social Practice support your career?

You will be well prepared for an independent career as a socially engaged artist realising your work through fundraising, commissioning and the instigation of new SMEs and/or charities.

The MA Art and Social Practice will also prepare you for employed work in the outreach departments of cultural institutions, or for taking a creative role within community or development organisations.

Dr Loraine Leeson
Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer, Art Practice and the Community

Dr Leeson is known for her collaborative and participatory work in East London, including the Docklands Community Poster Project in the 1980s. Her work with young people has been recognised by a Media Trust Inspiring Voices award and Olympic Inspire Mark, while her public artwork The Catch was voted a London 2012 Landmark. Her project Active Energy has received the Best Arts and Green Energy award from Regen SW.

Dr Alexandra Kokoli
Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture - Fine Arts

Dr Kokoli's interests are situated within feminist art history, theory and practice, particularly the relationship between feminism and psychoanalysis, gender politics of popular visual culture and contemporary feminist movements. She is author of The Feminist Uncanny in Theory and Art Practice (Bloomsbury, 2016) and editor of Feminism Reframed (Cambridge Scholars, 2008) and The Provisional Texture of Reality: Selected Talks and Texts by Susan Hiller (1977-2007) (JRP Ringier, 2008).

Simon Read
Associate Professor, Fine Art

Simon Read is concerned with environmental change and works with coastal communities to help foster understanding of coastal and estuarine issues. He is also engaged in the management of the liminal intertidal zone. He has built experimental structures to manage tidal flow through saltmarsh, including A Tidal Protection Barrier for Sutton Saltmarsh on the River Deben in Suffolk and Falkenham Saltmarsh Tidal Management Scheme.

Alberto Duman
Lecturer in Art Practice and the Community

Alberto Duman’s interdisciplinary work is located at the intersection between art and urban spatial practice across diverse media and collaborative partnerships, with particular concerns to social context and the role of art in the cultural production of urban space. He is Artist in Residence at UEL with Music for Masterplanning.

Professor Graeme Evans
Professor in Design Cultures

Professor Evans is currently running two AHRC-funded research projects: Hydrocitizenship, and smART Cities and Waste. Prior to academe he worked in community arts as a director of Inter-Action and directed the London Association of Arts Centres.

Professor Sonia Boyce
Professor in Fine Arts

Professor Boyce is a key figure in the Black-British art scene, particularly known for artworks that speak about race and gender. In 2007, she was awarded an MBE for her services to art, and was elected Royal Academician in the category of Painting in 2016. Her works are held in the permanent collections of Arts Council England, Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate.

Dr Neelam Raina
Senior Lecturer Fashion and Interiors

Dr Raina's research explores the links between culture, conflict, poverty and development, particularly how crafts have changed the lives of women who have borne the impact of conflict in Kashmir. Her current research focuses on how Muslim women cope in other conflict zones, and the survival strategies of women in Afghanistan.

Emma Dick
Lecturer in Visual Culture - Fashion

Emma Dick is leader of the theory and research modules, Lecturer in the Visual Culture, History and Theory of Fashion and a member of the Diasporic & Transcultural Practices Research Cluster. Emma is currently working on development projects empowering women in Central Asia by linking textile artisans to global markets.

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