Contemporary Arts China - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2018
£6,900 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2018 entry (view all fees)

Developed with our internationally-renowned partners, this course offered by the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) will enable you to gain expertise in contemporary arts in China, as well as professional experience, while developing your own research and practice.

The course is aimed at ambitious researchers and practitioners who want to pursue an international career in the arts, and want to become research-led practitioners and professionals. Its focus on professional development makes it ideal for recent graduates, curators, artists, designers, art historians, writers and others.

What's covered in the course?

This award has been developed with our industry partners, galleries and museums in UK and China, who are also engaged in course delivery.

It has been designed to support individuals who want to gain specialist knowledge, while working in an interdisciplinary research environment. The course offers you the opportunity to conduct original research in an exciting and expanding field, cutting across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

You will learn about the complex issues and challenges within Chinese contemporary arts in in its local, regional and global context, while developing your own practice/research and gaining professional experience through an extended work placement, live research project or residency.

You will have the opportunity to work closely with the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts at Birmingham City University, as well as our prestigious partner organisations in China, UK and EU.

You will also be introduced to broader issues of transcultural communication and the global arts ecology, and you will be encouraged to respond creatively to a wide variety of cultural contexts and stimuli.

You will be located at Birmingham School of Art in Margaret Street, where you will have access to a wide range of workshops and facilities and be welcomed as part of a diverse, exciting postgraduate community. 

Why Choose Us?

Art PG dropin

Postgraduate drop in event

Drop in to one of our informal postgraduate events - our staff and current students will be on hand to answer all of your questions.

Book now: 17 April

This course is open to International students

School of Art facilities man

Discover Birmingham School of Art

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Course Director: Monica Merlin.

Email Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

Entry Requirements

UK students

An upper second-class degree (or higher) in a relevant subject.

International students

International applicants should note that this is a demanding course that requires a high standard of reading, writing and listening skills, full-time students are expected to have a minimum English standard of IELTS 6.0.

International Students

Entry requirements here

  • We welcome non-traditional applications, particularly from applicants with substantial professional, practitioner or production experience and accredit prior experiential learning and professional experience. This would be evaluated using the University’s APL and APEL procedures.
  • We can assist you in choosing which mode of attendance (full-time and part-time) is most suitable.
  • All suitable candidates will be interviewed in person (home) or via Skype (EU and international)
  • Please note: It may also be possible to transfer credits from modules completed in prior learning experiences, if applicants can provide evidence.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2018 FT 1 year £6,900 per year
PT 2 years £3,450 per year

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2018 FT 1 year £12,000 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Personal Statement

Your supporting statement should be unique to you and tailored for the course to which you are applying. It is an essential part of your application and gives you the opportunity to identify your individual skills, strengths, passion and academic and/or professional ability.

We would like to hear about your particular research and/or practice-led interests, and why you want to study in the field of transdisciplinary practice, Chinese contemporary arts, design and visual culture. Additionally, outline how the course will benefit from your particular contribution, experience, expertise and participation.

For more information, please see: ‘Personal Statements for Postgraduate Applications’.

Please Note: Practitioners (artists, curators or designer), your application must be accompanied by evidence of your arts, curatorial or design practice. We require 12 images of recent work on power point, with accompanying information regarding title, media, date, size if appropriate. If your work is web, film, audio, performance or video based you will need to upload them onto vimeo, youtube, Youku or similar and send us the appropriate link.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on your course. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

View additional costs for this course

This course is available part-time

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

Semester one

This semester will include modules in:

  • Contemporary Arts in China
  • Art and Transcultural communication
  • Professional Development

(N.B: Most modules offer the option to submit practice-based outcome(s) as part of the assessment process.)

60 credits

Each student will be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through your MA, conduct Personal Development Planning (PDP) tutorials, assist and direct your academic and professional development. This is in addition to the tutorials assigned to each module, it is also possible to request tutorials from other academic and technical members if relevant to your particular project.

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

Semester two

This will include modules that will

  • Global China
  • Research in Practice
  • Professional Practice (including work placement)

(N.B: Most modules offer the option to submit practice-based outcome(s) as part of the assessment process.)

60 credits

Each student will be assigned a supervisor who will guide you through your MA, conduct Personal Development Planning (PDP) tutorials, assist and direct your academic and professional development. This is in addition to the tutorials assigned to each module, it is also possible to request tutorials from other academic and technical members if relevant to your particular project.

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

Semester three

This semester consists of a singular 60 credit module:

  • Major Project

A Dissertation or Practical submission with supporting reflective, critical and contextual material.

60 credits

Further support with your learning journey, such as language, study skills and pastoral care, is available through the University if required.

You will develop independent research projects that expand and respond to the exciting, shifting and complex field of contemporary arts in China. You will produce work that demonstrates intellectual rigour and innovation, while also gaining experience with our international partners. 

The core Contemporary Arts in China and the Global China modules will provide you with an overview of the development of the subject, examining current debates and practices within its local, regional and global contexts and multiple cultural frameworks.

You will be introduced a number of significant historical, cultural, socio-political concepts from the Cultural Revolution through to the present day, and consider how Chinese cultural identities are currently disseminated, interpreted and translated through curatorial, textual, and art and design practices.

The sessions will be delivered through seminars, lectures, and events and examination of curatorial, textual, and art and design practices. The latter will include photography, video, performance, global, political, social art practices and developing art markets.

The Professional Practice and Advanced Professional Practice modules focus upon your personal development to assist you in achieving your goals. You will have the opportunity to work and network with our industry partners in seminars, talks, events and on placements.

The course has also been specifically designed as a ‘route-in’ to PhD, providing research training and assistance in preparing a PhD proposal if this is a route that you wish to follow.


The part-time route has been designed for professionals and students with other commitments. Part-time students will be taught alongside full-time students and should be able to dedicate two days per week to the course.

You will be required to be in Birmingham between one-two days per week depending upon what modules are being taken, semester and year of study. 

Assessment Methods

The course uses a variety of assessment methods which are dependent upon the module learning objectives and individual students particular specialism.

  • The MA is delivered in three cumulative stages - PgCert, PgDip, MA

  • Each level is comprised of 60 credits, progression is subject to successful completion of previous stage

  • A range of assessment methods are employed. Knowledge and skills are assessed by a number of methods, including the option to submit practical work supported by a critical written submission. You will also have tutorials assigned to each module, and you are are also able to request tutorials from other academic and technical members relevant to your particular specialism

  • As part of your Professional Practice module, you are required to undertake a work placement, live research project, artist’s residency or equivalent.


As part of your Professional Practice module, you are required to undertake a work placement, a live research project, artist’s residency or an equivalent. You will be encouraged to take advantage of the extended placements on offer with our partner organisations. These longer more intensive placements last between one and three months, and will provide you with hands-on experience and an in-depth insight of working or research within the contemporary arts field.

You will be invited to apply for these opportunities through a professional selection and interview process and will be provided by a mentor at your placement organisation.

You are responsible for arranging and funding your travel and accommodation (with advice) and should budget accordingly. You will need to have the necessary funds to undertake the placements you apply following the recommended guidance:

UK: £1,000-1,500 per month for accommodation and living costs.

EU: £1,000 - 1,500 per month for accommodation and living costs,  £200 - 400 for flights depending on destination (Please note: there may be additional visa costs for international students)

China: Accommodation and living costs vary dependent upon location

£400-800 per month, £1,000 for flights and visa

Please note: You will be responsible for sourcing and funding accommodation costs. We will, however, provide you with information gained from local knowledge and contacts. If you are unable to undertake a work placement, you will be offered the opportunity to participate in a live research project or professionally-oriented brief to ensure that you can fulfill the module requirements.

View more examples of student work...


The course has been developed with our industry partner organisations, which include Academy of International Visual Arts (AIVA, Shanghai), Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (Manchester), Chronus Arts Center (Shanghai), Ikon Gallery (Birmingham), New Art Exchange (Nottingham). 

Trips and Visits

You will be required to fund your own travel, accommodation and subsistence during placements. Other additional costs include entrance fees to exhibitions and events, travel and accommodation for individual or group research trips or other relevant (optional) activities. You are also advised that you will have to finance costs incurred in the production of artworks, artifacts and/or exhibitions, such as materials, supplementary equipment, venue hire and so forth.


MA Contemporary Arts China has been created as a response to market demand and increasing interest in this area. The course has been developed and delivered with our cultural and creative industry partners in the UK, EU and China.

The course has a strong emphasis on employability and provides you with the opportunity of gaining professional experience and transferable skills within a global context, enabling you to gain a unique insight into and invaluable first-hand experience of working within the sector.  

Our partners include:

As a student on this programme you will become part of the Centre for Chinese Visual Arts and be invited to participate in its events and research programme. The CCVA provides students with unique access to an extensive professional network, visiting scholars and artists and the opportunity to engage in live research projects, events and more. 

More about CCVA

After you leave us

MA Contemporary Arts China graduates, through ongoing professional development, workshops, talks, seminars and placements, will be equipped to pursue an international career in the arts and creative industries for example as a Curator, Artist, Designer, Writer, Studio Assistant, Researcher, Arts Administrator, Cultural Producer, Project Manager, Cultural Ambassador, Arts Outreach and Education worker.

The course has also been designed as a “route-in” to PhD, where the ‘Research in Practice’ module and the activities of the Postgraduate Research (PGR) Studio at BCU will introduce you to key research methods. Staff will assist you in developing a research proposal whilst preparing you for the demands of doctoral level study.

High achieving graduates from the MA will also have the opportunity to apply for relevant grants. The options change year on year but currently include, Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and University sponsored bursaries. Applicants/students will be notified of opportunities.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Our OpportUNIty students

Our students have often benefited from OpportUNity – a student / academic partnership that has included working in publishing at international peer review levels, organising, chairing and exhibiting in major conferences and working together to produce ‘best practice’ guides for art education, practice-led research and gallery exhibition.

MA Contemporary Arts China offers professional development opportunities for students to engage with our partners in China, EU and UK, and access to the CCVA's international network, through event, tutorials, seminars and placements. Students are also encouraged to organise and undertake their own international research trips. 

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year - there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently located, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Explore some of the good reasons why you should study here:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA)

The Centre for Chinese Visual Arts (CCVA) aims to foster new understandings and perspectives of Chinese contemporary arts, design, media and culture through transdisciplinary creative practices and theoretical studies. CCVA has extensive regional to international partnerships and brings together artists, designers, curators and researchers who are working with, or are interested in, contemporary contexts of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to share expertise, understand, critique, innovate and create.

Using its unique position in the UK, CCVA continues its on-going transcultural dialogue by questioning existing histories of Chinese contemporary arts, design media and culture whilst fostering new ways of thinking and modes of knowledge in relation to today’s global-Chinese situation. From 2017 the CCVA will host the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art published by Intellect, the sole peer reviewed journal in the field worldwide.


If you have any questions regarding this course please send an email to:

More about CCVA

Parkside Building

The Parkside Building in the City Centre Campus is home to Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, School of Fashion and Textiles, School of Visual Communication and Birmingham School of Media. Our art and design students work from a core of workshops in the centre of the five-floor building, with studio space around them. There is also ‘collision space’ where students and staff from different courses will see each other to pass the time of day, and exchange thoughts and ideas. The Parkside Gallery is a leading art and design exhibition space within the Parkside Building, with an emphasis on, but not confined to, design-led practice.

Birmingham School of Art

The Birmingham School of Art’s inspiring Victorian design features original stained glass windows, mosaic floors, and hand-carved bannisters, alongside contemporary architecture, glass lifts and the latest specialist student workspaces.

Located next to the city centre’s Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the School is just a five-minute walk from the new Library of Birmingham and Ikon Gallery.

Albion Press - Art
Etching Press - Art
Screen Printing 1 - Art
Stone Litho - Art
Woodwork 1 - Art
Metalwork 1 - Art
Ceramics 2 - Art
Comp Lab - Art
Photography Lab 1 - Art
Photography Lab 2 - Art
Editing suite 1 - Art
Editing suite 2 - Art
Studio Space 1 - Art
Studio Space 2 - Art
Studio Space 5 - Art
Studio Space 4 - Art
Library 2 - Art
Common Area - Art

Dr Monica Merlin

Programme Leader MA Contemporary Arts China

Dr Monica Merlin is the Programme Leader for the MA Contemporary Arts China. Before joining Birmingham City University she taught for the MA Arts of China at Christie’s Education (London), validated by the University of Glasgow.

Monica lived and worked in Beijing for two years after a BA in Chinese Studies specialising in Chinese Art and Archaeology at Ca’ Foscari University (Venice). She returned to Europe to pursue an MA in Asian Art at SOAS (2007), and worked for two years as curator in a contemporary Chinese art gallery in London. In 2009 Monica continued her studies gaining a DPhil (2013) at The University of Oxford with a thesis on early modern Chinese art.

Monica conducted a funded post-doctoral research (2013-14) at the Tate Research Centre: Asia with a project on contemporary Chinese women artists. Her major research interests lie in contemporary Chinese art and visual culture, women artists gender and feminism, socially and politically engaged art, and transcultural communication.

Read Monica's full profile

Professor Jiang Jiehong

Jiang has got extensive research and curatorial experience in contemporary Chinese art and visual culture. His recent curatorial projects include the 4th Guangzhou Triennial: the Unseen (2012) and the 3rd Asia Triennial Manchester: Harmonious Society (2014). He is also editor of Burden or Legacy: from the Chinese Cultural Revolution to Contemporary Art (HK University Press, 2007), and author of Red: China’s Cultural Revolution (Jonathan Cape, 2010), Decade Long Exposure (Shanghai, 2010) and An Era without Memory: Chinese Contemporary Photography on Urban Transformation (Thames and Hudson, 2015).

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

0121 331 7841