Curatorial Practice

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How to Apply

This respected course offers a fusion of history and theory with an immediate relationship to current curating. It is delivered by experts in the field and working curators. Students benefit from well-established relationships with a range of museums, galleries and contemporary art organisations of national and international significance. Its focus is on the relationships between contemporary practice, engagement with audiences and collection-based contexts. It offers opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds to develop their experience and understanding and address new challenges.

Why study Curatorial Practice?

The course benefits students who wish to broaden and deepen their knowledge and experience in curating, engagement and issues around collecting. Its core seminar-based teaching and learning programme is balanced by collaborative relationships with a range of museums and galleries of national and international significance. These include: the Holburne Museum in Bath, artist-run venues and civic museums in Bath; Arnolfini and Spike Island in Bristol;  Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery; the new Hauser & Wirth Somerset; Salisbury Arts Centre; and National Museum Wales' sites in Cardiff. The course therefore covers a wide range of curatorial approaches, from management of historical collections to creative curating of cutting edge contemporary art, craft and design.

Key Features

  • Course delivered by working curators and experts active in the field
  • Excellent in-house specialised libraries for research study
  • Opportunities to curate exhibitions and run engagement  projects within the course.
  • Strong relationships with diverse organisations in the sector

Course structure

The course is offered in both full and part-time modes. It is normally one year, (3 trimesters) in duration in full time mode or 6 trimesters in part-time mode. The first two trimesters comprise taught sessions and assessed projects, while the Master's Project in the final part of the course is by negotiated project only. Completion of the first 2 modules on the course lead to the award of the Postgraduate Certificate, and completion of the first 4 modules leads to the award of the Postgraduate Diploma. Subsequent completion of the MA double module leads to the award of MA Curatorial Practice.


  • Research Methodologies: Part one introduces generic research methodologies with part two considering subject specific material, analysis and evaluation techniques.
  • The Role of the Curator: The Role of the Curator considers the changing role of the curator and the 'politics' of curating. It addresses developments in critical theory and their impact on curatorial practices and includes topics such as representing communities, ethnicities, gender issues, 'interventions', gallery learning, the 'post-museum' and curating in the public realm.
  • Collections and Collecting: This element of the course considers the nature of collecting and the influence of collecting on curatorial practice. Collections as a 'ground' for new projects with artists, makers and others as interpreting collections or making new work is included. Students can study private collectors, the transition of 'private' to 'public', and the process of defining objects as 'collectible'.  It covers material culture, collecting the digital, oral history and its methods, research in archiving and management of historical and contemporary collections. 
  • Reaching Audiences: The module allows students the opportunity to present or study a live project. Students study current discourse around engagement, participation and learning in visual arts projects, and link this to exploring how curatorial practices reaches audiences.  
  • Master's Project: The Master's Project is either text or practice based. It accommodates a variety of approaches for assessment. Examples might include (but are not restricted to) the traditional written dissertation, perhaps drawing on historical or archival case studies, research into and/or curating of an exhibition in a particular venue, and forms of digital production, such as the construction of a museum or gallery specific web site.

Course assessment

  • The ability to deal with complex issues in the area of curatorial practice history, theory and context, effectively employing skill in analysis and synthesis as necessary.
  • The ability to independently plan and implement research activities in the subject fields of curatorial practice, demonstrating professionalism, self-direction and originality.
  • The ability to effectively propose and curate exhibitions, drawing on research and understanding.
  • The ability to initiate and contribute to debate and discussion in relation to curatorial practice.
  • The capacity to advance knowledge, learning and skills in the subject fields of curatorial practice.

The course takes a broad view of curatorial practice.  It balances theory with practice. Seminar based teaching is complemented with field visits to key venues facilitated by lead curators. Project based work can be developed and assessed as part of the course, and students frequently link their study to internships, volunteering and project work, facilitated by the course team. 

Teaching methods

The MA adopts a 'practice-led' approach; while some sessions are delivered by Bath School of Art and Design (BSAD) university academics, others are delivered by our collaborators and relate to particular case studies or collections. There are opportunities to work alongside museum and gallery professionals on selected in-house activities and 'real life' projects can be pursued in response to assessment assignments, especially in relation to the final 'Master's Project' double module.

Academic staff and visiting tutors

Ben Parry is your course leader. 

Professor Michael Tooby (course tutor) is a senior curator and former museum director with extensive teaching experience. Mike’s full profile can be viewed here.

Gill Nicol (course tutor) whose specialism is in contemporary practices and audiences, learning and engagement.

Michele Whiting (course tutor) is an artist-curator with a doctorate in art theory and practice focusing on ‘place’.

Recent visiting tutors have included: Judy Adam; Peter Randall Page; Sarah Shalgosky; Julian Stair; Chris Stephens. In addition to the major partner organisations involved in the course, individual curator-led study visits have included the Ken Stradling Collection, Sir John Soane Museum and the British Museum.

MA Curatorial Practice students also join research seminars and visiting lectures within other postgraduate forums in the School and University.

Application method

Application forms are available online and should be completed and returned to us either electronically or through the post. If you have any queries please contact the admissions department:

Telephone: (01225) 875624.

International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.

Course enquiries

Please contact Ben Parry, Course Leader.

Entry requirements

Admission is normally based on a good undergraduate degree in an appropriate discipline together with an interview. Applicants with a good honours degree in a related discipline and/or with relevant work experience will also be considered.

Overseas applicants will be assessed on the basis of their qualifications and statement included in the application form.

To help applicants – especially those from overseas – to decide if this course is appropriate for them, it is advisable to contact the Course Leader prior to application.

Career opportunities

Typical career destinations include:

  • Curatorial work in museums and galleries
  • Freelance curatorship
  • Galleries/Arts administration
  • Public Art
  • Critical writing, such as exhibition reviews and catalogue essays
  • Project management 
  • Developing learning resources
  • Creative work in the community 

What students say...

Enrolling part-time on the MA Curatorial Practice at Bath Spa University has offered me a number of valuable reference points, from which I feel equipped with theoretical knowledge and confidence to embark on a curatorial future. In particular modules on 'Collecting & Collections' and 'The Role of the Curator' animated my enthusiasm for exhibitions practice both within and outside of museum contexts. I found much of the museological theory provided an intriguing starting point from which to expand my own dialogues, which have largely drawn on local contexts for my practice: that of The National Museum of Wales, its collections and their ever-evolving role, the artist-curator exchange, and the politics of the 'frame'. My final MA long-study has similarly evolved from these positions, driving me to interrogate the curatorial act and my own reasons for pursuing this field. In this final module I have greatly benefitted from the academic understanding and support of my supervisor.

Jessica Mathews, 2013 

In my long study I studied the theory and practice of the display of historic and contemporary material that grew from my experiences as a volunteer at a Museum…  in addition to providing a valuable framework in terms of historic and current curatorial discourse, the individual modules offer flexibility to explore and develop your own particular area of curatorial interest or passion.

Sally Jones, 2013