Course Overview

The two-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) provides an immersive education in the development of professional practice as an ecologically oriented artist while the one-year MA provides a masters-level education in art appropriate for a diverse range of applications.

Students on both programmes produce a final exhibition of both personal and collaborative work, which will demonstrate the skills necessary to survive and thrive as practising artists. Students will also demonstrate capabilities for critical enquiry through fine art, with the ability to evaluate their work through an informed grasp of the social, cultural and theoretical concerns shaping the discourse on contemporary art and ecological issues.

MFA students will also propose and implement an achievable, interdisciplinary collaborative project that engages with ecological/environmental concerns in the Burren or on a global scale.

Applications and Selections

Who Teaches this Course

Requirements and Assessment

Key Facts

Entry Requirements

Applicants should normally have a Bachelor’s degree with first or upper Second Class Honours in Fine Art; or a Bachelor’s degree with a major in Fine Art, with a GPA of 3.50 or above, or evidence of equivalent achievement. In the case of an outstanding portfolio, a Bachelor’s Degree with a lower Second Class/2.2 hons/GPA 3.0 may be accepted. All eligible applicants are interviewed either in person or by phone.

Additional Requirements


MA—1 year (3 semesters); MFA—2 years (4 semesters)

Next start date

September 2019

A Level Grades ()

Average intake


Closing Date

Apply by 1 February 2019: applications will continue to be considered on a rolling review.

NFQ level

Mode of study

ECTS weighting



Course code

Not applicable. Apply online via the Burren College of Art:

Course Outline

Studio Research provides for the development of artistic practice alongside students of the MFA/MA in Studio Art. These modules provide for studio-based experimentation and innovation, leading to the production of a substantial body of work.

Studio Methodologies are a series of taught studio courses examining the methodology of Art & Ecology with reference to historical examples.

Theory and Art & Ecology consists of seminars contextualising the theoretical framework of Art & Ecology.

In addition, Environmental Studies draws on expertise from within the College of Science at NUI Galway in engaging with scientific approaches to ecology, with the first module led by an environmental scientist.

Lectures and field trips provide first-hand experience of the Burren as a microcosm of environmental and ecological issues, while a distance-learning module examines the social and political context of global environmental issues.

Curriculum Information

Curriculum information relates to the current academic year (in most cases).
Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Glossary of Terms

You must earn a defined number of credits (aka ECTS) to complete each year of your course. You do this by taking all of its required modules as well as the correct number of optional modules to obtain that year's total number of credits.
An examinable portion of a subject or course, for which you attend lectures and/or tutorials and carry out assignments. E.g. Algebra and Calculus could be modules within the subject Mathematics. Each module has a unique module code eg. MA140.
A module you may choose to study.
A module that you must study if you choose this course (or subject).
Most courses have 2 semesters (aka terms) per year.

Year 1 (90 Credits)

Required AE508: Studio Research Project: The MA Exhibition

Semester 2 | Credits: 30

The objectives of this module are: - To enable students to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills associated with studio-based independent study and art production at Masters level. -To enable students to develop and exhibit a body of art work of MA level; - To enable students to develop the intellectual skills associated with practice-based knowledge, reflection, critique, and verbal communication at MA level.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Produce a body of art work, the quality of which will demonstrate that you have developed the imagination, knowledge, and practical or technical skills necessary to Masters level understanding of art.
  2. Critically evaluate your own work and that of your peers, informed by an understanding of contemporary fine art research and practice.
  3. Exhibit strong expressive and communicative abilities in selected fine arts media.
  4. Demonstrate high level intellectual capabilities and an understanding of the philosophical and cultural concerns of the fine arts with regard to your own art, expressed through an Artist’s Statement.
  • Continuous Assessment (20%)
  • Department-based Assessment (80%)
Reading List
  1. "TBA" by See Programme Handbook
The above information outlines module AE508: "Studio Research Project: The MA Exhibition" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional AE1518: Studio Research 1: Research Methods, Materiality & the Land

Semester 1 | Credits: 15

This module introduces students to the concept of art as a process of enquiry and the principle and procedures of fine art research, specifically in relation to ecological thinking. This revisiting of the foundations of creative process encourages students to question their habitual processes in art making and to develop new ones. Students are supported to create individual placed-based responses to the environment, landscape, and/or communities of the Burren.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate an understanding of advanced art making methods, including the integration of technical, aesthetic, and conceptual decisions specific to the development and execution of artistic concept;
  2. Critically evaluate their own creative process and that of their peers, with regard to primary and secondary sources and comparative methodology;
  3. Work effectively with the natural forms, processes and elements of the indigenous landscape during the process of creating art;
  4. Create art works that communicate an environmental/ecological message either through materiality or concept and/or execution;
  5. Execute projects that demonstrate attention to: research, analytical thinking, detail, flexibility in problem solving, and revision.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
The above information outlines module AE1518: "Studio Research 1: Research Methods, Materiality & the Land" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional AE1504: Theory and Art and Ecology 1: Land Based Art

Semester 1 | Credits: 5

This class is designed to provide students with a grounding of art history and theory in relation to Land-based arts practices. This theoretical component of the MFA programme will encourage relevant debate between students, tutors, and guest scholars. Dialogue will spark not only from the opinions of each student but also be motivated by the studio work being simultaneously created. Students will learn not only how to place their contemporary art in a historical context but also discover other current artists / artistic movements that can beneficially influence their practice. Topics will include a review of major art movements such as Landscape Representation, Land Art and Earth Art. Further relevant areas of study will include Minimalism, Arte Povera and EcoArt.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Interpret and evaluate the theoretical, cultural and historical contexts, of contemporary, modern and post-modern land-based art works and arts practices.
  2. Critically assess contemporary artwork in the field, including their own work, using professional terminology.
  3. Show understanding of how artists have and can practically apply critical theory to advance and develop studio practice.
  4. Present both verbally and in written form, an effective, supported and critically informed argument contextualizing current studio practice.
  5. Demonstrate enquiry and research abilities by utilising galleries, museums, libraries, and the Internet as knowledge data bases.
  6. Compile a comprehensive annotated bibliography, to form the foundation for more extended research during semester 2.
  • Continuous Assessment (100%)
Reading List
  1. "Communicating Nature: How We Create and Understand Environmental Messages" by Julia B. Corbett
    ISBN: 1597260673.
    Publisher: Island Press
    Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8
  2. "Landscape Theory. New York" by DeLue, Rachael and James Elkins
    ISBN: 0203929837.
    Publisher: Routledge
  3. "Landscape and Western Art" by Malcolm Andrews
    ISBN: 0192842331.
    Publisher: Oxford ; Oxford University Press, 1999.
    Chapters: 1, 9
  4. "The Ethics of Earth Art" by Amanda Boetzkes
    ISBN: 0816665893.
    Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
    Chapters: 1
  5. "Ethics and the Visual Arts" by Edited by Elaine A. King and Gail Levin
    ISBN: 9781581154580.
    Publisher: Allworth Press
    Chapters: 17
  6. "Land Art" by Ben Tufnell
    ISBN: 9781854376046.
    Publisher: Tate Publishing
    Chapters: 6
  7. "Land and Environmental Art" by Edited by Jeffrey Kastner; survey by Brian Wallis
    ISBN: 0714835145.
    Publisher: Phaidon Press
    Chapters: Preface 1, 2, 3
  8. "Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists" by John K. Grande; foreword by Edward Lucie-Smith
    ISBN: 0791461947.
    Publisher: State University of New York Press
    Chapters: Foreward, 14, 15
  9. "Balance: Art and Nature, Revised Edition" by John Grande
    ISBN: 1551642344.
    Publisher: Black Rose Books
    Chapters: 1, 9
The above information outlines module AE1504: "Theory and Art and Ecology 1: Land Based Art " and is valid from 2018 onwards.
Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Optional AE1519: Introduction to Ecosystem Science

Semester 1 | Credits: 5

This module explores an understanding of ecosystems from a variety of different perspectives including botany, zoology, geology and landscape theory. The module is delivered though a combination of lectures, seminars and fieldtrips, combining theory with direct experience of the key features of the Burren (limestone pavement, turlough and coastal). Emphasis will be placed on understanding the connections between the different aspects of the Burren as a complex and unified ecosystem.
(Language of instruction: English)

Learning Outcomes
  1. Recognise the influence of abiotic factors such as geology and hydrology on the ecology of an ecosystem;
  2. Interrelate different parameters that comprise the Burren as an ecosystem;
  3. Differentiate between a number of different ecosystem types;
  4. Understand the impact of invasive species on an ecosystem;
  5. Examine ecosystem function and services;
  6. Identify and assess main landscape features.
    Reading List
    1. "Environmental science" by Daniel B. Botkin, Edward A. Keller
      ISBN: 1118427327.
      Publisher: Chichester; John Wiley & Sons
    2. "Collins New Naturalist Library: Ireland a Natural History" by Cabot, D
    3. "Ecological Concepts" by Cherrett, J. M.
      Publisher: British Ecological Society, Blackwell Scientific Publishing
    4. "Principles and methods in landscape ecology" by by Almo Farina
      ISBN: 1402033281.
      Publisher: Springer
    5. "Land mosaics" by Richard T. T. Forman
      ISBN: 0521479800.
      Publisher: Cambridge ; Cambridge University Press, 1995.
    6. "The Making of Ireland's Landscape Since the Ice Age" by Valerie Hall
      ISBN: 1848891156.
      Publisher: Collins Pr
    7. "Ecology" by Charles J. Krebs
      ISBN: 0065004108.
      Publisher: Harper Collins
    8. "Measuring biological diversity" by Anne E. Magurran
      ISBN: 0632056339.
      Publisher: Blackwell
    9. "The wild plants of the Burren and the Aran Islands: A field guide by Charles Nelson" by Nelson, C.
      Publisher: Collins Press
    10. "Sea shore of Britain & Europe" by Peter Hayward, Tony Nelson-Smith, Chris Shields
      ISBN: 0002199556.
      Publisher: Harper Collins
    The above information outlines module AE1519: "Introduction to Ecosystem Science" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional FA101: Professional Skills I, Documenting Artistic Production

    Semester 1 | Credits: 5

    Introduction to Professionalism This module focuses on the inner development of the emerging artist, examining personal and creative difference and professional effectiveness skills. Time management and stress management are explored in a series of three seminar presentations.The focus on personal development provides students with the opportunity to realise their potential as individuals and as artists by developing key personal and general management skills.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Understand, assess and evaluate personal and creative difference in relation to their own individualities, abilities, strengths and weaknesses
    2. Assimilate and demonstrate time and stress management skills.
    3. Understand distinctions between personal studio practice and professional practice and develop general management skills.
    4. Understand the functioning of art world contexts within arts organizations, developed through field trip encounters.
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Reading List
    1. "The Artist's Manual" by consultant editors Stan Smith, H.F. Ten Holt ; foreword by Paul Hogarth
      ISBN: 0356067998.
      Publisher: London; Macdonald
    2. "The Artist's Complete Health and Safety Guide" by by Monona Rossol
      ISBN: 1581152043.
      Publisher: Allworth Press
    3. "Irish Visual Artists' Handbook" by edited by Eamon Colman & Stella Coffey
      ISBN: 0951798359.
      Publisher: Artists Association of Ireland
    4. "Ethics and the Visual Arts" by edited by Elaine A. King and Gail Levin
      ISBN: 1581154585.
      Publisher: Allworth Press
    The above information outlines module FA101: "Professional Skills I, Documenting Artistic Production" and is valid from 2018 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional AE1507: Studio Research 2: Refinement and Cohesion of Enquiry and Practice

    Semester 2 | Credits: 15

    This module enables students to refine their experimental and explorative methods to move towards a more coherent sense of enquiry and direction. A sign of progress is the generation of a number of related works that express a common concern or issue. Faculty assist in focussing dialogue on the students’ declared interests.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Recognise key elements of experimental and enquiring strategies in art practice;
    2. Critically re-evaluate their own creative process and that of their peers, with regard to high-level imaginative risk taking;
    3. Understand experiment, exploration, and imagination in modern and contemporary art through personal engagement in art practice;
    4. Attain perspective and critical distance on their own art practice.
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Reading List
    1. "tba" by 17 Research papers by college subscription at AN Publications,
    The above information outlines module AE1507: "Studio Research 2: Refinement and Cohesion of Enquiry and Practice " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional AE1505: Theory and Art and Ecology 2: Socially Engaged Arts Practices

    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    Through weekly lectures, this seminar course will provide an historical and critical context in relation to Socially Engaged Arts practices, including Collaborative Practices, Community Arts, Public Art and Relational Aesthetics. This course will familiarize students with a range of methods and strategies to effectively contextualize individual studio practice in relation to developments within field of contemporary art practice and research. Students will learn how to coherently formulate a discourse around studio work in both verbal and written form, in preparation for final dissertation.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Master advanced knowledge, theories and concepts about socially engaged practices including collaborative artistic practices, community art and relational aesthetics.
    2. Demonstrate understanding of the influence of major cultural and aesthetic trends, both historical and contemporary in relation to socially engaged arts practices.
    3. Compile a comprehensive literature review to frame current studio work.
    4. Identify and apply research methods relevant to individual studio practice.
    5. Apply effective evaluative and discursive skills, both in written and verbal form to articulate studio intentions.
    6. Develop a PDP (Personal Development Portfolio) to record research progress.
    • Written Assessment (65%)
    • Continuous Assessment (35%)
    Reading List
    1. "Relational Aesthetics" by Nicolas Bourriaud
      ISBN: 2840660601.
      Publisher: Presses du Réel
    2. "Artistic Bedfellows: Histories, Theories and Conversations in Collaborative Art Practices" by Edited by Holly Crawford
      ISBN: 0761840648.
      Publisher: Lanham, Md. ; University Press of America, c2008.
      Chapters: 4, 5, 7, 13, 16, 18
    3. "The Methodologies of Art: An Introduction" by Adams, L
      Publisher: Harper Collins
    4. "Visualizing Research, A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design" by Gray, C. and Malins J.
      Publisher: Ashgate
    5. "Handbook of the arts in qualitative research: Perspectives, methodologies, examples, and issues." by Gary J. Knowles and Ardra L. Cole
      Publisher: Sage
    6. "Taking the Matter into Common Hands" by Johanna Billing (Editor), Maria Lind (Editor), Lars Nilsson (Editor)
      ISBN: 9781906155186.
      Publisher: Black Dog Publishing
      Chapters: 1, 2, 9
    7. "Social Works: Performing Art, Supporting Publics" by Shannon Jackson
      ISBN: 9780415486019.
      Publisher: Routledge
      Chapters: 1, 2, 3
    8. "The One and the Many" by Grant H. Kester
      ISBN: 9780822349877.
      Publisher: Duke University Press Books
      Chapters: Introduction, 1
    9. "Social Works" by Shannon Jackson
      ISBN: 9780415486019.
      Publisher: Routledge
    10. "Telling a research story: Writing a literature review: V. 2." by Feak, C. B. and Swales, J. M.
      Publisher: University of Michigan Press
    11. "Art Practice as Research, Inquiry In The Visual Arts" by Sullivan, G.
      Publisher: Sage
    The above information outlines module AE1505: "Theory and Art and Ecology 2: Socially Engaged Arts Practices" and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional AE1520: Ecology and Sustainability in the Burren

    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    In this module students relate the ecology of the Burren to contemporary initiatives in sustainability, stewardship and community engagement. A combination of lectures and field trips delivered by BCA academic staff, Burren Beo and the Burren Geopark will focus on the social and environmental aspects of the burren and the interrelationship between land use, tourism and conservation. Students will also participate in the Burren Beo Learning Landscapes conference.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between land use, tourism and conservation in the Burren;
    2. Identify key strategies for sustainability in the contemporary Burren;
    3. Evaluate community based efforts to engage local populations in the stewardship of the Burren;
    4. Relate aspects of their art practice to issues impacting ecology and sustainability in the Burren, as a microcosm of larger environmental issues.
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Reading List
    1. "Farming in the Burren" by Brendan Dunford
      ISBN: 1841703214.
      Publisher: Teagasc
    2. "The Breathing Burren" by Gordon D'Arcy
      Publisher: O'Brien
    3. "The Book of the Burren" by J. W. O'Connell (Editor), John Feehan (Editor), Anne Korff (Editor)
      ISBN: 187382100X.
      Publisher: Irish Books & Media
    4. "The Burren Map" by Tim Robinson
      Publisher: Folding Landscapes Press
    5. "The Natural History of the Burren" by Gordon D'Arcy, John Hayward (Editor), John Hayward (Photographer)
      ISBN: 1898162514.
      Publisher: Immel Publishing
    6. "Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Edited by John Crowley, William I. Smyth, Mike Murphy" by John Crowley
      ISBN: 9781859184790.
      Publisher: Cork University Press
    The above information outlines module AE1520: "Ecology and Sustainability in the Burren " and is valid from 2017 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Optional FA105: Professional Skills II (Student Selected Project)

    Semester 2 | Credits: 5

    Professional studies semester 2 employs workshops, field trips and seminars to further develop a professional approach to studio practice, engaging with self development and understanding oneself as an artist and a professional.
    (Language of instruction: English)

    Learning Outcomes
    1. Gain a deeper understanding and insight into how the professional art world functions, and learns how to engage with the art world on their own terms, finding the professional approach that suits their own practice.
    2. Evolve distinctions between creative studio practice and professional engagement with practice.
    3. Produce a professional CV, biography and website/blog.
    4. Photographically document their own work.
    5. Organize and deliver a public seminar involving presentations by faculty or external speakers and their own independently researched paper or presentation.
    6. Demonstrate good public speaking skills.
    • Continuous Assessment (100%)
    Reading List
    1. "The Manual: A Survival Guide for Visual Artists” online" by Visual Artists Ireland
    2. "10 things about being an artist that art teachers don't tell you” by Emily Browne" by The Guardian – Education online
    The above information outlines module FA105: "Professional Skills II (Student Selected Project)" and is valid from 2015 onwards.
    Note: Module offerings and details may be subject to change.

    Why Choose This Course?

    Career Opportunities

    Graduate artists find work in related fields, such as art curating, gallery administration and art education. The knowledge, skills and understanding developed in this programme are transferable to a wide variety of applications, depending on the individual graduate.

    Who’s Suited to This Course

    Learning Outcomes


    Work Placement

    Study Abroad

    Related Student Organisations

    Course Fees

    Fees: EU

    Fees: Tuition

    Fees: Student levy

    Fees: Non EU

    For all fee information contact Burren College of Art.

    Find out More

    Lisa Newman
    Marketing & Admissions Dir.,
    Burren College of Art,
    Newtown Castle,
    Co. Clare.
    T: +353 65 7077 200