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MA in Architectural Design (MA AD) in Cardiff University

Cardiff University
Welsh School of Architecture
United Kingdom
Architecture & Design

This one year full-time MA in Architectural Design is aimed at students who are looking for a rich, engaging and design-focused post-graduate programme, but do not wish to qualify as a UK registered architect.


This one year full-time MA in Architectural Design is aimed at students who are looking for a rich, advanced and engaging post-graduate programme which focuses on the multiple facets and relationships between design and research. By pursuing the MA in Architectural Design, the students will get the necessary skills for becoming sophisticated design-research thinkers and practitioners.


It shares many of the design elements of our established MArch (Master of Architecture/ RIBA Part 2 programme, but provides greater flexibility in terms of study choices, allowing you to engage with the interests of our research staff.


The programme focuses on design-led research techniques and methods to inform your learning process and research explorations. You will develop your existing design skills by focussing on how design thinking might address current global challenges. This approach offers an intense and lively forum for the exploration and discussion of design issues. This is why we place particular emphasis on using design as a means to conduct research. Researching through design is a creative activity that closely integrates the process of designing with the act of researching, so that they can mutually inform each other. You will explore problems by making and testing design propositions, introducing and developing established knowledge as and when required. Through project work, you will draw on knowledge from many disciplines.


Students will have the options to develop their design thinking in a range of topics related to the School’s diverse topics of research and scholarship.


You will work in small groups called ‘Design Units’ under the guidance of a Unit Leader, who will be an experienced tutor in research and architectural design. You will also work independently to develop a design-research approach to your studies. This will require you to question and evaluate evidence and think creatively, experimentally and iteratively. Emphasis will be on individual discovery and personal reflection as a learning process. The description of Design Units is provided in the MA AD Handbook.


Distinctive features


– Study in one of the top Schools of Architecture in the UK.


– Learn from notable and award-winning design-led practitioners and researchers.


– Perfect for students who are aiming for a practice-based, active approach to learning through our focus on investigation through design.


– Choose from a range of optional modules to supplement your learning in areas of interest to you and develop important skills in design-based research.


Course structure


This programme is available on a one-year full-time basis. You will be based at the Welsh School of Architecture for the duration of the programme. The taught element of this programme is structured around a 60-credit design module where you will use techniques of research through design to explore an issue of interest related to one of the Design Units. This will normally run between October and April and will conclude with a design Portfolio submission and a final presentation in front of a panel of reviewers. Your work in the design studio is complimented by a 30-credit module aiming for analysing architectural precedent, and a choice of optional study modules.


You will usually start the dissertation element of the programme in May and completed over the summer. The dissertation is the culmination of your design research throughout the programme. The dissertation usually comprises of a documented design project, accompanied by a 6,000-word critical commentary. Support for developing the necessary skills of research through design will be provided during the taught elements of the programme.


The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.


During your year on the programme, you will focus on developing a design-research agenda, defining and establishing your own position in architectural design. The topics covered are usually structured around thematic studios, or Design Units led by design tutors who have expertise and interest in specific areas of research and/ or practice. The themes are often related to areas of research expertise within the School and usually in close connection with real stakeholders and real contexts.


You will undertake analysis of architectural precedent within the studio environment and choose 30 credits worth of optional modules, chosen from a list of subjects based on the research interests of the staff in the school. This list is reviewed on an annual basis. You can choose any combination of 10 and 20 credit modules for your option.


For your dissertation you will work independently using the skills that have been developed during the taught programme to develop a critical research argument through design. This will involve completing a design thesis project. You will be expected to supplement this with a 5,000-6,000-word critical written commentary.


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Admission Requirements

Admissions criteria


This programme would be suitable for graduates in architecture or a similar design-led subject (such as area, landscape architecture, urban design or interior design).


Applicants should normally hold a first or second class Honours degree. Students would be expected to show high levels of creative design thinking through their academic transcript and through the submission of an A3/A4 portfolio of academic project work.


Portfolios should provide evidence of imaginative & conceptual thinking, spatial sensibility, technical resolution and overall communication of ideas.


Applicants should apply through the University’s online application system. The School will then contact applicants directly to arrange for the portfolio to be sent.


Applicants whose first language is not English or Welsh must satisfy the English Language requirements for entry to the University by attainment of the standard IELTS requirement of 6.5 overall in IELTS with 5.5 in each subscore.

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General information
12 months
Federico Wulff
UK - EU: £9.700 / Overseas: £22.950
Email /
+44 (0)29 2087 4430 / +44 (0)29 2087 4623
Welsh School of Architecture, Bute Building, King Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB
Type of Master
Master of Arts (MA)
Campus Location
The information of this Master's Degree was extracted from the Official Website of the program.
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