National College of Art and Design
Formerly the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin: Types of Arts Courses, Curriculum, Contact Details.

National College of Art and Design

Based in Dublin and dating from 1746, the Irish National College of Art and Design (NCAD) is the preeminent institution of art education in the Republic of Ireland. It offers the largest syllabus of visual art and design degrees in the State at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. From its beginnings as the Royal Dublin Society School of Drawing, through its life as the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art and the National College of Art, to its present status as the National College of Art and Design, it has played host to many of the most influential artists, designers and art teachers in Ireland. NCAD's counterpart in Cork is the Crawford College of Art and Design. (See also: BEST ART SCHOOLS)

Brief History

Originating as a private drawing school in Dublin, run by Robert West, which was first subsidized then in 1750 absorbed by the Dublin Society (later the Royal Dublin Society), it grew to include three schools (Figure Drawing, Landscape and Ornamental Drawing, and Architectural Drawing) until 1811 when a fourth school (Modelling) was added. In 1877, London removed the School from the Royal Dublin Society and established it as the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art. During the 1900s, the School was enlarged to include craft classes, (eg. enamels, metalwork, stained glass) and a life class, taught initially by William Orpen. In 1924, following the emergence of the new Irish State, the art school was taken over by the Department of Education took control, and twelve years later in 1936, the Metropolitan School of Art metamorphosed into the National College of Art with teaching faculties of painting, sculpture and design. Extra departments of weaving, ceramics and metalwork were instituted in the 1950s. In 1971, the National College of Art and Design was established by act of an tOireachtas and is now controlled by a board (An Brd) appointed by the Minister for Education and Science.

The National College of Art and Design campus is located in Thomas Street, in the historic Liberties area of Dublin. In 1998, the College opened a new School of Design for Industry, and now all of its activities are based at the Thomas Street campus.

Despite its formal changes, the National College of Art and Design seeks to keep alive and improve on the legacy handed down by its luminaries like WB Yeats, AE Russell, Sir William Orpen, Sean Keating, Harry Clarke, Maurice MacGonigal and Francis Tansey and many other teachers and students of the College. The College has a clear mission to educate and nurture the new generation of Irish artists who are gaining national and international recognition.

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NCAD Art Courses

The National College of Art and Design has over seven hundred and fifty full-time students as well as a further eight hundred students studying evening classes. It houses 4 main Faculties; Design, Education, Fine Art and Visual Culture. (A Faculty of History of Art & Design and Complementary Studies interacts with all the other faculties.) In general, the first year course for students from all these Arts Faculties is a CORE study course.

To maintain its very high standards, the National College of Art and Design invites artists and designers of international repute to lecture at the College, a system complemented by an exchange program with colleges and universities in Europe and the United States. Individual NCAD staff members are affiliated to numerous professional organisations in Ireland and overseas.

Since 1996, NCAD has been a recognised college of the National University of Ireland.


NCAD: Faculties Of Fine Art, Design and Education

The National College of Art and Design has always been equally concerned with fine art and with design.

In its teaching methods, the Faculty of Fine Art mixes the traditional disciplines (eg. drawing and painting) with a modern experimental approach which permits individual art students to create in a wide range of media. Assisted by teachers who are practising artists, art students become aware of the activities and ideas of artists working in society at large, as well as the nature of contemporary art. Overall, NCAD Fine Art courses offer an intense visual education for both artists and others who may form careers in related directions.

The Design Faculty - the largest Faculty at the College - includes ceramics, metals, stained glass, textile design, fashion design, industrial design and visual communication. In this department, the focus is on solving specific problems. Design students are expected to master the relevant technologies, but the aesthetic design factor is equally important. Students often work on competitions sponsored by commercial design firms. In general, the Faculty aims to promote a broad education in design as a foundation for a variety of possible careers in applied art - either, as part of a design team in industry, or, as an individual working in a studio or small concern.

The Faculty of Education offers courses for intending teachers of art, craft and design in second-level schools. There are two available options: a four-year BA degree in Art and Design Education; and a one-year postgraduate Higher Diploma in Art and Design Education. The Faculty also offers a Higher Diploma in Community Arts Education.

CORE Arts Course (Year 1)


The first step for any artist is to understand the basic creative process. This involves becoming familiar with the tools and processes involved in art creation. After all, depending on whether we draw something in charcoal, (or in pencil, in ink or with pastel), paint it in oils, acrylics, watercolours or tempera, shape it in clay, photograph it or film it, we obtain a different result. Thus, the first year of the four-year degree courses at the National College of Art and Design in Ceramics, Glass & Metals, Fashion Design, Textile Design, Visual Communication, and Fine Art (as well as their joint options), is devoted to a CORE study of the visual arts which provides a sound foundation for later specialised studies.

A Few Details

The National College of Art and Design CORE year explains a variety of approaches to drawing and, through a variety of challenging projects, teaching staff attempt to induct students into ways of visual thinking that will sustain them in whatever specific areas of art they specialize. All CORE students have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the main specialties at NCAD before making a final choice on which area of art or design they wish to study for the remaining three years of their degree.

Specifically, students are introduced to the basics of drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, three-dimensional studies and design, in order to broaden their knowledge, and understanding of the methods, materials and processes of the visual arts. In addition, students encounter various problem solving methods concerning design and fine art disciplines through project work and blocks of study in ceramics, glass, metalwork, jewellery art, painting, embroidery, fashion, printed textiles, printmaking, sculpture, woven textiles and visual communication disciplines.

Students are encouraged to explore their own creative potential via personal projects which may highlight areas of interest for further study. A tutorial system operates to monitor student progress throughout the year and to help each student maximize their individual potential.

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NCAD'S Fine Arts Courses

The National College of Art and Design Faculty of Fine Art includes four departments - Media, Painting, Fine Print and Sculpture - all of whom teach students to develop an individual way of seeing and expressing themselves visually. Emphasis is laid on visual awareness and artistic analysis, by enhancing student-ability to use both traditional and new materials.

The two basic degree courses offered by NCAD are: BA in Fine Art; BA in History of Art and Fine Art.

Course Description

After successful completion of the First Year (Core), students enter the Fine Art Faculty in Year 2, where they acquire the basic knowledge, practice and skills of drawing, painting, Fine Print, sculpture, photography and media. Then, during the second term, they begin study in the department most suited to their potential development in either media, painting, Fine Print or sculpture. Some fine art students may pursue a combined interest in media, painting, print and sculpture. The diversity of the NCAD Fine Art course reflects the wide range of interests and experience of the college staff who are all practising artists. Each year, approximately twenty percent of the Fine Art course is devoted to studies in Visual Culture and, in the final year, the preparation of a thesis. The college offers numerous fine arts exchange programs with cultural institutions and universities in Europe, and the USA. Such exchanges typically occur during Year 3.

Career Prospects

The Fine Art course offers an in-depth education in the visual arts. It is primarily aimed at students aspiring to become future artists in society. Whatever a student's specialization (be it in Media, Painting, Fine Print or Sculpture), he/she may use their qualification and knowledge to pursue an individual artistic career or as a platform to find positions in the growing "culture industry" in Ireland or overseas, as a curator, arts administrator, critic, etc.

The education provided equips students to respond creatively to life and business challenges. Visual arts graduates are to be found in every area of society making art at the highest levels.

Painting and Sculpture

Students at the National College of Art who pass the CORE Year 1 course and are accepted for the Fine Art Faculty, may (in the second term of Year 2) opt to specialize in one of the four study-areas offered: Media, Painting, Fine Print or Sculpture. Here is a brief overview of the painting and sculpture study areas.

During the beginning of Year 3, project-based study methods encourage group interaction and discussion among painting students over a broad range of concepts. During the course of this year, the emphasis shifts from the group to the individual artist in order to encourage personal research. Individual and group tutorials helps the students to widen their visual awareness and intellectual clarity through engagement with a multi-layer practice, covering a full range of contemporary art options. Year 3 not only builds and improves individual artistic skills but also develops student confidence in covering the broadest possible conceptual solutions to visual art in preparation for Year 4.

During Year 4, painting students begin to develop their studio working methods. Personal tutorial guidance is offered to enhance student ability to achieve their goal of becoming a professional artist or participant in the cultural sector. In addition, group tutorials, debate structures and visiting artists are provided to reinforce the benefits of this visual art course. Seminars covering issues like administration, community, curatorial, legal, and tax matters are also provided to equip students with the knowledge necessary to survive as a contemporary artist. At the end of the academic year, painting students offer a major presentation of their work for college adjudication.


Sculpture involves issues and ideas of space and time. The use of basic media such as bronze, metal, wood, clay, stone and plastics, worked on in specialist workshops, is enhanced by digital technology, lens based media such as video and photography.

By means of individual as well as group tutorials, seminars, tuition in studio and workshop practices, sculpture students develop their individual ability to form judgements relevant to their own technical specialisation and to produce creative work as sculptors. Personal tutorials and group criticism sessions are held at regular intervals. Due to the workshop-based nature of much of the work in the Sculpture department there is constant contact between staff and students. A visiting program involving professional sculptors and sculptresses brings the students into contact with the very best contemporary artists.

See also: Art Evaluation: How to Appreciate Art.

More Information

For details about NCAD, please contact:

The National College of Art and Design
100 Thomas Street
Dublin 8
Tel: (+353) 01-636-4200

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• For sources of outstanding educational publications, see: Rare Art Books (Secondhand).
• For facts about painting and sculpture in Ireland, see: Homepage.

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