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Social Sculpture and Connective Practice

MA / PGDip

School of Arts

This unique transdisciplinary course, open to people from all backgrounds, offers a special focus on contemporary social sculpture, ecological citizenship, connective eco-social practices, cultural activism, expanded art practices and transformative, creative action. It enables you to explore strategies of engagement, agency and the relationship between imagination and transformation. The programme also makes special reference to the proposals and legacies of Joseph Beuys, Schiller and Goethe, as well as other pedagogies of transformation such as Joanna Macy's and Paulo Freire's. It introduces theoretical and philosophical frameworks, with a special emphasis on phenomenology and experiential knowing; explores the relationship of social sculpture to ecological sustainability and offers practice-based research methodologies and creative strategies as the basis for developing individual and collaborative social sculpture processes, interdisciplinary expanded arts and reflective social practice. 

The MA is Social Sculpture is, with the MA in Sound Arts, one of two taught postgraduate courses for socially-engaged artists, composers and transdisciplinary practitioners currently offered by the School of Arts at Oxford Brookes University. These MAs share two core modules in Creative Strategies and Phenomenological Methods of practice-based work. These shared modules enable cross-pollination and potential for collaboration between social sculpture and connective practice practitioners and those working in the field of sound arts. The MA in Social Sculpture is linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit and is part of a thriving post-graduate research culture. There are opportunities to volunteer in social sculpture projects like University of the Trees: Lab for an Eco-Social Future. 

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Headington Hill

Course length

  • Full time: MA: 12 months, PGDip: 9 months

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

The MA in Social Sculpture is an internationally renowned programme, running since 2006, linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit at Oxford Brookes. A dedicated team of international specialists and emerging practitioners delivers innovative cross-disciplinary and socially-engaged creative practices that many students have described as 'life changing'.

  • Participating in a community of dialogue and reflection: the unique 'Feedback Forum' approach which runs throughout the programme replaces the traditional art-school 'crit', offering a radical, supportive and creative form of feedback on your work. Another special feature is the regular MA Forum, in which students and staff meet to discuss creative practice in a supportive and stimulating environment. It also offers fortnightly individual tutorials and small group supervision.
  • Coherent and unique teaching approach: a carefully sequenced set of modules enable you to uncover, explore and develop your own concerns within the field of contemporary social sculpture, creative cultural action and other interdisciplinary connective practices.
  • Research culture and opportunities beyond the programme: MA Social Sculpture students are welcome to participate in 7 day-long 'PhD Social Sculpture Fora' per year. This is part of a stimulating environment where tutors, alumni, research fellows and student interns work closely together in the Social Sculpture Research Unit, and in projects like University of the Trees: Lab for New Knowledge and an Eco-Social Future. 
  • Based in the School of Arts' beautiful Richard Hamilton Building: situated very close to the city centre in a wooded landscape and arboretum, it offers excellent technical support; well-equipped workshops in video, photography, sound, artists books, printmaking and a variety of 3-D processes; a well- equipped library with materials appropriate to our programme and dedicated support for practice-based research students. There is bookable installation space, a group studio base and 24/7 studio access.
  • Wider context: research and teaching programmes in the School of Arts are linked to some of Oxford’s leading cultural organisations such as Modern Art Oxford, and the annual Social Sculpture Festival of MA student work takes place in an around Oxford, using accessible local venues as a hub. You are encouraged to make links with local communities and social and ecological organisations as well as being able to design certain projects related to their home contexts. Once you graduate from the programme you have the opportunity to participate in the annual Social Sculpture Platform which is open to the public.

MA in Social Sculpture students take five compulsory modules - Creative Strategies 1 and 2, Social Sculpture 1 and 2 and a Major Project - in which they develop their particular concerns.

PGDip in Social Sculpture students take four compulsory modules - Creative Strategies 1 and 2 and Social Sculpture 1 and 2.

Modules may change from time to time as they are reviewed as part of our quality assurance framework; an indicative list is shown below.

Shared transdisciplinary modules
Creative Strategies 1 and 2 are shared by the MA in Social Sculpture and the MA Sounds Arts courses. This module explores methodologies and strategies for generating contemporary social sculpture and related connective practices, cross art form and socially engaged practices, reflective eco-social practice and forms of cultural activism. For those doing the MA Sound Arts it also serves as a basis for generating sounds art and cross-art form work. You are introduced to phenomenological approaches in both theory and practice that encourage you to become aware of your working process as a creative practitioner and to understand the influence that certain methodologies and strategies have on the kind of work that you do. Through individual and collaborative practice-based work, staff-led seminars and feedback discussions, attention is focused on how we generate practice-based work. Strategies that encompass the intuitive, spontaneous, interventionist, discursive and analytical are used, individually or in collaboration with others.

Social Sculpture and Connective Practice modules
This sequence of two modules in Semester 1 and 2 [Year 1] focuses on social sculpture, creative agency, ecological citizenship, connective aesthetics, connective practices in general and cultural creative action. Alongside an exploration of specific social sculpture strategies of engagement, and the relationship between imagination and transformation, it makes special reference to the proposals and legacy of Joseph Beuys, Schiller, and to Goethean methodology, whilst exploring the broader field of connective practices that include the work of Joanna Macy, James Hillman and Paulo Freire. You will have the opportunity to study the theoretical and philosophical frameworks that underpin these ideas, and to examine contemporary research and practice that explores the relationship of social sculpture to ecological sustainability and the shaping of a viable future. In addition, you will explore relevant practice-based methodologies and research strategies as the basis for developing your own interdisciplinary social sculpture, reflective social practice and expanded art projects.

Major Project
At the end of the course there is an annual degree festival of the MA Social Sculpture work. The Major Project is the culmination of your course of study. You can take an active role in organising, marketing and running the festival, which in previous years has taken place at a variety of sites in and around Oxford, as well as the University and exhibition spaces in the School of Arts.

Teaching and learning

Our teaching methods include:

  • seminars and lectures on interdisciplinary creative practice, practice-based research, phenomenological root methodologies and social sculpture
  • team teaching in group seminars, involving research methodologies for practice-based research
  • feedback from staff and students during group feedback sessions, in which you receive constructive feedback on your work
  • staff-led group discussions arising out of practical presentations
  • regular individual tutorials that address your research concerns
  • introductions to creative strategies for generating and making practice-based social sculpture and other forms of connective cultural action and reflective social practice.
  • introductions to the School of Arts technical facilities
  • induction sessions with subject librarians.

The learning methods include:

  • regular forums where staff and students formulate and articulate responses to work
  • social sculpture and interdisciplinary creative practice presentations
  • presentations of practical research
  • the researching and writing of reflective reports, assignments and self-evaluations
  • private research and study
  • presentations to peers and group feedback via the 'feedback forum' approach to 'reception theory' in practice.

Approach to assessment

The approach to assessment can be described as dialogic. You interrogate your own work using a form of phenomenological analysis, and we assess and respond to this careful 'dialogue' that you have with your own work.

The assessment forms and methods include:

  • practical presentations of resolved social sculpture, interdisciplinary creative actions and reflective social practice
  • written self-evaluations on the evolution, development and resolution of all creative practices and projects
  • written case-studies
  • a final presentation of practical work as part of the MA Social Sculpture and Connective Practice Festival which includes projects in specific contents and related documentation, interventions, exhibitions and events.

Specialist facilities

As a student in the School of Arts, you will benefit from excellent and well equipped facilities, 24 hour access to your own studio space and the help and support our team of practitioners and the other specialists in the field who work here.

The MA in Social Sculpture is situated in the Richard Hamilton Building, which includes bookable installation rooms, music practice rooms and a research base for postgraduate students to do group and individual work. Access to the Richard Hamilton Building is available 24 hours a day for all arts students.

The department also has access to a black box drama studio where performances and installations can take place. This provides a live performance venue with versatile sound, lighting and staging possibilities, including surround sound, projections and raised staging and seating.

Arts related workshops and IT

Social sculpture students have access to well-equipped workshops run by technical specialists in Artists’ Books, Printmaking, Photography, Video and a range of processes including casting, metalwork, laser cutting and woodwork. General internet, email and office software are available as well as workstations with more specialist programmes including Photoshop, Illustrator, Adobe Audition 3.0; Sibelius 6; Cubase Essential 4; Pure Data; Hyperprism; GRM Tools and Composers Desktop Project.

Field trips

There are no formal field trips however you will have the opportunity to engage with cultural, social and ecologically focused organisations and well as to visit social sculpture related projects such at the Omnibus for Direct Democracy in Germany, and to volunteer and assist on Social Sculpture Research Unit projects such as University of the Trees: Lab for an Eco-Social Future and Earth Forum. Travel and other costs incurred are expected to be met by the student.

Sample work

Staff lectures and interviews in international contexts:

Shelley Sacks in Sweden at the Youth Initiative Programme

Shelley Sacks - Talk for Making a Difference Asia: Change-Makers programme - Hong Kong [with Chinese subtitles]

Shelley Sacks: Berlin, with Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Heinrich Boell Stiftung

Wolfgang Zumdick in an interview for Australian radio

Recent staff publications

See our Facebook page

Attendance pattern

Students meet twice weekly in both the first and second semesters - on Mondays and Tuesdays. In the summer students work to develop their Major Project, which concludes in early October the following year.

Students need to be on-site or nearby for at least half the week, and put in about 40 hours per week.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2018/19: £5,560 2019/20: £5,780

International - full time: 2018/19: £13,460 2019/20: £14,000

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

A number of scholarships are available:

John Henry Brookes Scholarships:
The University offers a number of scholarships for the MA in Social Sculpture.

China Taught Postgraduate Scholarships (£2000, the deadline is Friday 8 July)

Alumni Discounts and other Postgraduate Scholarships on the Oxford Brookes website

Other International Scholarships

Postgraduate loan scheme

Please note that this will be launched from September 2016, but we are still waiting for details. Applicants can't apply yet and need to keep checking our website and the linked government website for further details.

Entry requirements

The general entry requirements are:

  • a good honours degree, minimum 2.1, in any subject
  • an internationally recognised qualification equivalent to a good British honours degree.

Applicants without a first degree, but with extensive experience in the arts or other disciplines relevant to this programme may also be considered Please contact the Admissions Tutor, Liming Chen on lchen@brookes.ac.uk to discuss this.

Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you should have IELTS 6.5 overall, with 6.0 in each component

There is a fair amount of discussion on the programme - both in the feedback sessions and in the weekly seminar-meetings. It is therefore very important to be able to understand and speak English well enough to participate in a group conversation.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

Once we have received your application we will contact you to set up an interview, in person, or by Skype if you are not near Oxford.

The interview is a two-way process.

At this point we will discuss further why you want to do this programme and will request to see previous practice. You will also have an opportunity to ask us questions and discuss the programme.

If you are not an arts practitioner we will need to hear about other work and experience, and understand how it equips you for this programme.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

This course helps you develop new ways of thinking and engaging and a set of social sculpture root methodologies. The exceptional transferable skills that students develop on the programme have been described by many participants as 'life changing'. This new knowledge and skill also enhances and supports the development of new forms of reflective social practice and interdisciplinary social sculpture.

The knowledge and skill gained can be taken into your original discipline or area of work or help you to develop new areas of work in the transdisciplinary arts, in academia, in integrative activism, education, creative cultural action and reflective social practice.

Social Sculpture 'root methodologies' in mapping, active listening, dialogue processes, journaling and other practices for connecting inner work and outer action enable a powerful sense of agency and generate much confidence and energy for becoming 'agents of alternatives' in an extremely challenging world.


In this unique programme graduates develop excellent creative capacities and new ways of thinking that enable them to identify and develop interdisciplinary arenas and contexts for public engagement with specific communities, organisations and other constituencies.

A strong aspect of the programme is the way it enables graduates to return to existing professions and contexts in new ways: as interdisciplinary practitioners with insightful understandings, with a greatly enhanced capacity for imagination and a knowledge of new forms of reflective and interdisciplinary connective practice.

Many Social Sculpture graduates continue as social sculpture practitioners or eco-cultural activists, whilst others develop careers related to their knowledge, expertise or interests, for example within organisational change, social enterprise programmes, festival management, tertiary education, agro-ecology, arts administration; arts and music teaching, medical humanities, educators and practitioners in arts for health, promoting ecological citizenship, community cross artform work and as sustainability activists.

These diverse career possibilities have much to do with the close relationship between the content and the pedagogic approaches offered on the MA Social Sculpture programme with its focus on experiential knowing, active citizenship and connective practices.

Combining the rigour of a traditional academic programme with innovative practical and vocational components makes graduates well placed for roles as practitioners as well as for further research in territory that includes the arts and sustainability, ecological citizenship, individual and community change processes, cultural and ecological activism and the field of contemporary social sculpture and connective aesthetics.

The methodologies taught also enable new forms of interdisciplinary and post-disciplinary practice and research.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Student Representation

The MA programme has a course committee meeting every semester which is responsible for the day-to-day running of the programme and academic planning, along with any changes to the programmes. The committee includes the Subject Coordinator for the MA in Social Sculpture , Course Tutors, the Programme Lead for Art who represents the School of Arts, and the Subject Librarian. The Course Committee also includes Student Representatives. The reps are also invited to attend the School of Arts reps meetings, which take place once a semester. An election for postgraduate student reps takes place at the beginning of Semester 1; reps normally serve for the duration of their time at the University. Student representation on the committee is important: it is the most effective way in which students can make their views known about the running of the course.

Personal tutor

Although MA students are not assigned a personal tutor, the Subject Coordinator and Module Leaders are available to provide the support, assistance and advice that a personal tutor would offer at undergraduate level.

Programme evaluation

Module Evaluation gives you the opportunity to voice your opinions directly to those who teach you, and to make sure that changes are discussed in the light of your learning experience. It is therefore an important vehicle for student representation within the University and you are urged to make every effort to take part in course evaluation.

At the end of each module you have the opportunity to make a formal written evaluation of the content and teaching of the course. Many tutors also conduct an informal feedback session.

Tutors are committed to producing a digest of student evaluations and copies are given to student representatives or are available from the Subject Coordinator. Student feedback is taken seriously by staff and it often leads to changes in the way course elements are run. Staff undertake their own collective evaluation and student views are taken into account in their discussions.

You are given the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate the course at the end of your course. Your ideas and opinions are greatly valued, and you are urged most strongly to take a little time to complete an evaluation and if you wish to talk informally to a member of staff about your views on the course.


You may always seek advice and help about your work on specific units from unit and seminar leaders. Further advice on matters such as the choice of your Major Project and career possibilities may be sought from any member of the teaching team.

Student support co-ordinators are able to help with personal problems, but teaching staff may also be able to help; and certainly need to know if you are facing difficulties.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

Research highlights

Staff have a strong research record in both practice-based and text based research. Our thriving postgraduate research culture is nourished by and contributes to this. Please see our website for details.

We are also actively engaged in research on ways to articulate the value of social sculpture and related connective practices.

Research areas and clusters


Our research centres provide a focus for research and a bank of expertise across the arts. They enable us to foster relationships with outside agencies and other academic institutions as well as facilitating debate and promoting interdisciplinary research within the University.


Interdisciplinary research clusters exist in the following areas:

Research Units in the School of Arts provide a focus for research and a bank of expertise. They enable us to foster relationships with outside agencies and other academic institutions as well as facilitating debate and promoting interdisciplinary research within the University.

The MA is Social Sculpture is linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit (SSRU)

For information on the other research centres within the School of Arts visit our Research page.

Doctoral students working in the field of contemporary social sculpture are linked to the Social Sculpture Research Unit. 6 doctoral students have completed their PhDs in the field of Social Sculpture and 14 students are continuing. Titles and details of some of the doctoral students.