Master of Fine Art

The National Art School’s Master of Fine Art (MFA) is an accredited two-year full-time degree for Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) or equivalent graduates who decide to continue their studies. MFA students develop a higher level of specialised knowledge and artistic practice, furthering their professional expertise within their chosen studio discipline of Ceramics, Drawing, Painting, Photomedia, Printmaking or Sculpture. Students can also choose to pursue cross-disciplinary practices.

The MFA degree is a blend of coursework subjects, individual research and intensive studio practice, working over two years towards the development and presentation of a major body of work and accompanying exegesis.

Continuing the rigorous, studio-based model of learning that is at the core of studying at NAS, the MFA is centred on the nurturing of individual practice under the guidance of experienced professional artists, and the vital dialogue between practice and theory.

NAS Campus

The National Art School is a special place, which for the past 100 years has occupied the site of the historic Darlinghurst Gaol. With its original sandstone buildings, the campus is a haven of artistic creativity and a cultural hub in the heart of the city, ten minutes from the CBD. Public transport and purpose-built cycle paths make the School easily accessible from neighbouring suburbs and beyond. In 2021, a significant program of works has been undertaken to restore and upgrade the School and its heritage-listed buildings. Find out more about the campus and studios.

NAS Studios and Staff

MFA students are provided with their own dedicated postgraduate studio space and access to a comprehensive range of workshop facilities and tools in their chosen discipline or cross-disciplines. Each student is mentored and challenged throughout their degree by a diverse team of leading art practitioners who make up the NAS faculty, as well as visiting artists and scholars, creating a rich, dynamic learning environment. All Art History & Theory lecturers at NAS have completed a Doctorate degree in their field.

NAS also recognises the importance of creating a collaborative and supportive environment among fellow students, who along with the teaching faculty encourage and enlighten each other, creating a vibrant, energising learning environment and forging connections that continue long after graduation.

NAS Alumni

NAS has always retained a strong relationship with its graduates. More than 10,000 artists have trained at the School since its beginnings in 1843, and many of Australia’s leading practitioners have studied here including John Olsen, Margaret Olley, Guy Warren, Reg Mombassa, Fiona Foley, Tim Storrier, Cressida Campbell, Karla Dickens, Fiona Hall and many more. Find out more about our renowned alumni.

At any one time there are hundreds of group and solo exhibitions in commercial and public galleries around Australia and the world featuring the NAS community, and alumni, staff and students are frequently successful in major art prizes as finalists and winners, including the Archibald Prize. See the listings of current alumni, staff and student exhibitions below.

MFA Webinar 

View our MFA webinar below delivered by Dr Chelsea Lehmann A/Postgraduate Coordinator about studying at NAS.

The Master of Fine Art is a two-year full-time course of study. The course structure is based on 2 stages of one year each, with three subjects taken in Stage 1 and two subjects in Stage 2.


Stage 1

Stage 1 of the MFA program comprises three interrelated subject streams: a Studio Specialisation supported by a weekly Studio Seminar program, and the Art History & Theory lecture series. This stage introduces students to a studio research environment, and develops their ability to work with increasing autonomy and independent judgment.


Studio Specialisation

When commencing the MFA, students propose a Studio Research Project within a selected Studio Specialisation that will form the basis of an ongoing studio enquiry over the two years of the degree. Students are provided with an individual studio space and access to workshop facilities in their chosen specialisation and receive three hours a week face-to-face contact with lecturers in the Studio Specialisation stream.


Studio Seminar

Students attend two hours a week of face-to-face seminar sessions. In Stage 1 the focus of these seminars is on Research Methodologies, Professional Practice and Issues in Contemporary Art, which extend independent research skills and enhance knowledge of professional art world practice and discourse, enabling students to increase their understanding of their own activity within that context.


Art History & Theory

Students attend two hours of lectures and tutorials a week in Stage 1. These lectures examine the historical and theoretical developments underpinning contemporary art practice and enable students to pursue their own practice fully informed of the various currents of contemporary discourse that shape our understanding of art practice today.


Stage 2 

Studio Specialisation

In Stage 2 of the MFA, students continue the development of their Studio Research Project toward creating a substantial, coherent and highly resolved body of work. Students continue to work in their individual studio space under the supervision and guidance of academic staff. Students are allocated one hour a week individual supervision with selected academic staff in the Studio Specialisation stream.


Studio Seminar

The Studio Seminar program provides research support for the MFA’s written dissertation component, and to promote peer learning and engagement within the MFA cohort. Regular student work-in-progress presentations and studio critiques involving a group of staff and students provide valuable feedback to assist students in the articulation of their individual studio research interests.


Eligibility for standard admission is based on:

  • Australian and New Zealand Bachelor degree qualifications in Fine Art (AQF level 7), or
  • overseas tertiary qualifications in Fine Art considered equivalent to Australian studies, with
  • a credit average in a that degree, and
  • completion of a suitable major study in that degree

Admission Criteria

In addition to satisfying eligibility requirements, applications for admission are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Portfolio of work displaying the technical and conceptual capacity to undertake study at postgraduate level
  • Communication and literacy skills required for study at postgraduate level
  • Studio Project Proposal displaying the quality, coherence and suitability for study at postgraduate level

Prizes, scholarships and residencies

Each year NAS awards over $150,000 worth of prizes and international residencies to Paris, Rome and the UK, as well as numerous bursaries to high-achieving students across different disciplines.

BFA students entering the MFA are eligible to apply for two scholarships of $20,000 each. Find out more about these opportunities and how to apply on our Scholarships and Residencies page.



NAS presents a comprehensive series of Public Programs each year, including the Art Forum series of free weekly lectures for students featuring invited guests talking about their practice and experience in the contemporary art world. In 2021 speakers included Wendy Sharpe, Warwick Thornton, Leyla Stevens, Guy Warren, Todd McMillan, Richard Bell, Shireen Taweel and Justine Youssef.

NAS also takes part in major public events including the Biennale of Sydney, Sydney Festival, Vivid, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Dobell Drawing Prize, creating opportunities for students to engage with cutting-edge contemporary art and artists on campus and make connections with the wider creative world.

NAS provides various exhibition spaces and opportunities for MFA students to show their work and collaborate over the course of their degree, culminating in the Postgrad Show that attracts a large and eager audience from gallerists, collectors and curators to media and art enthusiasts. This provides an important entrance for postgraduate students into the professional contemporary art world.

NAS also takes part in Sydney Contemporary, the major annual art fair, showcasing recent graduates to a targeted commercial audience and providing the opportunity to find gallery representation.

Each year NAS presents a professionally curated, critically acclaimed public exhibition program across its spaces on campus including the central NAS Gallery, the Rayner Hoff Project Space and The Drawing Gallery (launched in 2021). NAS’s galleries attract more than 30,000 visitors a year with exhibitions promoting and supporting Australian contemporary artists alongside other Sydney public art institutions such as the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

In 2021, NAS presented the Dobell Drawing Prize #22, a long-running biannual prize supported by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation; Queer Contemporary: Skin Deep, a performance art project and exhibition for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; From the Mountain to the Sky: Guy Warren Drawings, celebrating the 100th birthday of NAS alumnus Guy Warren; and John Olsen: Goya’s Dog, a major retrospective for NAS alumnus and former teacher John Olsen.

In 2021 NAS also co-presented the Frame of Mind: Mental health and the arts initiative with Edith Cowan University in Perth which involved students, staff and alumni from both universities and included talks, exhibitions, symposium and a publication.

The transition from student to professional artist can be a challenging experience. The MFA degree at NAS provides students with an understanding of the contemporary professional arts industry, creative industries and cultural sectors they will work across after graduation.

Our Launchpad professional development program, offered to all students, is designed to assist graduates to improve their written and oral communication skills, including writing artist statements, biographies and professional websites.

NAS has strong strategic partnerships that assist our students as they transition into emerging creative practitioners through a range of professional development avenues including exhibition opportunities, showing at art fairs and industry networking through introductions to artists, curators, galleries and arts agencies.

On the NAS Student Opportunities page we share employment opportunities with students from the professional arts sector and assist in facilitating internships, paid work and volunteer work experience. We support and promote the success of our graduates via the NAS website and social media.

MFA applications for 2024 open soon

Closing date for MFA applications is Monday 13 November 2023.

Upcoming MFA info session Thursday 19 October. Reserve your spot HERE

More information coming soon


Please fill in our online enquiry form below or call us on

+61 2 9339 8741 to speak with our Future Student Advisor.

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