Welcome to Stellenbosch University

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Department of Visual Arts

The postgraduate offering of the Department of Visual Arts is widely recognised as a prestigious and fertile space for the promotion of intellectual exchange.

Our postgraduate student body works as a cohort that shares ideas in weekly workshops and follows a model of self-evaluation. The spirit of the programmes is intellectually generous but academically rigorous.

areas of specialisation include - ​


Illustration in contemporary visual culture is one of the most versatile art forms. Crossing boundaries between fine art, drawing, the graphic arts and design, illustration is the exemplary hybrid art form. Often partnered with the publishing industry, political satire, information design and the advertising sector, illustration takes up a wide range of techniques and media formats. As a discipline, Illustration is also undergoing a major shift in both its vocational positioning and intellectual relevance. The development of digital technologies and new media continue to blur the boundaries of this genre, extending possibilities toward an eclectic range of illustration practices.

The BA Honours programme in Visual Arts (Illustration) at Stellenbosch University seeks to explore expanded notions of illustration practices that acknowledge contemporary visual culture, academic contexts and current industry. Students following this one-year programme are encouraged to challenge the position of the illustrator within commercial, social, political and cultural contexts while maintaining and developing the core values that underpin these illustration practices. Constantly revisiting, expanding and disrupting the tools, intent, context and role of illustration this programme takes an innovative, experimental and critical approach to the broad practices of illustration.

Based on illustration's long history in relation to science, culture and society, the BA Honous in Visual Arts (Illustration) correspondingly supports an inter- and cross-disciplinary approach through the modules listed below:

  • Drawing for illustration
  • Scientific illustration
  • Conceptual illustration
  • Narrative illustration
  • Theory of illustration
  • Research project (practice and theory)​

Prospective students have to submit an electronic portfolio of art works in PDF format to Marthie Kaden before the application deadline.​​

The Masters in Visual Arts (MAVA) programme ​offers an opportunity for specialised postgraduate research in studio production within the broader areas of Visual Communication Design, Illustration, Jewellery Design and Fine Art. The programme promotes the development of the student's particular interests, skills and ideas, and it is expected that students conduct independent practical and theoretical research of an advanced and in-depth (postgraduate) standard which reflects an awareness of a contemporary South African context.

Research conducted within the MAVA programme is practice-based in its methodology, thus research in which the relationship between practice and theory is dialogical and interrelated, not only in the research process but also in the final presentation of the research project.

​The Master's degree in Art Education is motivated by a need to harness the critical social power of art in an era of globalisation and social reparation, by engaging both potential and established art educators. The course is premised on the belief that the creative and critical practice of teaching and generating art is instrumental in the creation of an imaginative and socially conscious citizenry.


  • To create socially conscious graduates who would be able to practice as qualified art educators, and to further engage established educators in the transformative potential of art.​
  • To promote a responsiveness to a South African and African context, both within academia and school curricula, and to develop partnerships between the University and its surrounding environment (schools and educational initiatives), both through the curriculum itself and the professionals qualified through the degree.
  • To develop and maintain a high research output in the fields of art and education, and within these fields lead research in social transformation, institutional accountability, collaborative knowledge production, aesthetics and popular culture, and encourage cross-disciplinary academic collaborations and a scholarship of engagement.

Candidates wishing to pursue the doctoral degree have to be in possession of an MA degree in Fine Arts or MA degree in Visual Studies (or an acceptable equivalent qualification regarded by the Senate as adequate for admission to the programme) that provides evidence of the ability to conduct advanced independent research.

Details of the selection process for the doctor​al programme is available from the Department.

Programme structure

Doctoral degrees ​in the arts are research degrees culminating in a dissertation. The study as a whole can consist of theoretical work or it can be the results of an integrated study of the creative processes and theoretical work which are reported in a dissertation. The unique nature of the integrated option is derived from the coherence and interdependency of the study of the creative process and theoretical dimensions of the research leading to an original contribution to knowledge and insight into the arts.

Students must present their research for comment on a regular basis. From time to time it may be required of students to present papers dealing with their research at seminars for informal discussion.


Visual Studies offers a comprehensive postgraduate offering all the way through to doctoral level.

The intensive year-long Honours programme is recognised as one of the best in the country. It brings together experts on art journalism, media theorists, theorists of Visual Culture Studies and curators. We attract students who are interested in pursuing careers in the arts sector as publishers, curators, art critics, journalists and media specialists.

As part of the yearly programme, our curriculum covers the following themes:

  • The philosophical consideration of photography and the gendered ethics of self-representation
  • Subjectivity
  • Art criticism
  • Curatorship

The coursework is structured around interactive seminars and reading groups but also involves visits to galleries and practical projects designed to cultivate curatorial skills. The intention is to create a dynamic and vibrant environment for the generation of new ideas and discursive understandings. We aim to produce thinkers whose ideas are relevant to 'local' concerns, but resonate with intellectual traditions established elsewhere in the world.​

It is widely understood that visual communication plays an increasingly important role in our fast-paced, globalised milieu. The Master's degree in Visual Studies equips students to decode and understand visual phenomena from a variety of contexts, including popular culture, media, film, the music industry and Fine arts. As an innately interdisciplinary subject, Visual Studies incorporates a broad range of critical theories from a variety of fields, including feminism, postcolonial studies, critical race and whiteness studies, psychoanalytic theory, museum studies and philosophy, to enable students to write and speak critically about visual images, objects, institutions and practices.


  • To produce graduates who are able to apply a range of theoretical tools to a wide array of visual phenomena.
  • To inculcate in graduates responsiveness to the particular sensitivities surrounding visual representation in South Africa's fraught postcolonial context and to cultivate a responsible and self-reflexive approach to students' own research and academic inquiry.
  • To produce graduates capable of filling posts in a variety of contexts, including academia, museums, galleries, education and journalism.


Application Process