Master of Arts in Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (NoVA)


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Programme Description

Nordic Visual Studies and Art Education (NoVA) educates contemporary art and visual culture professionals and researchers, to achieve an understanding of the best Nordic practices and traditions in art education and other visual culture professions. Through the NoVA education, you achieve relevant competencies and pedagogical interaction skills for working in cross-cultural and international educational situations and environments. NoVA builds on Nordic competences and expertise, which are related to current discussions in the field of international art education. The program is open for international students.

Study objectives

NoVA courses are mapped around three concepts: sights, sites, cites. Throughout the NoVA programme, students focus on the significance of “sight” in relation to theories, practices, and networks of visual studies. With the concept of ”site”, students investigate the geo-political and pedagogical dimensions of space, place, the public sphere, and private realms. And, students are provided with opportunities to critically reflect upon previous experiences and knowledge as well as generate new knowledge through “citational” practices that draw upon existing social and cultural texts, theories, artworks, and research.

Language of instruction

The language of instruction is English.

Tuition fees

The tuition fee is €15 000 for non-EU/EEA students per academic year. More information on Scholarships and Tuition Fees page (

Content of the studies

NoVA students engage in a variety of learning and teaching methods, including in-person, on-line, and whole-group pedagogy, at home and host universities (during possible exchange studies), and at retreats and Nordic seminars. Learning by doing and problem-oriented approaches are integrated with practical and theoretical e-learning based activities. Contact teaching is a combination of lectures, seminars, peer working and student presentations, using multimodal approaches: texts, images, audio, and different physical and digital interfaces and communication.

Through courses on visual culture, social theory, pedagogy, research competences, for example, students investigate the practices of looking, seeing and being seen. NoVA students explore how digital technologies affect perception and how vision is constructed. Students research visual events to understand the relationship between institutions, the media, society, and the economic sphere.

Focus areas of the studies:

  • Visual culture developed in the Nordic region
    This incorporates exploring creative and critical approaches to design and art-making, coupled with a deep responsibility for openness, caring, and equality.
  • Critical pedagogy with social and cultural awareness
    This stems from aspects of the highly valued Nordic education systems, emphasising democratic societies, egalitarianism, socially just pedagogical skills and practices, human rights and social and cultural sustainability.
  • Digital technologies in learning
    Social and cultural competences in ICT & online communication are included in the programme as content and as pedagogical methods.
  • Contemporary art education
    This includes project and problem-oriented teaching, and collaborative and participatory based learning based on contemporary methods, and theories of art, pedagogy, and mediation.
  • Project management and administration
    Engaging with communities, institutions and productions provide practical experience in project management, administration, entrepreneurship and finance of cultural and educational initiatives.


Studying in another Nordic university for one or two semesters is recommended. Alternatively, a domestic or Nordic internship is a valuable study-option that provides students with hands-on experience in Nordic work-life in the field of art education. The current NoVA programme is developed in collaboration with three Nordic universities: Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Finland, Aalborg University, Department of Communication and Psychology, Denmark and Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, Sweden.

Each university has significant experience and capacity with art and/or media education at the national level. Competences between and among institutions offer a broad range of areas of study, including critical pedagogy and social and cultural awareness; contemporary art education, digital technology, and ICT; project-oriented, collaborative, problem-based, and participatory-based work; sustainable development; intercultural and social entrepreneurship; and double perspective - combining theory and practice. NoVA international members cooperate in teaching, and by organizing seminars and study trips.

Focus of the research

Visual culture developed in the Nordic region, Critical pedagogy with social and cultural awareness, Digital technologies in learning, Contemporary art education, Project management and administration.

Career opportunities

Students that graduate from NoVA will have strong intercultural understanding, experiences, and knowledge of educational practices and theories in different Nordic countries. This cross-cultural study offers work opportunities internationally in different art, educational, and visual communicational areas, institutions, organisations, communities, art and culture projects. Students may direct themselves toward teaching, producing, designing, guidance and consultant tasks on different levels of schooling, or in the fields of art and visual and media culture, social sectors and corporate life. The degree alone does not qualify as teacher competency. Through NoVA, students are prepared for doctoral studies and for the possibility to continue their research profession.

Programme-specific Admission Procedure and Evaluation Criteria

What we look for in an applicant

We seek applicants with a suitable educational background and with previous studies and orientation in the field. Applicants should have pedagogical intentions, interaction and communication abilities and multiple literacies and competences.

Evaluation criteria

The criteria we use to evaluate the applications in the first stage are based on applicants’ educational backgrounds, other studies and orientation in the field, as assessed through:

  • Motivation letter and study plan, including a section of the proposed area of research
  • Portfolio
  • Curriculum vitae (background)

In addition to these, in the second stage, the evaluation criteria also include an evaluation consultation (interview), during which consideration is given to pedagogical intentions, interaction and communication abilities, and multiple literacies and competences. The applicant’s potential to complete the studies successfully is also considered.

First stage and required application documents

In the first stage of the admission, the selection committee evaluates the applications based on the application documents. Study Option’s specific requirements for the application documents are listed below. Please also note requirements for the application documents presented in the general application instructions.


We only accept electronic portfolios. Applicants should upload their portfolio to the application system in a single PDF-file before submitting the application.

Portfolio (one PDF document): Collection of artwork and/or images of activities, which you have been involved with (such as artistic, pedagogical, museum, gallery, public, activist, cultural, or social engagement work). The collection should consist of a maximum of 10 images. You may include both still and moving images, such as a video artwork, or filmed performance or installation work, limited to 2 minutes each in length. The videos need to be included as links into the PDF (e.g. links to Vimeo, YouTube).

All work submitted should be labelled with your name, title of work, media, dimension, date completed, and any additional text you wish to provide. Please include this information on your portfolio. In addition, include a written statement, no longer than two double-spaced A4 pages that provide a context for the work (Ex: What ideas and issues are important in my work/activities? What artistic context would I place my work/activities in? What artists and cultural workers have influenced me? What images have affected me, and how?).


Maximum two (2) double-spaced A4 pages. Applicants should upload their CV to the application system in a single PDF-file before submitting the application.

Motivation letter

Motivation letter, maximum 4000 characters, which includes a description of personal goals and interests for NoVA, proposed area of research, the aim of the study, and professional goals. In particular, the letter should indicate an understanding of opportunities for study in NoVA, express an interest in the field of art education and/or visual studies.

Language of application documents

The application documents must be submitted English.

Second stage

Part of the applicants are invited to the second stage. The invitation to the second stage is sent to the applicants at the latest 7 days in advance.

The applicants selected to the second stage will take part in the evaluation consultation (interview). Interviews will be carried out in person, and by telephone or Skype, for applicants who are not in Finland at the time of the interview.

Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

At Aalto University, we believe in curiosity and we encourage our students to explore the unknown and do things in a totally new way. We offer the highest level of education in business, art and desig ... Read More

At Aalto University, we believe in curiosity and we encourage our students to explore the unknown and do things in a totally new way. We offer the highest level of education in business, art and design, architecture, and technology in Finland. Read Less
Espoo , Helsinki , Pori , Mikkeli + 3 More Less