Master of Fine Arts in Design

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Why Pursue an MFA in Design at UT?    APPLY NOW

Welcome to the newly restructured Masters of Fine Arts in Design. We officially launched admissions on September 1.

The Design MFA has been reconsidered to take utmost advantage of the department’s position inside one of the world’s best research institutions. The new curriculum promises to prepare students for thought and organizational leadership in the field of design or in fields where design is being utilized strategically. In addition to advanced studio work in established design disciplines, we provide students the opportunity to study, explore and work in disciplines that intersect with design.  

Each Design MFA student will enjoy a formal curricular partnership with another discipline on campus and develop a thesis that thoughtfully intersects design with another field such as business, anthropology, engineering, or art.

Additionally, the MFA curriculum offers preparation for college teaching in the field of design through a series of classes exploring design pedagogy.

The 60-credit hour M.F.A. in Design is completed in two academic years plus (in some cases) the intervening summer. Forty-two of the 60 hours must be earned in Design courses. The remaining 18 credits may be earned in any unit at the university; 6 hours must be earned in a single external department. 

Incoming students are expected to have preexisting design skills. We do not require that all applicants have an undergraduate degree in design, but all applicants should have a portfolio of recent design work.

The M.F.A. program is a full-time, two-year, in-residence program suitable for self-motivated, creative people who wish to make use of the extensive resources of a research university. An undergraduate degree in design is not required for admission; however, students are expected to have a portfolio of recent design work and working knowledge in the field of design.

The program accepts students for fall admission only.

Admission to the M.F.A. program is based on the strength of the applicant’s portfolio of work, written statement of purpose, academic qualifications, and letters of recommendation.

The GRE is not required for admission, however, any professional entrance exams (GRE, MCAT, MBA, etc) with high scores should be submitted.

The Design Graduate Studies faculty and the Graduate and International Admissions Center (GIAC) must both approve your admission. After reviewing all applications, the Design Graduate Studies Committee submits recommendations  for admission or denial to the Office of Graduate Studies; the Dean of the Graduate School then offers or denies admission based both on the GSC’s recommendation and on the Graduate School’s own admissions requirements.

The University of Texas at Austin believes that a highly talented and diverse student body can significantly enhance the character and quality of the academic culture and community.  To this end, the University is continuously engaged in an effort to increase the pool of graduate scholars from diverse backgrounds. As authorized by the Board of Regents and beginning with the academic year 2005-2006, The University of Texas at Austin has added race and ethnicity to the criteria considered for admission of freshmen, graduate students, and law students, and to the awarding of scholarships and fellowships in those cases when an individualized and full file review is conducted as part of the selection process.

The application for Fall 2020 admissions opens September 1, 2019.
The program admits students for fall semester only, and deferred admission is not allowed.

December 15, 2019

Recommended completion of ApplyTexas application

January 10, 2020 — 11:59 PM

Final application deadline (all materials due); Late applications will not be accepted (no exceptions)

Mid-February 2020

Finalists will be contacted for phone/Skype interviews

Early-to-Mid March 2020

Applicants notified of admission decisions


To receive email communication about our program, please contact the graduate coordinator, Violet Cantu, at


More information about these materials is included on the Apply page. A GRE score is not required.

  • ApplyTexas Application
  • Application Fees ($75 total for U.S. and Permanent Resident applicants; $100 total for International applicants)
  • Official Transcript(s)
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation (submitted electronically by references)
  • TOEFL or IELTS Language Test Score (international applicants only)
  • Portfolio of Visual Work (view requirements)
  • Statement of Purpose
  • Resume


All applications for graduate admission to The University of Texas at Austin are processed by the Graduate School.

Review the Graduate School’s minimum eligibility requirements for admission.

U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents should review the Graduate School’s information page for U.S. applicants.

International applicants should review the Graduate School’s information page for International applicants.


  1. Complete application and pay fee
  2. Submit transcripts, letters of recommendation and language test score
  3. Submit portfolio and supporting materials
  4. Confirm receipt of all applications materials


Graduate students from the U.S. (citizens and permanent residents) are automatically eligible for Federal Plus loans as independent students and must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). However, you should complete the FAFSA even if you don’t intend to take out student loans because doing so may qualify you for need-based funding such as grants and scholarships. Applicants must file the FAFSA by the March 15 priority deadline to be considered for need-based funding.

Applicants should complete the FAFSA as soon as you have submitted your admission application and have filed your federal tax return. You are strongly urged not to wait for notification of admission before filing the FAFSA.

Tuition and Fees
Current tuition and fees for Texas residents and out-of-state and international non-residents may be figured using the Graduate Tuition Calculator. Students in the MFA in Design program typically take 9 credit-hours per semester. A limited number of Tuition Waivers are offered to out-of-state and international students that forgive the non-resident portion of tuition.

Funding resources at the MFA level are limited and awarded on a case-by-case basis. Each semester, MFA students may apply for positions as a Grader for a large introductory/survey or upper-division class. Once assigned to grade for a course, the Grader must attend all lectures and grade all exams and assignments for the course. The number of Grader positions varies each year, and the salary is based on the number of students in the class. Information about other sources of funding is available from the Graduate School.


Your portfolio and supporting materials are submitted through SlideRoom, according to the instructions below. Do not submit these materials to the Graduate School or send them directly to the School of Design and Creative Technologies.

Please note that SlideRoom servers can be slow on the deadline day. Early submission is recommended. If you need assistance with SlideRoom, review their Support section.

Use the same full name that you entered on your ApplyTexas application.

Enter your UT EID, University of Texas Electronic Identifier. This is emailed to you 2-3 business days after you submit your ApplyTexas online application. You will use your UT EID throughout your association with UT Austin.

Previous Degrees and Institutions
Please list the degrees you currently hold and/or will receive between now and the proposed semester of admission, noting when you received (or will receive) them (e.g. BFA, Main Street University, 2012; MLIS, Far Away Institute, 2012). Please do not list institutions from which you did not receive a degree (summer school, postbaccalaureate certificates, etc.).

List of References
Please list the names and titles of your three references that you submitted to ApplyTexas (e.g. John Doe, Associate Professor at MainStreet University; Jane Doe, CEO at Main Street Design Firm).

Website URL of Your Work
If there are any websites that show your work, please list them.

Statement of Purpose
Describe, in a separate PDF, your goals in undertaking graduate study. Your statement should explain your research interests within the field of design, and explain, if applicable, how the work in the portfolio relates to them. See admission criteria on page 5 of our application guide for more details.

Résumé or CV
Submit, as a separate PDF, a résumé or CV that includes your full mailing address, e-mail address, phone number(s), and Skype address. Please keep formatting simple, as only basic spacing can be saved.

You may submit up to ten projects. All ten projects should be included in one multiple-page PDF file, which includes: 1. appropriate visual documentation of the project; 2. project title, date, client (if relevant), and dimensions or duration; 3. your role/contribution to the project if the project was a collaborative group project; 4. any pertinent and relevant project description/ information. Time-based projects should be referenced in the PDF described above. Total time for all real-time projects should not exceed 9 minutes. Depending on the nature of the project, we suggest documentation for any one project should not exceed 3 minutes in length (you may include clips rather than the entire piece). Along with the visual portfolio you should upload your Statement of Interest and résumé each as a separate PDF.

Transaction Fee
SlideRoom charges a $10 transaction fee, payable by credit card before submitting your application.


The Design Department of the School of Design and Creative Technologies is housed in the Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA) and the Art Building (ART). Design graduate students share studio space and have access to many other departmental and university resources, including the following:

The Computer Lab

Design graduate students have key-code access to the computer laboratory in ART 1.202. The lab houses 27” iMacs equipped with Adobe Creative Cloud, Rhino, and other design software. Students also have access to large-format scanners and printers. During the lab’s posted hours of operation, lab proctors can provide color printing services and check out digital cameras, DV cameras, projectors, recorders, and other equipment.

The Design Lab

Both graduates and undergraduates enrolled in the Design program receive key code access to the Design Lab’s production/publication facilities and equipment. The lab’s facilities include a photography studio for shooting photographs and videos of two- and three-dimensional objects; a fully-equipped chemical darkroom; a silkscreen production area; a polymer plate-making machine; bookbinding equipment; a spray booth; and a letterpress/relief publication studio that includes a Vandercook No. 4 proofing press, a historic Columbian platen press, a collection of metal type, and the spectacular Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection, which comprises over 160 faces of various sizes and styles dating from between 1828 and 1900. The lab also houses and makes available for check-out smaller pieces of equipment, such as digital cameras and projectors, a programmable sewing machine, and hand tools such as hammers and drills. Students are required to complete mandatory safety training prior to using equipment in this facility.

The Digital Fabrication Lab

The Digital Fabrication Lab (aka the FabLab) houses multiple 3D scanners and printers, a vinyl cutter, two laser cutters, a Shopbot flat-bed CNC router, and a CNC milling machine. 3D modeling software such as Rhino 3D and Geomagic Studio is available for use in the lab. Students are required to  complete mandatory safety training prior to using equipment in this facility.

The Wood Shop

The centrally located wood shop houses stationary woodworking, plastic-working, and metalworking machines, as well as an inventory of manual and power tools available for use and checkout. A supervisor is on hand during posted shop hours to provide instructional support and to ensure safe and proper use of equipment and machinery. Students are required to complete mandatory safety training prior to using equipment in this facility.

The Visual Arts Center

The gallery spaces of the Visual Arts Center (VAC) span two floors and 13,000 square feet. The VAC hosts rotating exhibitions as well as the Design and Studio Art M.F.A. exhibitions. M.F.A. students may also submit proposals for exhibitions in the VAC at other times during their studies at the university.

The Fine Arts Library

The Fine Arts Library, just across the street from the Art building, provides easy access to over 350,000 books and scores, 12,000 DVDs, 400 current serial subscriptions, and more. Students may click the “Pick It Up” option in the library catalog to have an item from another branch of the University Libraries delivered to the FAL circulation desk for convenient pickup. The third floor of the FAL also houses photocopiers and a free, book-friendly digital scanner.

The Foundry

The Foundry is a joint venture between the College of Fine Arts and the University Libraries, and is open to all students, faculty, and staff at the university. The Foundry houses laser cutters, programmable sewing machines, a textile printer, 3D printers, soldering irons, and a host of other fabrication equipment.

In addition, its device library makes available for checkout a wide variety of equipment and devices, including digital cameras and camcorders, drawing tablets, headphones, LCD projectors, digital voice recorders, LittleBits Synth Kits, Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, electronic sensors, and Oculus Rifts.

The Harry Ransom Center

The HRC houses about a million books, thirty  million manuscripts, five million photographs, and more than one hundred thousand works of art. It holds exceptional collections of incunabula, including over 900 volumes of Aldus Manutius imprints; a large collection of Eric Gill works and archives; a major collection of fine printing; and extensive collections of historic posters and periodicals.

The Materials Lab

The School of Architecture’s Materials Lab supports architects and designers with a collection of over 27,000 material samples from the design and building industries. The collection has a particular focus on innovative and sustainable materials.

Statistical Consulting

All UT Austin students, faculty, and staff are eligible for up to one hour of free consulting each week with statistical consultants available by email and for in-person, Skype, or phone appointments.


Reread everything above and then consult the FAQ. Otherwise, questions about the application process should be directed to the graduate coordinator, Violet Cantu, at


How long should the statements be?

No more than one page.

What should be in my portfolio?

Your best, most current work that displays a point of view and supports your candidacy in the area in which you are applying. See the Portfolio Requirements page for specific information.

Do I have to submit 20 images?


Do I have to take the GRE?


Do I have to meet TOEFL/IELTS language requirements?

All International Students who did not attend U.S. or other Anglophone undergraduate institutions must meet language requirements. Learn more about the requirements in Step 2 on the Apply page.

Who should my recommenders be?

People familiar with your work who have worked with you as teachers or employers.

Do you conduct interviews?

Maybe. We will conduct phone or Skype interviews as needed.

How do you evaluate the applicants?

Area faculty give a full-file review to all artwork, written material and interview.

When will I find out if I am accepted?

By mid-March.

I studied something else for my undergraduate degree. Can I still apply?

Yes. However, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited, four-year institution in-hand by the time you plan to matriculate. Additionally, you must show some knowledge of design in your application.

I applied before. Can I reapply?

Yes. Previous applicant files are reviewed without prejudice.

If accepted, can I defer?

We will review deferments on a case-by-case basis. 

Can I get a critique of my submitted materials?

Due to the sheer volume of applicants, we cannot offer critiques of files.

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