Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) encompasses Lancaster’s teaching and research activities in architecture, artdesignfilm, and theatre. We pride ourselves on the research informed curriculum that underpins all of our degrees. Staff, students, and graduates set agendas in, and make meaningful contribution to the contemporary arts.


Professor Alan Marsden, Director of LICA, welcomes you to Lancaster University

Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts (LICA) is the academic home for teaching and research activities in Architecture, Art, Design, Film and Theatre. We provide a supportive and stretching academic environment where a strong research ethos underpins and shapes what we do. We are committed to leading interdisciplinary and international learning and research in architecture, design, contemporary art, theatre, performance, and film studies. Our approaches to the theoretical frameworks for cultural activities rest on rigorous enquiry into creative practice, theory and criticism. Staff, students, and graduates aspire to set agendas in, and make meaningful contributions to, the contemporary arts and design.

We are focused on providing a high-quality teaching and research environment. Our subjects are those that address real world issues and generate new perspectives or new solutions through the application of creative thinking and practice. Our students and research collaborators value this real-world focus that grounds our theoretical work and allows the outcomes of students and researchers to help change the way we use and think about the future of our creative and material environment.

For our students, this context is also enriched by the visiting practitioners, placement opportunities, projects with external organisations and off-site visits that are incorporated into our taught and research programmes. With a strong outward focus and excellent links in the creative, cultural, social and industrial sectors, students can make the best possible connections with individuals and organisations outside of the University.

Our design research centre, ImaginationLancaster, is an exploratory design research lab that conducts applied and theoretical research into people, products, places and their interactions. Our other research groups, Creative Cultures and Context, and Practice and Performance, focus on understanding and making meaning in the arts, through Fine Art, Architecture, Theatre, Film, Dance and Sound. Funded research projects have included ‘Modes of Address in Pictorial Art’, ‘Mobile Utopias’, ‘Gendered Citizenship and Performance’, and ‘Co-constructed Audio Code’. ImaginationLancaster projects have included the ‘PETRAS’ project on Privacy, Ethics, Trust, Reliability, Acceptability, and Security, the ‘Liveable Cities’ project (Transforming the Engineering of Cities for Global and Societal Wellbeing), and the ‘CaTalyST: Citizens Transforming Society (Tools for Change)’ project. These large-scale funded projects are undertaken in collaboration with other universities and with other colleagues from Lancaster. The ‘Beyond Imagination’ project running from 2019 to 2022 will see a significant expansion in the number of researchers exploring and demonstrating how cutting-edge design research can create a healthier, more prosperous and sustainable world.

Our research collaborations are worldwide, with collaborative partners from the far west of the Americas to the east of Asia. Our doctoral students also come from all over the world. We participate in a number of Doctoral Training schemes which provide our research student community with funding and an extended network of peers across the UK. Such projects have included the Creative Exchange project with the Royal College of Art and Newcastle University, the AHRC North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP) with six other north west universities, and the N8 Research Partnership, as one of the eight research intensive universities in Northern England.

With over 70 students currently registered across our subjects, our research degree students are a vital part of the teaching and research environment. They become involved in our undergraduate teaching as well as in our research projects – truly our colleagues of the future.

We have Masters programmes in Design Management, Arts Management, Film Studies, Architecture & Fine Art, and plans are underway for new programmes in Theatre and Urban Studies. Our undergraduate portfolio includes single honours programmes in Architecture, Design, Drama, Theatre & Performance, Fine Art, and Film Studies. In addition, we run many joint honours schemes, both within our own subjects and with other departments in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and also with the Lancaster University Management School. We deliver our Design Interactions BA programme in collaboration with Beijing Jai Tong University in China, and validate programmes in Design Communication, Communications, Interior Architecture, and Digital Film Production at Sunway University in Malaysia.

LICA was formed as an institute in 2005, bringing together the former sections of Art, Music and Theatre Studies. The appointment of Professor Rachel Cooper as Director in July 2006 brought design into the disciplinary mix, with Film Studies following in 2010, bringing in Professor Charlie Gere and colleagues from the former Department of Media, Film and Cultural Studies. This new expanded institute moved into the purpose-built LICA building in 2012. Fronted by a large pond and looking west through a small forest towards the sea, the LICA building houses workshops, event spaces, seminar rooms and offices. It was the first ever Higher Education building to win a BREEAM outstanding rating post-completing in 2011 and it won the a BREEAM Higher Education Award and the Green Apple Environment award in 2012. At the edge of the north end of the campus, our other specialist facilities include the black box Nuffield Theatre and Workshops and the Bowland Annexe Studios and Workshops. Teaching rooms and other facilities are used across the campus. Architecture joined LICA in 2019, with a new School of Architecture and Professor Ruth Dalton as the Inaugural Chair.

LICA aims to be an equal, diverse and inclusive work and study environment. It achieved an Athena SWAN bronze award in 2019 and is preparing an application for silver award.

The Director of LICA is Professor Alan Marsden.