The College has four Schools; Design, Education, Fine Art and Visual Culture.
A tutorial system operates throughout the College and many of the courses are project based. Students' progress is monitored at the end of projects, and by examination at the end of each year.
From its beginnings the College has been as equally concerned with fine art as with design. The School of Fine Art teaching combines the traditional disciplines such as drawing and painting with an open experimental approach which allows individuals to realise their ideas in a wide range of media. Through contact with teachers who are practising artists, students become familiar with the activities and the ideas of artists working in today's society. Students also become familiar with the fundamentally questioning nature of contemporary art and of the variety of responses generated by contemporary artistic practice. It is an intense visual education not only for artists but for others who may build careers in related directions.
The School of Design is the largest in the College and comprises ceramics, glass, metals, fashion design, industrial and product design, textile design and visual communication. In design the emphasis is on solving specific problems set by project. While students are expected to master the relevant technologies, the aesthetic design factor is stressed equally. There are many links with industry and students often work on competitions sponsored by commercial firms. The College aims to promote a broad education in design which can be the basis for a variety of careers either as part of a team in industry or by working individually in a studio or small business.
The School of Visual Culture interacts with other schools in providing the visual culture elements of all NCAD degrees. In both the fine art and design courses, the element of history and theory of art and design is essential in assisting artists and designers to place themselves within a larger historical, intellectual, social and stylistic context. Within contemporary fine art practice, theory has become increasingly important. The Joint Course BA degree makes special provision for the student who wishes to explore art history and studio practice in art and design to an equal extent. For all students there is a requirement to attend regular lectures and submit written papers culminating in a thesis in the final year. The well stocked College Library is a central resource for all courses.
The School of Visual Culture also offers an undergraduate degree in Visual Culture as well as a number of postgraduate taught and research degrees (PhD). This offers the student the opportunity to study the theory and practice of art and design in a creative art school setting.
The School of Education provides for the education of teachers of art, craft and design in second-level schools. There are two modes available: the four-year joint honours degree in Design or Fine Art and Education, and the two-year Professional Master of Education in Art & Design. The School also provide a two-year Professional Master in Socially Engaged Art (part time mode). The Centre for Continuing Education in Art and Design is part of the School of Education and offers a range of part-time courses including certificate courses.