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History of Art (MA/PGDip/PGCert)

Course Description

History of art is a rich and dynamic discipline, combining the rigorous investigation of the visual arts with the creative exploration of their connections to culture, politics and society. Postgraduate study in this area trains you at a high level in looking at, thinking about and researching art and its histories.

Birkbeck's MA History of Art offers the opportunity to study with internationally recognised experts. Our teaching staff are defining the field, conducting ground-breaking research in periods from medieval to contemporary, focusing on painting, sculpture, print culture, architecture, photography, digital art and museology.

The MA History of Art exposes you to key art historical approaches, and allows you to focus in depth on areas and periods of particular interest to you, in early and modern (including contemporary) periods, through taught options (see an indicative list of modules on the 'course structure' tab) and independent research. The course also offers opportunities for work placements with London museums, galleries and archives.

The course develops your visual acuity and your understanding of art's histories, while stimulating critical debate and stretching your research skills. In addition to independent written work, you will take part in group discussion, give oral presentations and engage with the Department of History of Art's research culture.

In all of this, you will work closely with our staff while also benefiting from our diverse and vibrant student body of all ages and backgrounds. The teaching programme is enriched by museum and site visits, visiting speakers, screenings and opportunities to get involved as volunteers in research and community outreach activities. The department also offers an exciting study trip every spring.

Students are encouraged to become involved in the lively research culture of the department through the History and Theory of Photography Research Centre, the Architecture, Space and Society Centre and the Vasari Research Centre, which has pioneered the field of digital art history. In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, students benefit from many events in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, including: the postgraduate Research Seminar, which brings art historians from all over the UK and beyond to speak at Birkbeck; the biennial Murray Lecture; the Murray Seminar on Medieval and Renaissance Art; and the programme of exhibitions and displays at the Peltz Gallery, the School of Arts' purpose-built exhibition space. Students are also welcome to attend other seminars and events across the School of Arts and at the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities.

We offer taster events and information evenings for prospective students interested in our history of art programmes throughout the year.

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
You will work closely with leading international experts in the history of art.
You can choose to specialise in a wide range of periods and geographies, from medieval European architecture and cityscapes to contemporary global art practices.
You can study flexibly, full-time or part-time, with all teaching in the evenings.
On class visits and in your independent research you will have access to London's world-class art collections, museums and libraries.
Your fellow students are from a wide range of backgrounds and are often already working in the field, offering a high level of discussion and excellent networking opportunities.
You will have access to the Birkbeck Library and an in-house resources centre. In addition, our location in Bloomsbury offers excellent access to specialist libraries in the University of London. These include the University of London Library, Institute of Historical Research, Warburg Institute and School of Oriental and African Studies, together with the major national resource of the British Library.
You will also have easy access to specialist art libraries not far from Birkbeck, including the library of the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Royal Institute of British Architects library and the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), as well as the great visual resources of the British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and V&A, commercial galleries and salesrooms. Temporary exhibition galleries like the Barbican Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Hayward Gallery and Royal Academy also make London a particularly good place in which to undertake research.
You can participate in the rich research culture of the Department of History of Art.
Keep up-to-date with our research on the Birkbeck History of Art blog.

Visit the History of Art (MA/PGDip/PGCert) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Emma Rawlings

4088.jpg 'I looked at several History of Art Master’s courses at London universities and was impressed by the broad range of modules that were offered at Birkbeck. I appreciated the variety and the fact that I could study periods ranging from the Renaissance to the Victorians. The fact that the lecturers are leaders in their fields was an added bonus and the digital facilities were excellent too.

'While I was studying I worked part-time in the students’ union and also undertook some marketing internships and volunteered in museums and galleries. These days, employers expect you to have work experience when you graduate and the part-time study at Birkbeck means that you can balance study, paid work and internships.

'As well as giving me the opportunity to gain work experience while studying, the skills and knowledge that I gained at Birkbeck have also helped me to secure a graduate position in an advertising agency. As part of an assessment day which I attended I had to give a presentation on a subject which I was really passionate about. I used knowledge from my Birkbeck MA to talk about Victorian advertising, and how this was the start of the advertising industry as we know it. I’m sure this helped me to secure the job.

'The Master’s enabled me to develop my critical thinking skills further than at undergraduate level and taught me to analyse visual culture – which is at the heart of a career in advertising.

'I went into the Master’s straight from my undergraduate degree and found it inspiring to be in class with older learners who were incredibly enthusiastic about and committed to their studies. I would definitely recommend Birkbeck to people my age who want to access good teaching, good resources and develop in other areas at the same time.'


Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Good honours degree in a relevant subject or equivalent (for example, professional experience). For students with a degree in a subject other than history of art, the 1-year part-time Graduate Certificate in History of Art and Architecture can be used as a conversion course. Students who successfully complete the graduate certificate with merit will normally be guaranteed a place on this programme. The requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each of the sub-tests.

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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Recipient: Birkbeck, University of London
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