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MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors

Course Description

Course outline

This unique MA in French and British Decorative Arts and Interiors focuses on the development of interiors and decorative arts in England and France in the “long” eighteenth century (c.1660-c.1830) and their subsequent rediscovery and reinterpretation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

A key element of the course is the emphasis on the first-hand study of furniture, silver and ceramics, where possible in the context of historic interiors. Based in central London at the European School of Economics, it draws upon the outstanding collections of the nearby Wallace Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The MA is designed to appeal to those wishing to pursue careers in heritage organisations, antique-dealing and auctioneering, museums, conservation, interior design or university teaching and research. However, those with a strong personal interest in studying the subject for its own sake are also very welcome.

With its focus on first-hand study of decorative arts within historic interiors, the programme provides a vocational and academic training which has enabled students to pursue careers in museums, interior design, antique dealing, and auctioneering. Some of our past students now work at the Royal Collection, the National Trust and English Heritage (see What our students and alumni say).

The MA also provides an excellent spring-board for students wanting to do a PhD in art history or related disciplines.

Find out more about our School of Humanities on http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities.


Teaching is carried out through a combination of lectures supported by seminars and tutorials. A key feature of the Buckingham teaching method is the use of small tutorial groups which provide the most effective means of ensuring that the students benefit from the academic expertise at their disposal. It is also the philosophy of Buckingham’s faculty to be available to students outside the scheduled tutorial times and to encourage good working relationships between staff and students.

The MA is taught by staff from the University of Buckingham, with the participation of outside experts from the Wallace Collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum, English Heritage, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Soane Museum. There are also a number of renowned independent scholars who give lectures and lead some of the seminars and class trips.

UK Study Trips

There are frequent trips to collections in and around London, and a study week at Buckingham exploring local country houses such as Woburn Abbey, Waddesdon Manor, Boughton and Blenheim Palace, with their important decorative arts collections.

Paris Study Week

In the second term there is a study week in Paris, where students are granted privileged access to some of the private apartments at Versailles not normally accessible to the public, as well as a number of very important eighteenth-century private houses in Paris, open by special permission.

Professional Practice Projects and Placements in Museums and Galleries

Students also have the opportunity, through the Professional Practice Project to plan an exhibition in a museum, research a project to restore an historic interior, or undertake a part-time museum placement, thereby acquiring useful vocational skills and experience. Some of our students are currently doing placements at English Heritage and Strawberry Hill.

Course Structure

The course starts each September and finishes the following September. During the first term students study the development of the decorative arts and the interior in France and England between c.1660 and the end of the eighteenth century. In the second term students examine revivalism and the practical and historical problems of reinterpreting eighteenth-century interiors and objects. This is combined with a professional practice project designed to equip students with skills and experience applicable to careers in museums and built heritage.

Teaching takes place two days a week (excluding class trips) over two terms, or one day a week for part-time students. During the third term, students research a dissertation under supervision, which is written up over the summer for submission at the end of September. Assessment is by means of coursework and the dissertation.

Subject to the agreement of the Programme Director, there are some options for part-time study, one day a week over two years, or by deferral of the dissertation.

Apply here http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/humanities/ma/decorativearts.

Visit the MA in Decorative Arts and Historic Interiors page on the University of Buckingham website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Natalie Voorheis

While studying for my BA joint major in Art History and English at University College Dublin my interest in the arts and culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries emerged and I became aware that the historic interiors of these periods and the history of collection formation would be a path I would like to pursue in the future. I chose this MA in decorative arts and historic interiors because it stood out from the crowd of MA courses available and seemed like a perfect fit with my interests.

Some of my favourite moments of the year have included a tour of the private apartments at Versailles with John Whitehead. A week spent in Buckinghamshire studying Claydon, Blenheim Palace, Woburn House, Waddesdon and Boughton among others in the company of our great tutors Jeremy Howard and Barbara Lasic. Another highlight has been having the privilege of studying at length the collection of French decorative arts at The Wallace Collection, in the company of the curatorial staff. I would whole-heartedly recommend this MA to anyone considering studying the decorative arts. The access to collections and guidance we have received from experts in their fields has been second to none and I feel confident that the course has furnished me with the ability to move on towards further study. I am currently working on my MA dissertation “The collecting and display of eighteenth century decorative arts by Sir Alfred and Edith Chester Beatty” and hope to continue to further study in the near future.


Postgraduate first class scholarship - No. of awards TBC

A first class scholarship is available to both home and international students following a taught postgraduate degree at the University. The scholarship will reduce tuition fees by 33%.

Value of Scholarship(s)

% discount


The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who already have a first class honours degree that is recognised to UK standard.

Application Procedure

The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who meet the criteria.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience.

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