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MSt in the History of Design

Course Description

The MSt in the History of Design is a taught Master's Degree offered part-time over two years.

A tea cup, be it hand-painted porcelain, studio pottery or mass produced ceramic, offers a glimpse of the rituals of everyday life and historical experience. A designed object or space reflects the individual, the society for which it was created, as well as its creator. It expresses aesthetic preoccupations and articulates historical and political conditions. Decoration challenges the hierarchies and contested inter-relationships between the disciplines and careers of artists, designers, crafts workers, gardeners, and architects. Such concerns reside at the heart of the study of the history of design.

This history of design course is taught on nine monthly Saturdays and one residential weekend per annum. The syllabus focuses particularly on the period from 1851 to 1951 in Europe (including Britain) and America. Combining close visual and material analysis with historical methodologies, the course explores decorative and applied art, the design of interiors and public spaces, and for performance and industry.

There will be two Open Mornings, on one Saturday in November 2016 11am - 12.30pm and on one Saturday in February 2017 11am - 12.30pm, where you can meet the Course Director, Dr Claire O'Mahony, and learn more about the course. Please contact usl if you would like to attend including which day you prefer: .

Visit the website https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/mst-in-the-history-of-design


Core themes of the History of Design course will include the rivalries between historicism and modernity; internationalist and nationalist tendencies; handicraft and industrial processes, as well as the analysis of critical debates about the makers and audiences of decoration in advice literature and aesthetic writing.

The programme aims to provide students with a framework of interpretative skills useful to understanding design. It provides grounding in the analysis of the techniques and materials deployed in creating objects or sites. It enables students to develop a grasp of historical context, encompassing the impact of the hierarchies within, and audiences for, the critical reception of 'decoration'. It encourages the analysis of the historiography of political and aesthetic debates articulated by designers, critics and historians about design, its forms and purposes.

Teaching and learning takes a variety of forms in this programme. In keeping with the Oxford ethos, individual tutorials and supervisions will be an important of the course, particularly whilst researching the dissertation, whilst earlier stages of the programme principally take the form of seminar group discussion, lectures and independent study. First-hand visual analysis is an essential component of the discipline of the history of design. As such each course element of the programme includes site visits, both to Oxford University's unique museum and library collections, and to those nearby in London and the regions. Formal assessment is by means of analytical essay and dissertation writing, complemented by informal assessment methods including a portfolio of research skills tasks and an oral presentation about each candidate's dissertation topic.

The monthly format of the programme should enable applicants who are employed or have caring duties to undertake postgraduate study, given they have a determined commitment to study and to undertake independent research.

The University of Oxford offers a uniquely rich programme of lectures and research seminars relevant to the study of Design History. Research specialisms particularly well represented in the Department for Continuing Education are:

- Art Nouveau and Modern French Decoration
- Modernist Design and Architecture
- The Arts and Crafts Movement
- Garden History
- The Art of the Book
- Ecclesiastical Architecture and Design

As a discipline Design History is well represented in conferences organised and academic journals and books published by The Design History Society; the Association of Art Historians; AHRC Centre for the Historic Interior at the Victoria and Albert Museum; the Modern Interior Centre at Kingston University; The Twentieth Century Society; The Garden History Society; The Textile History Society; The Wallpaper Society, The Societe des Dix-Neuviemistes.

Graduate destinations

Future research and career paths might be a DPhil programme; creative industries; museum curatorship; the art market; teaching; arts publishing.

Programme details

- Course structure
The MSt is a part-time course over two years with one residential weekend per annum. Each year comprises nine Saturdays (monthly; three in each of the three terms in the academic year) students will also have fortnightly individual tutorials and undertake research in reference libraries in Oxford between these monthly meetings. The course is designed for the needs of students wishing to study part-time, including those who are in full-time employment but will require 15 to 20 hours of study per week.

- Course content and timetable
The course is based at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JA. Some classes may take place at other venues in Oxford. Class details, reading lists and information about any field trips will be supplied when you have taken up your place.

Core Courses

- Materials and Techniques of Design
- Historical Methods
- Research Project in the History of Modern Design
- Dissertation

Options Courses

- Decoration in Modern France
- The Arts and Crafts Tradition in Modern Britain
- Design in the Machine Age
- Design, Body, Environment
- Visual Cultures of the World Wars
- Academic Writing and Contemporary Practice

Course aims

The MSt was devised with the aim of providing effective postgraduate-level education in history of design on a part-time basis in which case it should be possible to participate fully in the programme while remaining in full-time employment.

The programme aims to provide students with skills:

- To develop further their critical understanding of the principles and practice of the history of design

- To enhance their subject knowledge, analytical and communication skills needed for professional involvement in the history of design

- To demonstrate a grasp of primary evidence to build on their critical understanding of the types of evidence used in the historical study of designed objects and sites and how they are selected and interpreted

- To build on the appropriate skills and concepts for analysing material objects and textural sources

- To enable the student to undertake their own research to be presented in essays, oral presentations and as a dissertation

- To demonstrate an understanding of primary evidence and secondary sources through the application of appropriate analytical skills and concepts within a research context resulting in a dissertation.

Find out how to apply here - http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford

Visit the MSt in the History of Design page on the University of Oxford website for more details!

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Student Profiles

Oxford scholarships - No. of awards TBC

Key facts :
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs.For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria, you will be automatically considered.
The vast majority of Oxford scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their course application by the January deadline. Oxford scholarships worth over £1,000 are advertised through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search. You should use this tool to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.In order to be considered for some scholarships offered by departments, you need to enter a scholarship reference code in the relevant section of the graduate application form. If this is the case, the code will be provided in the scholarship information given on department websites. When are Oxford scholarships awarded?:
Most Oxford scholarships are awarded between late February and June. The approximate date by which decisions are expected to be made will normally be given in the scholarship information, as linked through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search.A scholarship may be awarded either at the same time or after you are offered a place by your department. It may be awarded either before or after you have been offered a college place.

Value of Scholarship(s)

worth over £1,000


See the website

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Graduates of any age seeking to develop their critical analysis writing about objects and sites through the study of history of design.

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