History of Art (MPhil / PhD)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2017, January 2018 or April 2018


Fully Approved


Up to four years full-time or seven years part-time


Regular meetings with your supervisor(s)

Other entry years for this course


The Department of History of Art has an international reputation for teaching and research in medieval, Renaissance and modern art history. Our range of interests extends into new areas of study, such as 19th- and 20th-century design history, museology, issues relating to gender and representation, and interdisciplinary topics, particularly relationships between art and film; and art and anthropology.

Current research areas include: medieval architecture; Italian late medieval and Renaissance art and patronage; 18th- and 19th-century British art; the colonial encounter and cultural history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; museology; nationalism and ethnicity in contemporary visual culture; visual culture in South Africa; 19th- and 20th-century architecture and design in France and England; aspects of gender and visual culture; art and design in fin-de-siècle Vienna; computer applications for art history; and digital media and critical theory.

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation. The MPhil thesis is not more than 60,000 words; the PhD thesis is not more than 100,000 words. The thesis requirements for a practice-based project vary according to the nature of the research and can be discussed with the admissions tutors. Both the MPhil and the PhD are assessed by a viva voce examination.

At Birkbeck, you are initially registered on an MPhil and you upgrade to a PhD after satisfactory progress in the first year or two. You need to find a suitable academic supervisor at Birkbeck, who can offer the requisite expertise to guide and support you through your research. Find out more about undertaking a research degree at Birkbeck.

Find out more about our current MPhil/PhD students and their areas of research.

We offer information evenings for prospective students interested in our History of Art programmes throughout the year.

Read more


  • Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 13th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2016-17 World University Subject Rankings.
  • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • In the 2014 REF, Art and Design at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading or internationally excellent research.
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  • Entry Requirements We welcome a wide range of qualifications, from the UK and abroad, and we will also consider your non-academic achievements.

    Entry requirements

    Good degree, usually including history of art.

    A 2000-word research proposal must be submitted with your application.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, 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 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

  • Fees We are committed to doing everything we can to help you finance your studies.


    Part-time home/EU students: £ 2226 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £ 4195 pa
    Part-time overseas students: £ 6050 pa
    Full-time overseas students: £ 11995 pa

    Fees and finance

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

    Research funding

    The School of Arts attracts funding for studentships that ensure researchers of the highest standard can pursue their research with us. Find out more about research funding opportunities at Birkbeck.

    Outstanding candidates for part-time postgraduate research in the field of European art or architecture from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century are invited to apply for the Murray Research Studentship.

  • Our Research Culture Birkbeck is a world-leading research university with a vibrant, interdisciplinary research culture and a welcoming, supportive community of researchers.

    Our Research Culture

    The Department has a lively postgraduate culture, and students meet regularly to participate in reading groups, writing groups and special research skills seminars. There is an annual research forum, where professionals in related fields share their expertise. We also run a postgraduate seminar series, where internationally renowned scholars present current research.

    Additionally, the Department advertises a number of teaching assistant part-time posts on an annual basis. Areas of teaching are related to the requirements of the Department's undergraduate programme. You are expected to participate in the Department's research events, including attending lectures, research skills sessions and other classes/workshops as appropriate.

    You will have access to outstanding technical research support and facilities. The Peltz Gallery is a flexible exhibition space for digital and material displays, small-scale performances, lectures and meetings. A range of advanced technical resources is also available in the Vasari Research Centre. The Architecture, Space and Society Centre aims to provide a focus for the research activities taking place within Birkbeck and beyond in the area of architectural, design and landscape history.  The History and Theory of Photography Research Centre facilitates, exchanges and showcases research on the history and theory of photography at Birkbeck and in the wider community.

    Birkbeck's location in Bloomsbury offers excellent access to specialist libraries in the University of London, including the University of London Library, Institute for Historical Research, Warburg Institute, School of Oriental and African Studies, and 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 British Architectural Library and the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). The great visual resources of the British Museum, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Gallery and V&A, commercial galleries and salesrooms, and temporary exhibition galleries also make London a particularly good place in which to undertake research.

    Read more about our vibrant research culture.

  • How to apply Once you've found the course that's right for you, here's what to do next to get your place at Birkbeck.

    How to apply

    You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application link. To ensure that we have an appropriate supervisor for your area of research, you should contact the course team to discuss it before submitting your application.

    For information about applying as a research student, read our guide for applicants.

    Recent history of art research topics include:

    • Canadian surrealism
    • Imperial exhibitions 1922-1936
    • 16th-century Venetian art
    • The space of imagination: reading in French painting 1850-1900
    • Selling England by the pound: the Hepworth Manufacturing Company
    • Aesthetics and film
    • Gender and race in late 19th-century British art
    • Landscape 1918-1928
    • Modernism à la mode: women, movies and modern style
    • The historical documentary in post-war British television
    • Photographic collections compiled by women
    • Experiments in black and white: OP Art, Bridget Riley and Britain in the 1960s
    • Richard Dadd: The art of the insane
    • History of art in an electronic environment
    • Bereavement, identity and monuments
    • The role of media for immigration in post-war Britain (1945-1980)
    • Popularising high culture
    • Art and law.

    Find out more about our current MPhil/PhD students and their areas of research.

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply throughout the year for registration at the beginning of term (October, January or April).

    If you wish to apply for funding, you will need to apply by certain deadlines. Consult the websites of relevant bodies for details.

  • Finding a supervisor Finding the right supervisor for your research is important: we offer supervision in over 40 subject areas and in interdisciplinary combinations.

    Finding a supervisor

    A critical factor when applying for postgraduate study in history of art is the correlation between the applicant’s intellectual and research interests and those of one or more potential supervisors within the Department.

    Find out more about the research interests of our academic staff:

    • Suzannah Biernoff, MA, PhD: history of the body, vision and emotion; relationships between war, modernity and visual culture.
    • Dorigen Caldwell, MA, PhD: 16th-century Italian art and culture; symbolism; art and patronage.
    • Fiona Candlin, BA, MA, PhD: small, independent 'micro museums'; museology.
    • Professor Annie Coombes, BA, PhD, FRAI: ethnography, anthropology and cultural history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; museum culture; nationalism and visual culture in the modern period.
    • Mark Crinson, MA, PhD: modern architecture; post-WW2 British art and architecture; architecture in the British Empire; Victorian architecture; race and modern architecture.
    • Patrizia di Bello, MA, PhD: history of photography; 19th-century art and visual culture; aspects of 19th- and 20th-century women's art; feminist and psychoanalytical art criticism.
    • Steve Edwards, MA, PhD: history and theory of photography; capitalist culture in 19th-century Britain; contemporary art and contemporary capitalism; marxist theory; documentary; historiography; radical aesthetics.
    • Tag Gronberg, BA, MA, PhD: 19th- and 20th-century art, architecture and design in Europe; world exhibitions; aspects of gender and visual culture in the modern period.
    • Laura Jacobus, BA, BA, PhD: aspects of Italian art c.1250-1450; spectator experience and authorial intention.
    • Gabriel Koureas, MA, PhD: modern and contemporary visual culture; issues of modernity, memory, gender, sexuality and national identity in visual and material culture; representations of war.
    • Robert Maniura, BA, PhD: European Renaissance art and pilgrimage.
    • Professor Lynda Nead, BA, PhD: 19th- and 20th-century British art; aspects of gender and visual representation in the modern period; art and the city; art and film.
    • Zoë Opačić, MA, PhD: medieval art and architecture; relationship between architecture, public ritual and urban planning.
    • Kate Retford, MA, PhD: 18th-century British art and culture; use of visual evidence in history; portraiture, gender and the country house.
    • Leslie Topp, BA, MA, PhD: central European architectural and design history and urbanism, 1890-1914; Vienna c. 1900; architecture and science.
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