History of Art with Photography (MA)
- Status: Fully Approved
- Start date: October 2017
1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
2-3 evenings a week full-time or 1-2 evenings a week part-time, October to September
- Programme overview
- Apply now
- Why study this at Birkbeck?
- Course structure
- Entry requirements
- Fees and finance
- Careers and employability
- Teaching and assessment
- Our research
- Related study
Photography has become the major form of image-making and visual communication since its development in the nineteenth century. Its importance has been recognised in many areas of scholarship: history of art, media and cultural studies, literature, memory and memorialisation, gender and identity, philosophy and law. Its role in all fields of the arts and sciences, including those most personal, is being expanded, renewed and questioned by the mushrooming of digital culture.
This programme enables you to learn about - and to negotiate your individual path through - historical and contemporary photographic cultures, in order to develop your interests, whether your engagement with the medium is academic, artistic, personal or vocational. You will be taught by a team of research-active lecturers, including Professor Steve Edwards, author of Photography: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2006) and Martha Rosler: The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (Afterall - MIT, 2012); and Dr Patrizia di Bello, author of The Photobook: From Talbot to Ruscha and Beyond (I.B. Tauris, 2011) and Women's Albums and Photography in Victorian England: Ladies, Mothers and Flirts (Routledge, 2007).
After an initial introductory core module, and with tutorial guidance, the programme allows you to specialise through your selection of option modules and topics for your research project and dissertation, which will focus on photography. Options cover a wide range of photographic practices and cultures, past and present, and allow you to explore diverse methodologies and internationally 'local' practices. Your learning opportunities are enhanced by attending seminars at the History and Theory of Photography Centre and by work placement opportunities in the library and archive of the Jo Spence Memorial Library. The course also offers opportunities for work placements with London museums, galleries and archives.
You will develop subject-specific and transferable research, critical and writing skills that will enhance your career opportunities in the field and beyond, whether in academia or teaching, photography as a practice, galleries and museums, or in the media. The programme is also ideally suited to preparing students with a practice-based background considering a PhD, academic or practice-based.
As well as regular museum and gallery visits, the department offers an exciting study trip every spring.
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: events organised by the Architecture, Space and Society Centre; the postgraduate Research Seminar, which brings art historians from all over the UK and beyond to speak at Birkbeck; the biennial Murray lecture; 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 the Humanities.
If you have any questions please email our Admissions Tutor, Dr Patrizia di Bello.
We offer taster events and information evenings for prospective students interested in our history of art programmes throughout the year.
Funds are available to support research expenses for your coursework on this MA.
How to apply
You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application.
We ask all applicants to submit a piece of written work, which takes the form of a critical appraisal, in not more than 1000 words, of a recent exhibition in a major public or commercial gallery.
You may also be asked to attend an interview.
Need help with your application? Watch videos featuring our academic experts giving advice on applying to Birkbeck and answering some of the most frequently asked questions.
Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form, including our online personal statement tool, which will guide you through every step of writing your personal statement.
Application deadlines and interviews
Early application recommended, but later applications also considered.
In addition to the online application, you will need to complete and submit a written exercise, or submit a sample recent undergraduate essay.
Interviews January to September.
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.
- In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), Art and Design at Birkbeck achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
- Unique international coverage of photographic cultures, making use of modules offered across the School of Arts.
- Taught by renowned research-active academics and writers from a variety of disciplines, including history of art, media and cultural studies, journalism, modern languages and the humanities.
- Cross- and interdisciplinary approach to the study of photography in the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
- Research culture and networking opportunities offered by the Birkbeck History and Theory of Photography Research Centre.
- You will have access to the Birkbeck Library and an in-house slide library and self-access centre (including the Vasari Digital Media Research Centre).
- You will also have access to the Jo Spence Memorial Library and Terry Dennett Archive.
- There are opportunities for you to become involved in curating and organising exhibitions in the Peltz Gallery in the School of Arts.
- Our location in Bloomsbury offers excellent access to specialist libraries and archives 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.
- Exclusive visits to photographic archives, and group visits to exhibitions, talks and events.
- You will also have easy access to specialist libraries and photographic archives, including the Courtauld Institute of Art, the National Art Library and the photographic collection in the Prints and Drawings Study Room at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Museum of London, the National Portrait Gallery (Heinz Archives), the Photographers’ Gallery and the Tate Gallery. We are also near many commercial galleries, photography book specialist dealers and exhibition spaces such as the Barbican, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Hayward Gallery, INIVA and the many other places that exhibit photographs from time to time.
- The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
- Find out more about our world-class research resources, as well as our specialist resources.
- Keep up-to-date with our research on the Birkbeck History of Art blog.
- Watch videos of our postgraduate students discussing their experience of studying at Birkbeck.
You begin with a compulsory core module, Current Approaches to History of Art, which introduces methodologies and debates involved in the study of the histories of art, visual culture and photography.
The research project offers you the chance to undertake independent research and to reflect on the process of research, or you choose to undertake a work placement.
You will complete the programme with a 15,000-word dissertation.
These assessed elements are supported by a series of research skills workshops.
Part-time students take the compulsory module, choose one option module and undertake a research project or work placement in Year 1. You then choose a further option module and undertake your dissertation in Year 2.
Indicative option modules
- Art and Devotion in Fifteenth-Century Italy
- Art and Photography since the 1960s
- Art Museums in a Global Age
- Art Nouveau: Art, Design, Modernity in Paris 1889-1914
- Between Two Chattering Ghosts Issues for the History and Theory of Photography
- Exhibiting the Body
- Gender, Modernity and the City
- Histories in Transition: Visual Culture, History and Memory in South Africa and Beyond
- Museums, Memory and National Identity
- Rome: Place, Continuity and Memory
- This is Tomorrow: Architecture and Modernity in Britain and its Empire, 1930-1960
- Visualizing the Victorians: The Nineteenth Century in Contemporary Art
Research project/work placement option modules
- Museum Cultures Work Placement
- Research Project Report MA History of Art
- Research/Placement Project and Report MA Film, Television and Screen Media
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 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 and do not need to complete an admissions exercise.
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 6.5 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.
FeesPart-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa
As well as fees, you should expect to pay other study-related expenses, for travel to and from College, books, stationery, etc. Birkbeck provides advice and financial support for students who experience hardship in meeting the travel costs of essential fieldwork or study visits.
On this programme, you will also have to pay for the following additional costs:
An optional field-trip is available as part of this programme, for which the Department does not charge a fee for attendance. Students are, however, responsible for paying all other costs, including travel, accommodation, food and drink and other subsistence costs, gallery fees, etc. The Murray Bequest offers a limited number of bursaries every year to students who would not otherwise be able to take the field-trip. Details on how to apply are usually circulated to students in December or January.
Payment and Fees Discounts
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 Birkbeck alumni or 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.
Funding and Financial Support
The government's new postgraduate loan scheme allows you to borrow up to £10,000 to cover the cost of your tuition fees, living costs or other study expenses – and you don't have to start repaying until 2019.
Part-time students who are experiencing financial need may apply for assistance from the Birkbeck Alumni Fund Postgraduate Opportunity Bursary.
Find out more about funding and financial support at postgraduate level.
Careers and employability
Graduates can pursue careers in academia/teaching, the creative arts, media and photography. Possible professions include higher education lecturer, museum/gallery curator, or photographer. This degree may be useful in becoming a community arts worker, advertising art director, or press photographer.
Read how undertaking our MA History of Art helped one student secure her dream job at Tate Britain.
Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.
We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.
Teaching and assessment
Lectures and seminars, combining structured as well as open debate, the analysis and presentation of visual material, group discussions and individual tutorials. Research workshops and option modules may include visits to relevant galleries, museums, archives and libraries.
Staff teaching on this programme
Three essays (one for each core course and option module) of 5000 words each; a research project, which can take the form of a visual submission; and a 15,000-word dissertation, which may include a visual component.
Birkbeck's Department of History of Art is internationally known for research in periods from medieval to contemporary, focusing on painting, sculpture, print culture, architecture, photography, digital art and museology.
The Architecture Space and Society Centre, the History and Theory of Photography Centre, and the Vasari Centre host a vast range of events and projects. Along with The Eighteenth Century Research Group and the Murray Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Art, they foster an extremely lively research culture in the department. The department also participates in the research culture of the wider School of Arts.
Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research-intensive institutions. Our cutting-edge scholarship informs public policy, achieves scientific advances, supports the economy, promotes culture and the arts, and makes a positive difference to society.
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.
Further study opportunities
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. If you are in this position, you do not need to complete an admissions exercise.
It is also possible to take the following shorter programmes consisting of elements of the MA History of Art. Once completed, they can be topped up with the remaining elements to achieve the MA.
If you are interested in further research after the MA, we offer an MPhil/PhD in History of Art.