History of Art (MA)
- Status: Fully Approved
- Start date: October 2017
1 year full-time or 2 years part-time, October to September
1-2 evenings a week part-time; 2-3 evenings a week full-time
- 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
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.
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.
Please contact the Admissions Tutor, Patrizia Di Bello, if you have further questions about the course.
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
Interviews from January to September.
Early application is recommended, but later applications will also be considered.
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.
- The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
- 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.
- 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.
- Watch videos of our postgraduate students discussing their experience of studying at Birkbeck.
The programme consists of a compulsory module, a choice of option modules, a research project or work placement, and a dissertation. These assessed elements are supported by a series of research skills workshops.
The compulsory module, Current Approaches to History of Art, is designed to explore methodologies and issues involved in the current study of the discipline (around such topics as exhibition, reception and interdisciplinarity).
Option modules allow you to pursue specific interests and areas of research in selected topics from the medieval period to the present.
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.
As a part-time student, you take the compulsory module, choose 1 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.
The option modules listed below are a selection of those offered in past years. Please get in touch with Admissions Tutor Patrizia Di Bello with any queries about option modules for the current academic year, which term and evening each option is offered, and the process for choosing your option modules.
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
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. If you are in this position, you 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 the creative arts, media and education. Possible professions include museum/gallery curator, arts administrator, or advertising account executive. This degree may also be useful in becoming a community arts worker, multimedia specialist, or higher education lecturer.
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, seminars, one-to-one tutorials, guest speakers and student presentations. Research presentations by outside speakers each term.
Staff teaching on this programme
Three coursework essays of 5000 words each, a research project report of 6000 words and a 15,000-word dissertation.
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 Research Centre and the Vasari Research Centre host a 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 the 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 art history, 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.
The Postgraduate Certificate in History of Art consists of a combination of Current Approaches to History of Art and one option module.
The Postgraduate Diploma in History of Art consists of a combination of Current Approaches to History of Art, two option modules and a research project.