History of Art with Photography (Postgraduate Certificate)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One year part-time


One to two evenings a week part-time, October to September

Photography has become the major form of image-making and visual communication since its development in the 19th 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 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 one option module. 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 Research Centre, and by work placement opportunities in the library and archive of the Jo Spence Memorial Library.

The Postgraduate Certificate is ideal if you are interested in studying history of art at postgraduate level for personal or professional reasons, but you don't want to commit to a full MA. This flexible part-time evening study course allows you to explore your passion for the history of art and you can go on to complete our Postgraduate Diploma or MA History of Art, if you wish.

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

Find out more about why you should choose Birkbeck to study history of art and about studying with us in the Department of History of Art.

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.
  • 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.
  • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
  • 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 19th, 20th and 21st 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.
  • 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.
Book an open evening Order a prospectus Contact us

Course structure

You begin with a compulsory core module, which introduces different current approaches, methodologies and debates involved in the study of the histories of art, visual culture and photography.

You then choose one option module, which varies from year to year. The option modules listed below are indicative and may change. Please contact the Admissions Tutor for further information.

These assessed elements are supported by a series of research skills workshops.

Read more about modules
Visit the Department of History of Art