History of Art (Postgraduate Diploma)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2018


Central London


Fully Approved


One year full-time or two years part-time


Two to three evenings a week full-time or one evening a week part-time, October to September

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 Postgraduate Diploma in 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 Postgraduate Diploma 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 Postgraduate Diploma is structured in exactly the same way as our MA History of Art, but without a dissertation. It 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 evening study course, which is available for full-time or part-time study, allows you to explore your passion for the history of art and you can go on to complete our MA History of Art, if you wish.

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 pionereed the field of digital art history. In addition to the core teaching and individual research support, students benefit from many events in the Department, 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 in 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 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.

Funds are available to support research expenses for your coursework on this MA.

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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • The School of Arts offers a number of bursaries for postgraduate students.
    • 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.
    Book an open evening Order a prospectus Contact us

    Course structure

    The programme consists of a combination of a compulsory module, a choice of option modules and a research project or work placement. 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 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 can choose to undertake a work placement.

    Full-time students take the compulsory module, two option modules and the research project or work placement in one year.

    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 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.

    Read more about modules

    Core module

    Indicative option modules

    Research project/work placement option modules

    Visit the Department of History of Art