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.
- 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.
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.
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
We welcome a wide range of qualifications, from the UK and abroad, and we will also consider your non-academic achievements.
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 one-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.
Credits and Accredited Prior Learning (APL)
If you have studied at university previously, you may have accumulated credits through the modules you studied. It may be possible to transfer these credits from your previous study to Birkbeck or another institution. You should discuss this with the Programme Director when you are making your application.
We offer advice on all the options for financing your studies. You can pay your fees interest-free by direct debit and postgraduate loans are available for all Home/EU students.
Fees (2017/8)Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 5300 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 9650 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.
Teaching and assessment
Our innovative, engaging teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments.
At Birkbeck, almost all of our courses are taught in the evening and our teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments. We actively encourage innovative and engaging ways of teaching, to ensure our students have the best learning experience. In the 2017 Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the government’s system for rating university teaching, Birkbeck was allocated a Silver award.
Teaching may include formal lectures, seminars, and practical classes and tutorials. Formal lectures are used in most degree programmes to give an overview of a particular field of study. They aim to provide the stimulus and the starting point for deeper exploration of the subject during your own personal reading.
Seminars give you the chance to explore a specific aspect of your subject in depth and to discuss and exchange ideas with fellow students. They typically require preparatory study.
In addition, you will have timetabled meetings with your Personal Tutor.
Methods of teaching on this course
Lectures, seminars, one-to-one tutorials, guest speakers and student presentations. Research presentations by outside speakers each term.
Staff teaching on this programme
Timetables are usually available from September onwards and you can access your personalised timetable via your My Birkbeck Profile online (if you have been invited to enrol).
Indicative class size
Class sizes vary, depending on your course, the module you are undertaking, and the method of teaching. For example, lectures are presented to large groups, with 30 to 100+ students in attendance, whereas seminars usually consist of small, interactive groups of 10 to 30 students, led by an academic.
Birkbeck offers study and learning support to undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them succeed. Our Learning Development Service can help you in the following areas:
- academic skills (including planning your workload, research, writing, exam preparation and writing a dissertation)
- written English (including structure, punctuation and grammar)
- numerical skills (basic mathematics and statistics).
Our Disability and Dyslexia Service can support you if you have additional learning needs resulting from a disability or from dyslexia.
Our Counselling Service can support you if you are struggling with emotional or psychological difficulties during your studies.
Our Mental Health Advisory Service can support you if you are experiencing short– or long-term mental health difficulties during your studies.
Assessment is an integral part of your university studies and usually consists of a combination of coursework and examinations. You will be given time to complete coursework and prepare for exams.
Unseen written examinations are usually taken in the Summer term, during May to June, and, in most cases, are held during the day on a weekday – if you have daytime commitments, you will need to make arrangements for daytime attendance. Exam timetables are published online in March each year.
Methods of assessment on this course
Coursework essays of 5000 words each and a research project of 6000 words or a work placement.
As well as a mark for your coursework and exams, you will also receive feedback from your marker(s) to help you learn, improve and succeed. We encourage you to discuss feedback with your module tutor.
Feedback can come in different forms: notes via Moodle (our online learning environment); a paper copy of a completed feedback form; or in-class or face-to-face feedback. The College Policy on Feedback on Assessment sets out what you can expect from your feedback.
Your department will usually provide you with your marked coursework within four weeks of submission. Your initial mark is provisional until the relevant Board of Examiners has confirmed it.
Your official coursework and exam results will be made available to you via your My Birkbeck Profile online.
Careers and employability
To help you get ahead in your career, we offer free advice and training and our recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, can connect you with employers.
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.
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.
We ask all applicants to, 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.
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 is recommended, but later applications will also be 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 run between January and September.
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