MRes History of Art

If you want to focus on researching one specific area in the History of Art without going straight into a PhD, then the MRes is the programme for you.

At the end of this programme many of our graduates continue on to do a PhD, where they undertake a much more extensive research project.

The Barber Institute is home to an onsite research library, a prints and drawings study room and a coin study room. These facilities, together with the holdings of the University Main Library and the Special Collections of the Cadbury Research Library, make Birmingham one of the best resourced Departments of History of Art in Britain.

Dr Camilla Smith

Dr Camilla Smith

“This is an intensive research programme and a great way to combine your research with the support of core theoretical and methodological modules. This research programme is unique in that you are part of a taught cohort, but also enjoy individual supervisory support by a world-leading researcher in your area.”

The core of the MRes programme is a 20,000-word thesis, which is supported by both research training and art theory modules.

Both of these core modules will equip you with the skills to enable you to complete your thesis.

The core research training module offers advice on how to hone your research topic, write a research rationale and present your thesis.

‘Criticism and Methods’ engages with a range of art historical methodologies and addresses theoretical debates emerging within the discipline. The module helps you frame your current research within the wider art historical research context.

In your second term, you also chose one optional module. Recent subjects have included: Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art; Theorising and Historicising Exhibitions; Artists’ Film and Video and Digital Cultures.

Why study this course

  • The Art History, Curating and Visual Studies department is based in The Barber Institute of Fine Arts. The Barber Institute’s building is owned and maintained by the University of Birmingham and features works from the 13th to the 20th century, including Old Master and Impressionist collections.
  • The department celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results. 33% of research at the University of Birmingham for ‘Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory’ was top 4* rated ‘world-leading’. A further 49% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • This programme will enable you to produce a substantial thesis in the History of Art, showing competence in relevant methods of research, clear presentation and demonstrating independent judgement


You will study two core modules:

Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Studies

This module looks at the historiography, methods and theoretical underpinning of contemporary practices of artistic and visual analysis. Based on close reading of key scholarly texts, you will engage with traditional art historical methods as well as more recent approaches to the study of art and visual culture. You will be asked to consider the relevance of these methods to a range of examples, including the potential topics for your final Masters thesis.

Postgraduate Research Training and Methods

This specialised module prepares you for both writing and researching your dissertation. It covers topics such as: referencing systems; writing a research proposal; literature reviews; approaching archives; and oral histories.

You will also take one optional modules from a range which includes:

Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art

This module considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism. At its core is an introduction to the German aesthetic tradition, involving a close reading of foundational texts by Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and their contemporaries in the early 19th century. It will also consider the work of subsequent authors, such as Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno and Mikhail Bakhtin, as well as recent and contemporary theorists and philosophers such as Paul Virilio, Jean-François Lyotard, Boris Groys, Niklas Luhmann, Brian Tschumi, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray. Attention will be paid not only to the conceptual arguments put forward by the thinkers in question, but also to the ways in which their theoretical tenets have underpinned the interpretation and criticism of works of art, music and literature.

Digital Cultures

Digital Cultures offers you the opportunity to engage with History of Art through the application of digital technologies. This module will introduce you to the range of technologies that are becoming available and provide practical experience with a range of them. Significantly, this module will teach you the different cultures of engagement between your own disciplines and digital cultures to understand, for example, the difference in languages used. In this way, the module will focus on the breaking down of barriers to learning and engagement with cultural information in both practical and theoretical ways, offering you the chance to develop your own digital content and to demonstrate its value within your own disciplines and beyond.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Entry requirements

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

In order to apply for this programme, you should approach the admissions tutor with a detailed research proposal. This research proposal should outline the general area of research; foci objects; key research questions; proposed methodology and should also demonstrate a solid grasp of the current state of scholarship in the proposed area of research. You should also include a bibliography. We will be unable to consider applications that do not address these issues.

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Most of the teaching on the MRes programme takes place in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which houses the Barber Institute Gallery, a valuable teaching collection, used by all members of staff on a regular basis.

It is an excellent and representative collection of post-medieval European art, including paintings, engravings and drawings by artists such as Rembrandt, Turner, Van Dyck, Veronese and Vigée-LeBrun as well as a major collection of 19th- and 20th-century works by artists such as Degas, Gauguin, Kollwitz, Grosz, Manet, Miró, Picasso and Whistler.

The History of Art MRes aims to:

  • Develop your subject-specific analytical skills
  • Enhance your generic research skills
  • Provide a critical framework of the historiography and methods of the discipline of art history
  • Develop your skills of verbal presentation and argument
  • Develop a deep understanding of the interpretation of visual material

It also aims to provide you with following skills:

  • Originality in the application of art historical knowledge
  • Ability to use research techniques to seek out and utilize significant, new or pertinent resources, both primary and secondary
  • Ability to engage with current debates and, where appropriate, use them in order to frame or enhance arguments
  • Self-discipline, initiative and independence in identifying and solving problems and in carrying through their research and writing to a planned timetable
  • Capacity to discuss and debate verbally and in writing, using the critical and theoretical perspectives of others in a scholarly framework

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

Birmingham's History of Art graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills, including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on detailed research.

Our History of Art postgraduates also have the advantage of gaining hands-on experience at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts: the university's on-campus art gallery which is home to the Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies.

Over the past five years, 100% of History of Art postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many graduates enter occupations relating to gallery and museum curatorship, management and research; others pursue careers in academia. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Barber Institute of Fine Arts; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Bodleian Library; National Portrait Gallery; Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; University of Birmingham; and Victoria and Albert Museum.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.