History of Art PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

The Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies offers promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the most dynamic institutions in Britain.

We give all possible support to our researchers, developing the resources available at the University and encouraging an active postgraduate environment for the exchange of information and concepts.

Elin Morgan

Elin Morgan

“The department has a fantastic national and international reputation as one of the top places to study Art History. Birmingham is also a great city to live in. There are loads of great museums and exhibitions as well as numerous cultural events and festivals throughout the year.”

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a thesis of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice under the expert guidance of an academic member of staff.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – comprises of a thesis of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff. 

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

Profiles of our current History of Art doctoral researchers

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • 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 as ‘world-leading’. A further 49% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Bodleian Library; National Portrait Gallery; Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain, Kettle’s Yard, Royal Holloway Collections and the University of London
  • The 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. 

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

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

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.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application

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

  • 19th-and early 20th-century French art, design and visual culture.
    Dr Francesca Berry
    Tel:+44 (0)121 414 3930
    Email: f.berry@bham.ac.uk
  • 15th- and 16th-century French and Northern European art; women in early modern art; books and manuscript illumination.
    Dr Elizabeth L’Estrange
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8042
    Email: e.a.lestrange@bham.ac.uk
  • German and central European art and design from the mid-19th century to the present; the historiography of art; contemporary art theory and criticism.

    Professor Matthew Rampley - Tel: +44 (0)121 415 8344; Email: m.j.rampley@bham.ac.uk  

  • 18th-century Swiss art, late 19th- and early 20th-century German and Austrian art and visual culture.
    Dr Camilla Smith
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7568
    Email: h.c.smith@bham.ac.uk
  • Modern and contemporary art and exhibition cultures in Europe (with specific emphasis on migration, hybridity and post-communism).
    Dr Jutta Vinzent

    Tel:+44 (0)121 414 3259
    Email: j.vinzent@bham.ac.uk

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.