MA History of Art

This programme provides you with the opportunity to pursue in-depth study of the history of art: comprising of a taught two-term 'Special Subject' module and a dissertation in the research area of your choice. Your studies will be supported by advanced teaching in the theories and methods of art history and visual studies, as well as dissertation research training. As one of your 'Special Subject' module choices, you will also have the option to take a 'Curating Research', which will provide you with the opportunity to gain practical experience organising, curating and marketing an exhibition.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Full time, part time

Duration: 1 year full-time; 2 years part-time

Start date: September 2014

Details

You will study two core modules, taken in your first term:

  • Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Culture
  • Research Skills.

The specialised research skills module prepares you for both writing your dissertation and develops your wider employability skills.

You will also study a range of optional modules, choosing one Special Subject module – with options including the distinctive ‘Curating Research’ module – and two 20-credit modules. Further module information is available below.

The programme culminates in a 15,000-word dissertation in a research area that you choose with the guidance of academic staff.

Why study this course

This programme aims to provide you with a sophisticated knowledge and understanding of:

  • The visual culture, history, historiography and critical debates relating to a specific artist, period or movement
  • The methods of art history and how to apply them to particular historical problems
  • Recent, current and traditional theoretical and critical writing, both in the discipline of art history and visual studies and in influential cognate disciplines, such as film, literary criticism, psychology and history
  • Subject-specific research techniques, especially those concerning the study of art objects, visual studies and relevant material culture
  • Current debates in the discipline and the historiography of the discipline and its relevance for contemporary research

MA History of Art alumna Katie Hall describes her experiences of studying the programme:

Modules

You will study two core modules:

Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Culture

This module looks deeply 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 of their own developing ideas for your final Masters thesis

Research Skills

This specialised module prepares you for both writing your dissertation and develops your wider employability skills.

You will also choose one Special Subject module, including the distinctive Curating Research module:

Curating Research

In recent years curating exhibitions and academic art history have moved closer together. This module provides the opportunity to curate an exhibition and thus gives you an introduction into the museum and gallery world. Moreover; you will become familiar with working with a variety of collections and ways to transform art works into exhibits as well as studying a particular theme or art-historical period in depth. Seminars will focus on various aspects of curatorial practice and management. The teaching will be provided by both academic staff and specialists in curating, publishing, sponsorship, budgeting, marketing, displaying works and museum education.
Recent exhibitions that have been curated by postgraduate students held at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts have included: Print Power: The Religious, the Social & the Body (2010) on twentieth-century prints, and Gem of a Game |(2011) to accompany the Court on Canvas exhibition. The exhibition for 2013-14 will use works on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Other special subject options include:

  • Michelangelo
  • Inside Out. Interiors and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture 1840-1940
  • Contemporary Visual Arts and Postcolonialism 
  • After Modernism. Art and Culture since the 1970s
  • Women and Artistic Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period

You will also choose two 20-credit modules from a range including:

Architecture and public art in sixteenth-century Venice

The module will examine the architecture and the decoration of public buildings (e.g. the Doge’s Palace; churches and scuole) in Venice and certain Venetian mainland territories during the course of the sixteenth century. It will examine, in particular, how the styles and subject matter changed during the period; chronicle the emergence of new kinds of building (e.g. the villa and new kinds of palace and church); and chart the effects of changing artistic practices. The architects covered will include Sanmicheli (in Verona) and Palladio (in Vicenza) as well as Sansovino (Venice’s official architect); among the artists studied will be Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. The module will place special emphasis on artistic traditions and themes that had a particular significance for Venice, and it will make regular reference to primary source material.

Art, Heritage and 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. You will have the opportunity to work on material relevant to History of Art and Visual Studies.
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.

Other 20-credit module options include:

  • Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
  • Cultural Analysis
  • The Body and its Representations in Visual Culture
  • Visual Cultures of Revolution in France, 1789-1848

Special subject and 20 credit module options may vary from year to year.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £6,210 full-time; £3,105 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,140 full-time

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

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 tuition fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

University of Birmingham graduates may be entitled to a fee reduction through the College of Arts and Law Alumni Bursary scheme.

Entry requirements

Learn more about 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

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

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Learning and teaching

Most of the teaching on the MA programme takes place in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which houses the Barber Institute Gallery, a valuable teaching collection, used by 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, Käthe Kollwitz, George Grosz, Manet, Miró, Picasso and Whistler.

The Barber Institute is home to an on-site research library which, in conjunction with the holdings of the University Main Library and the Special Collections of the Cadbury Research Library, makes Birmingham one of the best resourced Departments of History of Art in Britain.

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.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

Related research

Employability

The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

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.

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, Film 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.