BA History of Art

Studying History of Art is not just about appreciating the ‘great works’, although a passion for art in all its forms is certainly a huge part of it. It is also about understanding past and present cultures, and the process of human creativity itself. This is your opportunity to study in great depth the tradition of European and North American art and visual culture, from the Renaissance to the present.

Studying works of art at first hand is particularly important, and you will have access to the original works in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, an award-winning art gallery on the University campus, as well as the Institute’s extensive library and visual resources. Students on the History of Art programme rate it extremely highly, with 100% reporting that they are satisfied with the quality of the course in the latest National Student Survey.  

History of Art graduates from Birmingham benefit from a higher than average rate of employability for the subject, with 85% going into work or study within six months of graduation.

Course fact file

UCAS code: V350

Duration: 3 years

Places Available: 40

Applications in 2013: 186

Typical Offer: ABB (More detailed entry requirements and the international qualifications accepted can be found in the course details)

Start date: September


History of Art is an exciting and stimulating field of study with a diverse curriculum and wide application to modern life and the world of work. Much of our teaching draws on the collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts , and this is supported by the rich resources available elsewhere in Birmingham, including Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, one of the major regional British art museums, and the IKON gallery, one of the leading galleries of contemporary art. Throughout your degree, we aim to foster independent enquiry, critical analysis and self-motivation, providing you with broad knowledge of the subject, but also giving you the opportunity to specialise in topics that are of particular interest to you.

First year

This is your foundation year and you will take our compulsory modules: Historical Concepts and Methods and Debates in the History of Art which introduce you to concepts, categories and approaches to studying art and artists, and Object and Medium, which examines the techniques and materials used in the production of artworks. Other modules will give you an outline of selected key historical periods and themes in the history of art, such as the Renaissance and Modernism. Lectures and seminars are supported with study trips to galleries and current exhibitions in London or elsewhere. You will also take a module in a subject outside of the discipline.

Second year

You will now acquire a greater depth of knowledge by focusing on a number of more specific subjects. You can choose from a number of optional modules on themes or periods in the history of art, and you also choose another Module Outside the Main Discipline. You will also go on a university-funded study trip to a major artistic and cultural centre overseas such as Berlin, Paris or Venice, where you will have the chance to access works of art and architecture unavailable in Britain and to study them in situ. You are prepared for this module, and for your dissertation, though a core module on Research Techniques in the History of Art.

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Study Abroad Option

You will have the opportunity to spend one semester in your second year studying abroad at a foreign university. During your time abroad you will have the opportunity of studying modules in Art History and related subjects, including specialist topics specific to the places you are studying.  It is possible to attend universities where all the modules offered will be taught in English.  You will normally need to achieve a mean average mark of 55% for all first year modules to be eligible. 

Partner institutions include University of Groningen (The Netherlands), Leiden University (The Netherlands), Charles University (Prague), Lund University (Sweden) and The University of Melbourne (Australia).  The university also offers exchanges with a wide range of other institutions and you may apply to these on a competitive basis although not all will offer modules relevant to your degree programme. 

You will continue to pay your normal tuition fees to Birmingham; you do not have to pay any fees to your host university.  Studying abroad gives you the chance to discover a new culture, to study exciting new modules and gain valuable experience much sought after by employers.  Find out more at the Study Abroad pages

Third year

In your final year you will study a special subject in depth and in detail and undertake a dissertation, a 12,000-word extended piece of writing on a topic of your own choice, which also gives you the chance to develop your research skills. In addition you will study two more topics, which may include a module in another discipline.

Graduation 2014

Why study this course

At Birmingham, you will be taught by staff who are also active scholars with a national and international reputation, publishing books and articles on their specialist fields, as well as organising and contributing to conferences and exhibitions in Britain and abroad at venues such as the Royal Academy, the Huntington Library in California, the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin and the Cleveland Museum of Art. At the most recent 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, all our research was assessed as being of international significance, with 70% being world-leading or internationally excellent.

History of Art at the University of Birmingham offers you an unrivalled opportunity to study the subject in close association with the outstanding art collections housed in the University’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts. These include works by such major artists as Dürer, Giovanni Bellini, Veronese, Vigée LeBrun, Van Dyck, Poussin, Gainsborough, Monet, Degas, Gwen John, Picasso, Gauguin, Rodin, Käthe Kollwitz and Magritte. The Institute also houses a concert hall, lecture theatre and a major reference library.

In addition to the University’s impressive resources, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is one of the finest art galleries in the country with exceptional holdings of Old Master, Pre-Raphaelite and modern paintings, drawings and prints. Birmingham also contains the Ikon Gallery, one of the UK's premier venues for contemporary art. The Department has a long history of collaboration with both galleries, including joint research projects and supervision of doctoral students.

Study trips play an important part in your degree and include visits to galleries and museums in Birmingham and the West Midlands. In addition, all students participate in a week-long university-funded trip to a major European centre of artistic importance where you have the opportunity examine works of art and architecture in situ. Previous study trips have been to Rome, Berlin and Paris and are led by staff with specific teaching and research interests in the destination city. In addition to the opportunity to visit works of art not available in the UK, this trip provides a great opportunity to get to know the entire year group in an informal and inspiring setting.

At Birmingham, you will benefit from an intellectually challenging and stimulating environment for your undergraduate studies, focused on ensuring you are a fully supported and active learner. Our unique degrees are designed to provide both academic excellence and vocational development; a balance that is highly sought after by employers in today's intellectual and creative industries. The courses are also very flexible, allowing you to specialise more and more as you progress, culminating in a final-year dissertation that allows you to carry out in-depth, individually supervised research into topics of your choice.

June 2013 Undergraduate open day talk given by Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange


The first-year modules include:

The second-year modules include:

Final-year modules include:

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply 
Learn more about fees and funding
Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required: 3

Typical offer: ABB

General Studies: Not accepted

Additional information: Other qualifications are considered - learn more about entry requirements

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 34-35 points 

International students:

We welcome applications from international students and invite you to join our vibrant community of over 4500 international students who represent 150 different countries. We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at

Learn more about applying

Joint Honours combinations

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

Learning and teaching

As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. At Birmingham we advocate an enquiry based learning approach, from the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself.

Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, from scheduled teaching in lectures and small group tutorials, to self-study and peer group learning (for example preparing and delivering presentations with your classmates).


To begin with you may find this way of working challenging, but rest assured that we will enable you to make this transition. You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions to workshops on a range of topics including note taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.

The Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) will provide you with individual support from an academic writing advisor and postgraduate subject-specialist writing tutors. You will receive guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level which can be quite different from your previous experiences of writing. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, feedback through email and tutorials.

Student experience

Supporting you throughout your transition to University, offering research opportunities and study skills support and helping you develop and prepare for your post-University careers - our Arts and Law Student Experience Team strive to help you get the most out of your academic experience.

Study trips play an important part in the teaching on the programme. These include visits to galleries and museums in Birmingham and the West Midlands, as well as overseas group trips that are funded by the University. Recent destinations have included Rome, Berlin and Paris, and provide you with the opportunity to examine works of art and architecture in situ.

One-to-one tutorials become increasingly important as you progress through your course. This is particularly the case in your final year, when a major part of your programme will be a dissertation on a topic of your choice. Tutorials enable you to discuss your research with your project supervisor in depth.

Assessment methods

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to make this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You will be assessed through coursework which may take the form of essays, group and individual presentations and formal exams (depending on your chosen degree).

During your first year you will undergo a formal 'transition' review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.

At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed for that particular programme of study. You will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. You will be given feedback on any exams that you take; if you should fail an exam we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is made available to enable you to learn for the future.


[Video above - Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange discusses careers and employability during the History of Art open day presentation]

As a History of Art student you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers, including visual and textual analysis and interpretation, clear and effective writing, visual discernment, making opinions, and respecting the views of others even if you disagree with them.

The University of Birmingham has graduate employability rates for History of Art graduates above the national average and in the top 10 UK universities for the subject. Over 50% of job vacancies advertised for new and recent graduates don't specify a degree subject, and our graduates have gone on to highly successful careers in art galleries and other cultural institutions, as curators, researchers and administrators. Others pursue careers in auction houses and the art business, teaching, and in administrative and management roles for a wide range of employers. Some also decide to pursue graduate study in specialist art and cultural areas or professions such as teaching and law.

Employers of Birmingham History of Art graduates have included the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Bodleian Library, Cath Kidston, Historic Royal Palaces, The National Portrait Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museum. Examples of jobs they have taken up include Archivist, Assistant Curator, Curator of Fine Art, Gallery Coordinator, Programme Coordinator and Researcher.

Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. This is a unique careers guidance service tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team who can give you expert advice. This includes individual careers advice and events to give you insight into the professions and employers of interest to arts graduates, and access to internships and job vacancies. Visiting speakers from institutions such as Christie's and Sotheby's, and events including 'Careers in Heritage and Museums' help History of Art students with their career ideas and choices. We also make work placement opportunities available to you in the University's Cultural Collections and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities while you're at university to broaden your skills and your network of contacts. This can include the many societies at the Guild of Students and also the many voluntary opportunities offered with local arts organisations. Our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Our College of Arts and Law undergraduate research scholarship scheme enables interested students to work on a current academic research project being run by one of the College's academic researchers. Undergraduate research scholars gain work experience over the summer after their first or second year and have the chance to develop skills in both collaborative and independent research.

Cultural Internships

Our innovative Cultural Internships offer graduates the opportunity for a six month paid internship at a leading cultural institution in the West Midlands. These internships are a unique opportunity to learn fundamental, transferable business and interpersonal skills, through experience of real work in an established cultural institution. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust and the Library of Birmingham. We have plans to expand the scheme to include our own major cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This scheme will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market.

We also offer voluntary work which complements your studies by helping you gain practical experiences in occupational settings while contributing back to society. This can bring new skills that will be useful throughout your future and can make a positive impact on your learning whilst at university. Volunteering enables you to develop skills such as communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork, self-confidence and self-discipline all of which can be transferred into your studies.

Your Birmingham degree is evidence of your ability to succeed in a demanding academic environment. Employers target Birmingham students for their drive, diversity, communication and problem-solving skills, their team-working abilities and cultural awareness, and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.