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.

Our programme allows you to study 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 original works, an extensive library and collection of resources in our on-campus Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Here you will find works by such major artists as Botticelli, Picasso, Turner, Van Gogh, Gainsborough, Monet, Magritte, Degas, Gwen John, Vigée LeBrun and Rodin.

Students on this programme rate it extremely highly. They gave the programme an overall satisfaction rating of 95% in the National Student Survey 2016.

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Rebecca Savage

Rebecca Savage

“I chose History of Art because it combines two of my biggest interests (History and Art) and so far I love it. I think my favourite module is probably Object and Medium. It focuses on the materials used and the processes involved in making pieces of art and a lot of the teaching for it takes place in the Barber. It’s really exciting to see the things you have been learning explained on works you can see in the flesh.”

History of Art is an exciting and stimulating field of study with a diverse curriculum and wide application to modern life.

Much of our teaching draws on the collection of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, and this is supported by further resources across the University and Birmingham.

Our 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 as you progress, culminating in a final-year dissertation that allows you to carry out in-depth research into a topic of your choice.

Study trips play an important part in your degree and include visits to galleries and museums. 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 to examine works of art and architecture in situ. Previous study trips have been to Rome, Prague, Berlin and Paris and are led by staff with specific research interests in the city. This trip provides a great opportunity to get to know the entire year group in an informal and inspiring setting.

Why study this course

  • Excellent student experience - Small classes, study trips (including a week-long University-funded trip to a major European city), writing for The Golovine, links to local institutions, access to extensive Research and Cultural Collections and an array of other extra-curricular activities lead to an excellent student experience.   
  • Fantastic employability - 95% of our students enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2015).
  • Outstanding teaching - Our students gave the course an overall satisfaction rating of 95% in the National Student Survey 2016. Our staff are active scholars with national and international reputations, publishing books and articles on their specialist fields. They organise and contribute to conferences and exhibitions at international venues, such as the Royal Academy, the Huntington Library in California, the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin and the Cleveland Museum of Art. 
  • On-campus gallery - Teaching regularly takes place in our working gallery on campus: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which is home to not only a dedicated Fine Art Library, but also some of the highest standards of artwork outside of London. Seminars and events regularly take place here, right in front of works of art, and this really helps to deepen your understanding of the works being discussed. You’ll also be able to explore how the Barber’s different departments work together as part of your degree, and draw on the gallery staff’s own expertise. This hands-on approach to studying History of Art will expand your knowledge of the museum and heritage sector.
  • The city - Birmingham has a wide range of cultural venues to visit, volunteer or work with.

You can also visit our 'Why Study History of Art?' page to discover why studying this subject at the University of Birmingham is not just rewarding in itself but also useful for your future career.

Hear from our students

Open day talk


The modules listed on the website for this programme may occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

First year

This is your foundation year and you will take four compulsory modules: 'Historical Concepts in the History of Art', 'Debates and Methods in the History of Art', 'Object and Medium 1', and 'Object and Medium 2' which introduce you to concepts, categories and approaches to studying art and artists, as well as modules which examine 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 which will allow you to explore another subject.

First year modules include:

  • Historical Concepts in the History of Art
  • Debates and Methods in the History of Art
  • Object and Medium 1: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, Sculptures
  • Object and Medium 2: Photography, Film, Performance and Installation
  • Ideas of the Renaissance
  • Concepts of Modernism in the History of Art
  • Module outside of the main discipline (MOMD)
  • detailed descriptions of first year modules

Second year

You will go on a compulsory 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 second compulsory module 'Research Techniques in the History of Art'.

Your other modules will allow you to 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, as well as another Module Outside the Main Discipline.

Second year modules include:

  • Research Techniques in the History of Art
  • Art History in the Field - European Study Trip
  • Renaissance Art in Italy and the Netherlands 1400-1460
  • Art, Architecture and Design in Fin de Siècle Vienna
  • Power, Society, Politics: Religious Art in Northern Europe
  • Inside the Gallery: Histories, Theories and Practices of Museums and Galleries
  • Impressionism and After: Art and Society in the Nineteenth-Century France
  • Victorian Art and the British Empire
  • Under the Red Star: Art and Society in the Soviet Union
  • American Art in the 1960s
  • Module Outside the Main Discipline
  • detailed descriptions of second year modules

In addition, you have the opportunity to spend one semester in your second year studying abroad at a foreign university.

Final year

In your final year you will study four special subject modules in depth and in detail and undertake a compulsory dissertation that also gives you the chance to develop your research skills. You may opt to study a module in another discipline.

Final-year modules include:

  • The Dissertation
  • Women and Artistic Culture 1400-1600
  • Paris Moderne 1850-1930: Image, Concept, Femininity
  • Prague, Budapest, Cracow: Art and the Politics of Identity in Central Europe, 1867-1918
  • Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918-1933
  • Architecture and Decoration in Sixteenth-Century Venice
  • The Pre-Raphaelites: Contexts, Approaches and Reputations
  • Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture 1850-1940
  • Michelangelo
  • Berlin: Symphony of a (Great) City?
  • Turning the Pages: Manuscript and Print, Past and Present
  • Beauty, Goodness and Truth: Topics in the Philosophy of Art
  • Sculptural Experiments in Britain 1837-1091
  • Module Outside the Main Discipline
  • detailed descriptions of final year modules

Fees and funding

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2017, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £9,250
  • Overseas: £15,570

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

For further information on tuition fees, living costs and available financial support, please see our pages on undergraduate fees and funding.

Tuition fees when studying abroad

For those spending a whole academic year abroad (where available):

  • Students who are classed as home/EU for fees purposes are required to pay 15% of their normal annual tuition fee
  • Students who are classed as overseas for fee purposes are required to pay 50% of their normal annual tuition fee

For those studying abroad for just one semester (where available), normal annual tuition fees apply.

Note - Study abroad opportunities vary between courses; please see the course description for details of study abroad options offered.

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
General Studies:
Not accepted.

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma are all considered on a case by case basis - contact us for further guidance.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6,5,5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall.

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 one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

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.

University of Birmingham students are part of an academic elite and learn from world-leading experts. We will challenge you to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers.

You will have a diverse learning experience, including:

  • lectures
  • small group tutorials
  • independent study
  • and peer group learning, such as delivering presentations with your classmates


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Welfare tutors - We have dedicated welfare tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
  • Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into university. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

Teaching staff

Students at the University of Birmingham are taught by a mixture of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and doctoral researchers, thereby receiving a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience. Many of our teaching staff have published important works about their areas of expertise, whilst others have taught at international institutions and can offer unique perspectives of their subjects.

You can find out more about the members of staff (including their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest) in their academic profiles linked below.

Taster lecture

Dr David Hemsoll delivered this mini-lecture at a March 2017 Applicant Visit Day to give applicants a taste of a typical undergraduate lecture.

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.

Contact Hours

Throughout your History of Art degree you can expect about 8 hours of contact time per week made up of both lectures and seminars, although there are many additional activities that are also available to students. 

Assessment methods

Assessments - you will be assessed in a variety of ways to help you transition to a new style of learning. At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed. Assessments methods will vary with each module and could include:

  • coursework, such as essays
  • group and individual presentations
  • and formal exams

Feedback - you will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so you can learn from each assignment. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take. If you should fail an exam, we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is provided to help you prepare for future exams.

95% of our students enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2015).

We have graduate employability rates above the national average - 90% of our graduates were in employment and/or further study six months after graduation.

You will develop skills including visual and textual analysis and interpretation. You will also acquire skills that are highly prized by employers in many sectors:

  • Strong communication skills
  • An awareness and appreciation of other cultures
  • The ability to identify and target key audiences
  • Researching, analysing and interpreting information
  • Handling complex information
  • The ability to critically analyse information and form concise, articulate arguments
  • Managing your time and prioritising your workload.

Throughout your degree you will have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in museums and galleries, both on and off campus.

You can also benefit from our biennial Art History Careers Fair. Graduates return to campus to talk to current students about their careers, how to find opportunities and the wide variety of roles available in the industry. Recent speakers hold positions at the Wallace Collection, BMAG, Sotheby’s Institute, Manchester’s Craft and Design Centre and the White Cube Gallery.

Our graduates have also gone on to work at: Kettle’s Yard, the Bodleian Library, Cath Kidston, Historic Royal Palaces, The National Portrait Gallery, Christie’s, National Museum of Wales, the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Examples of graduate jobs include: Archivist, Curator, Gallery Coordinator, Events Officer, Exhibitions Assistant, Learning and Access Officer, Programme Coordinator, Researcher.

Other History of Art graduates choose to forge a career outside the Arts sector. Recent graduates have obtained graduate positions in sectors such as teaching, media, law, sales, local / central government, management, accounting, horse-racing, real estate and business.

Alumni profiles

Quote from University alumna Lucy Gregory

Developing your career

Employers target University of Birmingham students for their diverse skill-set and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of our wide range of opportunities you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

  • Careers events - we hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities to help you meet potential employers and learn more about these sectors.
  • Global Challenge - you can apply to work overseas on an expenses-paid placement during your summer vacation through our Global Challenge initiative.
  • Work experience bursary - we encourage you to apply your skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer. Our work experience bursaries allow you to apply for funding to support you during unpaid internships.
  • 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 will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, Library of Birmingham.

There are also internships available at our own cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, 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 to broaden your skills and network of contacts.

  • Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme - 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 our 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.
  • Personal Skills Award - 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.
  • Guild of Students - there is a vast number of student groups and volunteering opportunities offered by the Guild of Students, which cover a wide variety of interests.

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

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Student Experience Officers

Our Student Experience Officers will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.


Coming to Birmingham 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 culture, 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.

International students

The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.

We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.

If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.