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MRes History of Art

Start date
September
Duration
Full time: 1 year, Part-time: 2 years
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught
Fees

Annual tuition fee 2023 entry:
UK: £6,660 full-time; £3,330 part-time
International: £20,820 full-time
More detail.

Immerse yourself in the History of Art by completing your own independent research project within one of the best resourced Departments of History of Art in Britain, while undertaking essential training to support your project.

You can complete your research project in any aspect of History of Art, as agreed by your supervisor. Most of the teaching 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. The Barber Institute is home to an onsite research library, a prints and drawings study room and a coin study room.

What is an MRes?

An MRes is a programme that will help you develop the skills for both doctoral study and a future career. You will complete a major individual research project, supervised by a specialist in the field of study, and a taught component that develops research and analytical skills. If you are interested in applying, we strongly encourage you to contact the admissions tutor or a member of staff with interests in your field to discuss your application in general and your proposed research topic in particular.

To find out more about this programme and make an enquiry you can contact Dr Kate Nichols, the Admissions Tutor for postgraduate research.  In order to apply for the MRes History of Art programme, you should approach the Admissions Tutor with a detailed research proposal.

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

I love the campus and all of its facilities, especially the Barber Institute and library which are great resources unique to Birmingham. The sense of community is great because there are so many things you can get involved in and it is exciting to meet so many people with different research ideas.

Rebecca

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.
  • 8th Art History department in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average (Times Higher Education).
  • 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.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

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

Core modules

All students will study two core modules:

Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Culture

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 of their own developing ideas for your final thesis.
Assessment: 4,000-word written portfolio

Postgraduate Research Training and Methods A & B

This module introduces students at Masters level to a range of research skills needed to write a dissertation on their specific programme, as well as core, generic employability skills.  It contains a number of staff-taught sessions on how to write a literature review, use the Internet for research and how to craft a research proposal.  The first part of the module (A) will be taught in Semester 1, followed by the second part (B) in Semester 2.
Assessment: Written assignment and presentation

Optional module choices

You will choose one optional module from a range which typically 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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Exhibition Cultures

In many ways, exhibitions have been fundamental to art history, perhaps because artists have been influenced by exhibitions or have been ‘periodised’ by exhibitions (for example, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism). Arguably, art history has also been made through exhibitions. Therefore this module explores art history from the perspective of exhibitions. Such a perspective not only offers an intriguing approach that can be applied to any artist or art period (e.g. studying Michelangelo through exhibitions), but an exhibition history constitutes an obligatory part of any exhibition proposal. Therefore, this module supports both curatorial and art-historical studies. It provides an introduction to a variety of theoretical approaches to the role of exhibitions regarding society, culture and institutional critique (Bourdieu, Foucault, Bhabha) and to aspects that are pertinent to exhibitions, including the relevance of place and (hyper-)space for an exhibition, display, the role of curator, artist and audiences, marketing and sponsoring.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

What is British Art?

What exactly is British art, and how does it relate to national identity? This module provides a broad overview of developments in British art from c.1760 to the present. It questions and unpacks this art historical category, by examining the key debates and writings that have shaped our understanding and definition of British art. It engages with the ways in which the boundaries of British art have been increasingly redrawn in recent years, as art historians integrate Britain’s imperial past and postcolonial present into the study of British art.

The module will consider the ways in which British art has been made, exhibited, experienced, conceptualised and contested. It will examine the breadth of British art, notably painting and sculpture, but also photography, the decorative arts, and more recent conceptual approaches. Students will engage directly with artworks through visits to relevant collections.

The module’s broad chronological sweep encompasses a diverse set of ideas related to British art. Topics might include: What is British Art?; art and empire; British ‘isms’ and movements; ‘English’ or ‘British’? Four nations art history; collecting and exhibiting British art; writing British art; the Royal Academy and the creation of the ‘British school’; researching British Art; judging British art; and queering British art.

This module includes mandatory and optional visits to museums and galleries. The cost of these will be covered by the Department. (Read more about this module)
Assessment: 4,000-word assignment

Made in Birmingham: Art and Urban Space

Birmingham provides a centre of gravity for exploring and applying key issues and debates in British art through particular case studies. Birmingham played a pivotal role in the industrial revolution and the British empire, and the module will consider those industrial and imperial histories, and their continuing legacy in Britain’s second city.

Birmingham, and the Midlands more broadly, hold internationally significant collections of British art, notably the Pre-Raphaelite collection at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; 20th century collections at Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery and The Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, Coventry; photographic collections at Birmingham Library and the University of Birmingham.

Using these collections, the module will consider the ways in which the arts were made, exhibited, experienced, conceptualised and contested in Birmingham. Topics might include: art and industry; artist’s societies (RBSA); Pre-Raphaelites; Arts and Crafts; Pop Art; Black British art; photography; centre/periphery; local/global; art and empire; art and religion; architecture; and art and urban regeneration.
Assessment: one research portfolio focused on an object produced or located in the Midlands, comprising a 2,000 word essay, annotated bibliography, and a selection of annotated visual and contextual sources.

Enterprising Cultures

This module aims to develop your commercial awareness, and provide a framework for undertaking enterprising activity in cultural organisations. The module takes the form of a series of seminars and workshops on how to create a plan for new revenue-generating activity within an arts organisation, or even a business start-up. The module will feature a series of guest speakers who currently engage in commercial activity in cultural organisations. You will work in groups to develop an idea based on a real-world challenge set by a cultural organisation. You will then pitch your idea in a Dragon’s Den for formative feedback, before preparing a business plan.
Assessment: 4,000-word business plan

Further modules called 'Special Subjects'

The range of Special Subjects is updated annually in line with staff research interests. The following are indicative of the range of subjects we teach:

  • Berlin 1890-1939: Symphony of a (Great?) City
  • Contemporary Art and Masculinity
  • Contemporary Art and Home
  • Global Art and Cultural Studies
  • Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918–1933
  • Image as Witness
  • Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture 1850–1940
  • ‘Islamic’ Aesthetics in Art
  • Michelangelo
  • Paris Moderne 1850–1930: Image, Myth, Femininity
  • Pre-Raphaelites: Contexts, Approaches and Reputations
  • Rodin Reconsidered
  • Sound and Vision: Word, Music, Image 1860-Now
  • Turning the Pages: Manuscript and Print, Past and Present
  • An Unnatural History: Animals in Western Art, 1750-present day
  • Women and Artistic Culture 1400–1600


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £6,660 full-time; £3,330 part-time
  • International: £20,820 full-time

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Paying your fees

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.

How To Apply

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (including EU) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is 31 August 2023.

Six easy steps to apply for a postgraduate research course in the College of Arts and Law

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, which includes detailed advice on research proposals and how to write them.

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

Our Standard Requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK, usually in a relevant area.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent), usually in a relevant area.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


Our research in the Department covers a broad range of themes and topics, from medieval and renaissance art and architecture to contemporary global art. Our work is multifaceted, and engages with historical issues as well as theoretical questions.

Please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance: Find a supervisor in Art History, Curating and Visual Studies.

As a student on the MRes History of Art programme, you will be taught at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which houses the Barber Institute Gallery, and is used by members of staff on a regular basis as part of your learning.

The collection 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.

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

Assessment Methods

The core modules are assessed through coursework and a presentation. The assessment of your optional module is dependent on the module selected. The MRes programme is completed with a 20,000 thesis.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: History of Art

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, over 98% 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 management and curatorship; others pursue careers in academia. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: Barber Institute of Fine Arts; Birmingham Museums Trust; National Trust; National Portrait Gallery; Royal Birmingham Society of Artists; University of Birmingham; and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust.

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