MA Art History and Curating

Start date
1 year full-time; 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
UK: £10,530 full-time
International: £23,310 full-time
More detail.

Are you fascinated by visual culture and exhibition practice? Do you want to pursue a career in the gallery and arts sectors? 

The MA in Art History and Curating is one of the few postgraduate programmes in the country that offers you the opportunity to work in a team with academic and museum professionals to develop a curatorial project such as a public exhibition. Our recent partners have included the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, in a unique partnership with the Royal Collection Trust, and Grand Union, an Arts Council England Portfolio organisation, working with contemporary artists (See previous student projects)*. 

Our students are normally taught within the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, an internationally renowned art gallery located at the University of Birmingham campus. Students are part of small seminar groups and benefit from furthering their study. Classes are taught not only at the Barber Institute, our ‘house gallery’, but also at the galleries on campus and in town. 

This unique programme enables you to develop the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required to conduct original research into art objects and the history, theory and practice of curating historic and contemporary artworks.

As a result of the range of modules and practical experience offered, this unique programme will provide you with the knowledge, experience and employability skills invaluable to the museum, commercial and academic sectors whilst enabling you to establish professional networks in both.

Please note: It is advisable to apply early, as this programme is very popular and has a limited number of places.  Please see 'How to apply' in course details for more information

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships


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

Barber Institute refurbishment

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is currently undergoing a two-phase £10 million improvement program which includes a temporary closure of the Lady Barber Gallery and select areas until June 2024 and, in Phase Two, a temporary closure of the Barber Institute's building from February 2025 until late autumn 2025, as we make essential repairs and upgrades to enhance your future experience.

Find out more


Resilience, leadership and confidence. I earned and developed those skills in my programme which will help me start my career and be confident about my knowledge and work as a curator. All modules offered me the possibility to be critical of what I see and read which was one of the most valuable skills we were taught.

Rafailia Thiraiou, MA Art History and Curating

Why study this course?

  • Location –  The University’s unique campus, where you find its rich collections, study and learning spaces, cafés, restaurants and shops, outdoor and indoor sports facilities in proximity to each other (so you can study and play hard), is located at the heart of a thriving city. Birmingham has  a vibrant portfolio of established and emerging art galleries and arts organisations, and the city itself is in the middle of England, allowing easy access to London and beyond (it has an international airport as well as outstanding public transport with the University having its own train station).
  • Join an active and vibrant student community – you will benefit from a lively, supportive and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community, providing an ideal environment in which to study. You will have the opportunity to become active members of both departmental and university-wide research communities. 
  • Enhance your knowledge on a range of topics – you will develop sophisticated knowledge and understanding of a range of themes and theoretical discourses related to museum and art gallery  practice, such as art interpretation; modes of display; marketing; access and learning; administration and finance; and art handling.
  • Extracurricular activities – Read our official blog, The Golovinefor an insight into life within the Department. After a long day of study, you can stretch and relax at the university’s Sports Centre on campus (with smaller venues nearby), which has been praised for its outstanding facilities and high quality equipment that includes a large gym and an Olympic-size swimming pool.

* We expect to be able to offer you educational opportunities with our current external museum and gallery partners as part of this programme. However, please be aware that we do review our partnerships regularly and the opportunities available may change before your programme begins, or during your programme. If you have any questions about this, please contact the Programme Lead.

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.



You will study four core modules and two optional modules before completing your 15,000 word dissertation.

Core modules

You will study four core modules:

Curatorial Practices A

How do museums and galleries, and those who work in and in collaboration with them, shape public engagement with art? This module introduces students to key theoretical and practical approaches to curatorial practice, drawing on a global range of examples that engage with historic and contemporary art. Students will engage with topics such as the institutional contexts of museums and galleries; approaches to curatorial practice and the changing role of the curator; and practices such as exhibitions and public programming.

Students will also work collaboratively on a curatorial project with a partner institution. They will work as a group in conjunction with museum and gallery professionals and academic staff. The module is delivered by academic staff and gallery professionals, through seminars and practical workshops.


Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Curatorial Practices B

Whereas Curatorial Practices A introduces students to key concepts in curatorial practice, Curatorial Practices B focuses on how museums and galleries communicate their curatorial ideas with their publics, drawing on a global range of examples that engage with historic and contemporary art. Students will focus on topics such as text and interpretation; displaying art and loan administration; and communication and marketing. Students will also consider the importance of documentation and evaluation to the delivery and legacy of a curatorial project.

Students will also continue to work collaboratively on a curatorial project with a partner institution.  They will work as a group in conjunction with museum and gallery professionals and academic staff to implement aspects of the project. The module is delivered by academic staff and gallery professionals, through seminars and practical workshops.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Please note: Once you have accepted your offer and met your offer conditions, you will be sent a form to choose your preferred curatorial project partner for the Curatorial Practices modules. Where possible, we will give you your first choice, but there is a limit to the number of students each gallery can accommodate. 

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

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 thesis.
Assessment: 4,000 word written portfolio

Optional modules

The programme also offers you the flexibility to select a further two options from a range of complementary practical, theoretical and historical modules, including a placement with a local gallery or other arts organisation. Module choices include:

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

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, notably Arthur Schopenhauer. It will also consider the work of subsequent authors, such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Walter Benjamin, Martin Heidegger, Ernst Bloch and Theodor Adorno. 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: Two 2,000-word essays

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 are increasingly being redrawn, 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: art and empire; ‘English’ or ‘British’?; collecting and exhibiting British art; writing British art; the Royal Academy and the creation of the ‘British school’; researching British Art; queering British art; and new narratives in British art history. (Read more about this module)
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 and institutional critique and to aspects that are pertinent to exhibitions, including the relevance of place and space for an exhibition, display, the role of curator, artist and audiences. It therefore complements ‘Curatorial Practices’, which probes such aspects in order to facilitate the actual mounting of an exhibition, this module explores them in order to analyse past and current shows (and thus will include gallery visits).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Made in Birmingham: Art and Urban Space

Birmingham provides a centre of gravity for exploring and applying key issues and debates in urban space and in British art. 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 in the Midlands, comprising a 2,000 word essay, annotated bibliography, and a selection of annotated visual and contextual sources.


In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.

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.

We expect to be able to offer you educational opportunities with our external partners as part of this programme. However, please be aware that we do review our partnerships regularly and the opportunities available may change before your programme begins, or during your programme.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £10,530 full-time; £5,265 part-time
  • International: £23,310 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

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.

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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

Please note: places on this programme are limited: we can only accommodate a limited number of students on our curatorial projects. Due to the competitive nature of the programme, we strongly advise you apply early. Applications received before January 2024 will get first priority. Applications will then be reviewed again in March 2024, and after that, May 2024.

The final deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 7 May 2024. The final deadline for UK (or distance learning) students is 30 August 2024

Please note: Most funding deadlines fall in spring, and funding applications usually need to be considered alongside an application to study. Applicants seeking funding are therefore encouraged to apply before the spring..

Advice on your application

Please make sure you include all necessary documentation in your application: references, personal statement, degree transcript, CV, and (if required) English language certificates.

It is not necessary to wait until you have finished your current programme of study to make an application as we are able to make offers which are conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. If you have outstanding documentation relating to degree results, please make this clear on your application, and your application will be considered.


How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

You will need an Honours degree in History of Art or a cognate Humanities subject, of an upper second-class standard or higher (or its academic equivalent). Candidates holding degrees in other disciplines (e.g. broader Arts subjects) will only be considered if they can demonstrate interest and experience in History of Art, e.g. through studying relevant modules and/or undertaking related work experience.

Candidates with a high 2:2 (57% or above, or equivalent GPA), who have extensive professional experience, or who can document mitigating circumstances from the BA study, should contact the Programme Lead before making an application

Personal statement: You should use your personal statement to explain why you wish to study this programme, and your suitability for the programme, with reference to any past and present experience you have in this subject.

References: We ask that you provide at least one academic reference unless you have been out of education for a number of years, in which case professional references will be considered. Your references should be submitted promptly, and they should address your track record in detail, citing specific examples of past work and reasons why you are suited to the demands of an MA course.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: 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, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 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

The teaching on the MA programme normally takes place in 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 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.

It is important to remember that our academic excellence is not confined to a single building or gallery. Our university boasts award-winning art installations across the campus and the wider city of Birmingham, providing you with countless opportunities for artistic inspiration and academic growth. Our expert academics, renowned in their fields, will guide you through your learning in exciting and innovative ways, ensuring that your studies continue to be engaging and transformative.

Teaching year

We have three teaching terms per year, the autumn, spring and summer terms. Term dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each of the first two terms, followed by your dissertation. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

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 for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The MA Art History and Curating provides students with practical skills and experience to allow them to pursue careers in galleries and museums. Read more about our student journeys

The experiences you gain throughout your degree will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University. 

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support. 

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive 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. 

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two 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.

Employers that History of Art 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 Edinburgh; University of Lincoln; Warwick Business School; Ben Uri Gallery and Museum; Henry Moore Foundation; University of Cambridge; University of Exeter; University of Birmingham; and the Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust.