PhD Programme

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Our PhD Programme



PhD Programme

PhD Programme

Our PhD programme is one of the largest and most renowned in the world for art history and conservation. We take around 20-30 students each year and at any one time has a student body of over 100 scholars at various stages of their studies. Our PhD graduates are to be encountered everywhere in the academic, museum and gallery world, from the Director of the National Gallery in London to the Director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. As a graduate with a Courtauld PhD you will be part of an international network, with a qualification that is valued and respected all over the world. We have great expectations of our PhD students, and recognize the value they bring to the Institute and its intellectual life. Our status as the leading centre for doctoral training in art history and conservation is recognized by our outstanding achievements in the 2014 ‘Research Excellence Framework’, and by the large number of AHRC (now CHASE AHRC) funded awards for studentships we have been allocated over many years: more than half of our Home/EU PhD students have received full funding from this route.

As a PhD student at The Courtauld you will be part of a rich, vibrant and active research community, and will take full part in the academic life of the institute. Our postgraduates take part in seminars, specialist reading groups, site visits, and conferences and workshops, and contribute to The Sackler Research Forum’s intensive programme of cutting edge research and debate by scholars from across the world, including visiting professors, curators, conservation scientists and artists. They edit and produce our journal of postgraduate research, immediations and are able to contribute to curatorial work in our gallery and print room. Our doctoral students have opportunities to gain professional experience by teaching at BA and MA level, and through work with our public programmes department.

Although we have a large body of PhD students, as a single subject institution The Courtauld remains an intimate place where students and staff know each other well, and access to the faculty members and postdoctoral scholars is easy and frequent. The faculty who will make up your supervisory team will meet with your regularly, both formally to discuss drafts of your work and informally at lectures and seminars, and the receptions held frequently after them; they will be responsible for guiding your research, helping plan, develop and shape your thesis, monitoring your progress and finding ways to support your project in whatever way they can – either though proposing particular training options, providing contacts for you in national and international museums or archives, and helping you develop your professional skills and experience, as well as your own network of scholars in your field.

You can find out more details about current faculty who may be able to supervise your PhD at the Courtauld through our staff pages. You might also be interested in information about current PhD students, and about our extensive network of Courtauld alumni and their activities.

Key facts

Status Full-time or part-time
Duration Full-time, 3 years
Part-time, 6 years
Language skills English
Fees 2016/17 Fees 2015/6 (for reference):
Part-time Home/EU fee: £2,280
Full-time Home/EU fee: £4,560
Overseas fee: £15,840 (Full-time only)

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The PhD programme is structured to help you attain the required skills you need to undertake your research and to write your thesis, allowing you to maintain and build momentum in your writing and to complete your PhD thesis within the three, or at maximum four year time span allotted.

In the first year you will take part in the skills course, a series of sessions that provide guidance on aspects of the PhD course and training with skills such as referencing programmes, image management and photography, using social media in your research, presenting at conferences, teaching, publishing, and archival research. During the first year you may also take language classes. Some of these – Dutch and Latin for example – are organised by the Courtauld in-house; others will be on offer through other institutes in London, such as LSE, Kings, or the Goethe Institute. There are also important courses held within the University of London for historical skills and archives, palaeography, public speaking, oral histories etc. Our CHASE partnership also provides access to a range of innovative training programmes: in 2014-15 these included ‘Material Witness’ and Becoming a Public Intellectual. Another important element of the first year programme are the sessions held by the Visual arts community of scholars across the University of London, known as ReSkIN. These sessions provide an opportunity to meet other scholars across London working on topics in the visual arts, and to attend sessions about writing and research on the visual arts. Alongside these various training and skills events, you will attend the first year seminar, which allows you to work together as a cohort of students at The Courtauld to learn about methods and approaches to research, to debate and share those methods, both theoretical and practical. In the first term this involves a different text read each week, chosen by a student as representative of their material or approach; in the second it moves to students presenting their own research topics to the group.

In the third term of the first year you will submit your first year monitoring paper. This consists of a chapter of your research, an outline of your thesis, and plan for the next two years of work; it will be read by your supervisory team, and discussed at a formal meeting with them in early June. You have to pass this monitoring exercise to proceed to the following year. It is an important milestone in your PhD research, and the focus for your writing in the first year.

In the second year students often take longer research or field work trips abroad; training in languages or other skills may continue; students may also be involved with working as teaching assistants and other opportunities for building elements of your professional experience. You will continue to meet regularly with your supervisory team. There is a further monitoring event during the second year, which takes different forms in different period sections, but most often involves some sort of presentation of your research, usually to faculty and research students.

In the third year you will be focusing on completing and revising your chapters: this can be the most intense year for writing. You will meet with your supervisory team regularly and will also be required to take part in the Third Year Postgraduate Symposium, attended by MA and PhD students and faculty from across the institute, where you will give a paper.

As a PhD student at the Courtauld your work will be monitored regularly, at formal points in the first, second and third year (see Structure). The award of PhD is given on the submission and assessment of your completed thesis. This will be a substantial piece of original research, of no less than 70,000 but no more than 100,000 words. It will, as our regulations state, ‘form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power’.

When you are nearing completion and submission of your thesis, two examiners from outside The Courtauld will be appointed: they will read your thesis and conduct the oral examination (viva). They will decide whether your thesis merits the degree, or make clear what corrections may be needed for the degree to be awarded.

PhD applicants are expected to hold a Masters degree in a subject relevant to their proposed research. Those with Masters awarded in the UK normally have received at least 70% in the dissertation or thesis; applicants from other countries should contact our Registry for advice about our requirements. In order to apply, applicants must propose a topic, and have identified a supervisor at the Institute who is an expert in the relevant field and who is prepared to work with you. It is important to be in contact with your prospective supervisor before you apply, since there are strict limits on how many PhD students any one supervisor may take in a given year.



All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency – for details, please see the English Language Requirements page.


Fees 2016/7 TBC

Fees 2015/16 (for reference):

Part-time home/ EU fee: £2,280

Full-time home/ EU fee: £4,560

Overseas fee: £15,840


Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee info, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies

Find information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your  studies at The Courtauld here.

Apply for this course

Apply for this course or download a prospectus for more information.

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