PhD Programme - The Courtauld Institute of Art

PhD Programme

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PhD Programme



PhD Programme


Since 1930, The Courtauld has been among the world’s leading institutions for research in Art History and Conservation. Our internationally-renowned PhD programme is one of the largest in the United Kingdom, hosting over 100 doctoral students at any one time on their paths toward a PhD. At The Courtauld, you will join a cohort of the most ambitious and gifted students in your field as you pursue your research goals.

Our diverse cohort of students comes from across the United Kingdom and around the world to explore an equally wide range of research topics. Our students’ excellence is reflected in the large number of AHRC-funded awards gained over the last decade, one of a number of routes available for supporting your studies. Recent and current doctoral projects include mosaics in Constantinople, Buddhist wall paintings in Bhutan, Cubism in Japan, and post-war Korean avant-gardes, among many others.

A Courtauld Research degree includes scheduled skills and methodology seminars along with the main element: one-to-one supervision on your chosen project. Your supervisory team will guide your research, help plan, develop and shape your thesis, and support your scholarly and professional development in diverse ways.

A research-intensive institution, The Courtauld consistently achieves outstanding results in the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) audit. Courtauld teachers publish on a host of topics, with recent important books and articles on Persian kingship and architecture, Spanish Renaissance sculpture, Netherlandish artists and migration, gardens and empire in China, Victorian art and science, American fashion photography, and many others. Members of Faculty have extensive experience curating major exhibitions of historic and contemporary art, editing and contributing to academic journals, winning competitive research grants, speaking publicly in a great variety of institutions and events, and working in archives and collections worldwide. All this and more contributes to our mentoring of students as they undertake their doctoral careers at The Courtauld.

Research Forum

The Research Forum is central to The Courtauld’s intellectual community and to doctoral life here. Presenting a programme of leading professors, curators, conservation scientists, and artists from around the world, the Research Forum invites you to explore a wide range of art historical thinking and consider your research from new perspectives. Research programmes are further supported by a variety of thematic clusters. Groups such as the Sculptural Process Study Group and Painting Pairs: Art History and Technical Study highlight the Institute’s foundation in object-based research; Connecting Cultures, 1200–1850, Sacred Traditions and the Arts, and the Digital Art History Research Group underline the interdisciplinary nature of our teaching and research. The Courtauld is also home to several major research centres, including the Centre for American Art and the Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre.

These groups bring together postgraduates, faculty and visiting scholars for seminars, study days, site visits, and symposia, all supported by our professional Research Events team.  From all this, doctoral students enjoy unique opportunities to suggest speakers, devise and convene events, chair sessions, and draw together research in published form. Courtauld Research students edit and produce immediations, The Courtauld’s annual, peer reviewed journal of art history, and have opportunities to contribute curatorially in our gallery and print room. Our doctoral students can also gain valuable teaching experience through our Public Programmes and at BA and MA level.

Find out more about our current PhD students.

Key Facts

Location: Vernon Square Kings Cross, London, WC1X 9EP (during The Courtauld Connects project)

Status: Full-time or part-time

Duration: Full-time: 3 years, part-time: 6 years

Intake: c 15–20

Awarding Body: University of London

Application Deadline is available on ‘How to Apply‘ page.

Open Evening and Campus Tours

Entry Requirements

Academic Requirements: PhD applicants are expected to have achieved a Master’s degree in a subject relevant to their proposed research. Those with Masters awarded in the UK normally are expected to have received at least 65% overall, with at least 70% in the dissertation or thesis. Applicants from other countries should contact our Admissions team at for advice about our requirements.

English Language Requirements: If your first language is not English, we require proof of English language proficiency. Please see the English Language Requirements page.

Supervisor: Before starting the application process, applicants must identify a potential supervisor at the Institute who is an expert in the relevant field. A list of current Courtauld staff can be found on our Faculty pages.

Pre-application: Applicants should complete a pre-application in order to register their interest in studying with a potential supervisor and to confirm the suitability of the research topic.

The pre-application enables important consultation with your prospective supervisor before proceeding to the full application, and also confirms the availability of the supervisor, as there are strict limits on how many PhD students any one supervisor may take in a given year.

Before you can submit a full PhD programme application, you must send a pre-application to, alongside:

  • Research Proposal Title
  • Research Proposal Summary – 300 words (including which member of faculty you wish to ask to be your supervisor and why)
  • CV

We will assess your pre-application and discuss your proposal with your preferred supervisor before providing feedback. Your pre-application will provide the foundation for further discussions with your preferred supervisor or, should that individual be unavailable for supervision or deemed not an ideal fit, for introduction to other potential supervisors.

Once you are invited to submit a full programme application, you will be provided with a link to the main programme application portal.

Pre-application Deadline: You should aim to submit your pre-application as early as possible, but no later than a week before the programme application deadline.

Programme Application Deadline is available on ‘How to Apply‘ page.

Following the submission of your application, Admissions will contact you to schedule an interview with members of Faculty, including your proposed supervisor. The interview date for the current application cycle will be confirmed in due course.

You will be contacted before the end of April 2020 with the result of your application.

Please note that students requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK are not permitted to study part-time.


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.

Year One: 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, either at the Courtauld or through neighbouring institutions, including LSE, SOAS, Kings, and the Geothe Institute.

There are also important courses held within the University of London for historical skills and archives, palaeography, public speaking, oral histories etc. Sessions held by ReSkIN, an organisation of the visual arts community across the University of London, is another important component of the first year programme. These sessions provide an opportunity to meet local scholars 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. Over the course of Autumn and Spring terms, your cohort will come together on a weekly basis to explore theoretical and practical methods and approaches to research through readings, presentations, and discussions.

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 research and writing in the first year.

Year Two: During the second year of the program, students often take extended research or field work trips abroad. Training in languages or other skills may continue, and students may also be involved with working as teaching assistants and other opportunities for building professional experience. You will continue to meet regularly with your supervisory team. There is a further monitoring event during the second year that may take a variety of forms but most often involves some sort of presentation of your research to faculty and research students.

Year Three: In your 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.

Fees & Funding

Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee information for 2020/21, including definitions of Home, EU, and overseas fee eligibility, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies

Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit combined with financial need. The average PhD scholarship awarded in 2019/20 was typically between £5,000 – £10,000. Applications are welcomed from Home, EU and Overseas students applying to or currently studying in 2020/21. Find out more.

Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England (CHASE): The Courtauld is one of nine leading institutions of higher education that form the CHASE Doctoral Training Partnership, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The Consortium annually offers a number of scholarships to PhD students from the UK and the European Union. For Home students, studentships cover tuition fees, research training, and a maintenance allowance. For EU students who eligible for a fee-only CHASE award, The Courtauld typically provides a Courtauld Scholarship that matches the maintenance portion of a full award. ). For further information, visit the CHASE website.

Further information about loans, grants, and bursaries to support you during your studies at The Courtauld can be found here.

Collaborative Doctoral Awards

We are delighted to be able to occasionally offer exciting Collaborative Doctoral Awards. These are specific, one-off projects proposed by a Courtauld-based academic to work in collaboration with an organisation outside of higher education.

We typically offer one Collaborative Doctoral Award each year – details will normally be published in April/May. Please check periodically for new award announcements.

Previous awards have included:

New Media Art Histories in Asia – AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award 

Global Surrealism: Tracing International Networks – AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award 

Net Art East: Post-Socialist Artists’ Networks and New Media – AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award

Careers & Employment

Many doctoral students aspire to advanced careers in the arts or academia, including roles in universities, museums, galleries, and non-profit organisations. Your supervisor and advisor will play an important role in counselling you around professionalisation and preparation for your future career. The PhD programme hosts a variety of other forums for career planning, discussions that begin in the first-year skills and methods seminar and continue throughout your time at The Courtauld.

Should you decide to pursue a career in a field outside those traditionally targeted by PhDs, you will find you degree has equipped you with superior skills in research, analysis, project design and management, and writing, among others. The Courtauld Careers Service offers bespoke, one-on-one advice and support for exploring career options, enhancing employability, understanding and navigating the jobs and self-employment market, and making successful applications. This service is available for all graduates for up to two years after graduation


To support you during your degree, we offer:

Wellbeing: We have a dedicated Wellbeing team, including counsellors and advisors, available to provide you support in your health and wellbeing.

Academic skills: In addition to the PhD skills and methods seminar offered to all doctoral students in their first year, the academic skills tutor offers group and one-to-one help further develop your research skills. We also have two Royal Literary Fund fellows who will help you with your writing skills, concentrating on how to structure your writing and prove your written expression.

Supervisor and Advisor: Your supervision team consists of both your primary supervisor and an advisor selected in consultation with your supervisor to provide complementary advice and support on research and writing. Structured and ad-hoc supervision sessions provide you with ongoing feedback and support as you develop your research.

Prospectus cover

Postgraduate Prospectus 2020/21

Download the prospectus

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