Graduate Diploma in the History of Art

Students take notes in a lecture theatre

Course Overview


Applications open


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


9 months (full-time)

Awarding body

University of London


30 students per year

The Graduate Diploma is a concentrated form of the undergraduate degree and gives graduates of other disciplines the opportunity to apply their existing skills to the study of Art History. According to the prestigious QS World University Rankings 2023, The Courtauld has been ranked as one of the top three universities worldwide for the study of History of Art. The curriculum – revised for 2023/4 – offers teaching across an unrivalled breadth of periods and cultures. You will have the opportunity to study art and architecture from late antiquity to the present, and from across the globe: from Byzantium to the Early Modern Islamic World, from Medieval and Renaissance Europe to International Modernism, and from Contemporary China to Black art histories. Our teachers are researchers at the cutting edge of their areas of specialism and they bring their knowledge, discoveries and ideas to discuss with you in seminars, lectures, gallery visits and tutorials. The modules we teach are directly shaped by the tutor’s research and partly for that reason, they change from year to year – modules outlined below are therefore indicative of subjects that may be on offer.

In each semester, you will take a ‘Foundations’ module, offering a broad picture of art historical themes and methods. You will also take two further core modules, examining works of art as physical objects (Physical Histories) and scrutinising the role that museums play in society (Critical Museology). Alongside these, you will take a selection of modules across the two semesters, devoted to looking in depth at themes, periods and approaches in the History of Art. Finally, you will write a 5,000-word assessed essay, supported by a supervisor, which allows you to explore a particular issue and develop your independent research skills. The teaching is a mixture of lectures (with up to 150 students) and seminars (in groups of 10–15 students).

The programme is supported by a personal tutor and by study sessions and workshops on topics such as reading art historical texts and essay writing. Students have access to all that The Courtauld has to offer, including world-class events run by the Research Forum, careers events and one-to-one sessions with professional writers. In addition to the compulsory elements of the programme, you are welcome to attend lectures from other programmes, including other optional modules which range across art historical periods and approaches to the discipline.

The Diploma is particularly suitable for people coming back into higher education after a period away, or those who want to gain a broad overview of the possibilities of Art History before moving on to more specialised study. It provides a rigorous and solid foundation for further postgraduate work, and many graduates from the programme continue to an MA at The Courtauld or elsewhere. Others go on to careers in the art world, such as art education or publishing, or combine skills and knowledge from a previous career with Art History to take an entirely new path. There are others who take the Diploma purely for their own satisfaction and personal development. Whatever your motivation, you will become part of a diverse and rich cohort, ready to share experiences and knowledge in a way that fosters high levels of engagement, academic achievement and a unique sense of community that often long outlasts the taught programme itself.

Download the prospectus:

Postgraduate Prospectus 23-24

Entry Requirements

 UK qualifications: Students will normally have achieved a good 2.1 in their Bachelor’s degree, considered to be an overall average 65% or above.

Overseas qualification: Equivalent to a good 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

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

Please note that applicants are invited to interview on a case-by-case basis.

Teaching Programme and Structure

The Graduate Diploma consists of the following elements:

Foundations 1 and 2: A series of lectures, dealing with a range of major themes and issues from antiquity to the present day across the globe, runs in two parts in semesters 1 and 2. It is supported by discussion classes of about 15 students which help you to build up your confidence in looking, thinking, discussing, and writing about Art History.

Physical Histories: A new module taken in semester 1, taught with input from colleagues in our conservation department, which encourages you to understand and interpret works of art via close looking at their material characteristics. Teaching takes the form of lectures, supported by small group discussions, workshops and visits.

Critical Museology: In semester 2, you move to considering the role of museums in societies (past, present, and future), and how display contexts can shape (and also limit) the understanding of works of art and architecture. Making use of London collections, you will think analytically about the particular display choices, methods and narratives adopted by different museums and galleries.

Optional modules: You take two of several available modules, exploring different art histories and critical methods. These will either take the form of a once-weekly lecture with an accompanying weekly seminar, or a longer once-weekly seminar. Modules are assigned taking into account student preference, but please note that in order to retain small group teaching and appropriate range across your Diploma we are unable to guarantee specific choices. The modules on offer differ in any given year, but have previously included:

  • From Shiraz to Beijing: Persian Arts in the Global Fifteenth Century
  • Cold War Cultures: Art in a Divided World 1945–1991
  • Mapping Contemporary Asian Art
  • Approaching Van Eyck: Problems and Perspectives
  • From London to Namibia: Art, Travel and Imagination in the Middle Ages
  • Writing on Sculpture: Making, Inscribing and Viewing
  • Questions of Feminism
  • Writing French Modernism from Mallarmé to Matisse
  • Artists, Radicals, Mystics: European Art c. 1800

The Assessed Essay: This 5,000-word essay provides an opportunity to undertake a more substantial piece of independent research. It allows you to engage with an extended treatment of an object or issue on a subject of your choice, supported by a supervisor from amongst the faculty.


All students are required to take all elements of the course – a total of 120 credits. The Diploma is assessed in the following way:


Module                                  Credits (Percentage)

Foundations                          Semester 1: 15 credits (12.5%) / Semester 2: 15 credits (12.5%)

Physical Histories                 Semester 1: 15 credits (12.5%)

Critical Museology              Semester 2: 15 credits (12.5%)

Optional modules               15 credits per semester (25%)

5,000 word essay                30 credits (25%)

Fees and Funding

Tuition fees are available here.

Financial support for your studies

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

Please note students on this programme are not eligible for a student loan.

Careers and Employability

The Graduate Diploma programme is designed to enable you to build on previous careers or study, or to change career or direction. It equips students with highly transferable skills, relevant to a wide range of employment opportunities, or further academic study. Our graduates are not only equipped with a detailed knowledge and understanding of the History of Art, but also learn how to:

  • Analyse visual imagery and articulate sophisticated arguments in formal writing and in oral presentations.
  • Read critically and economically.
  • Assimilate complex material.
  • Formulate and express a broad range of different ideas.
  • Present research to a varied audience.
  • Develop independent research skills.
  • Experience collaborative work in groups.

With these skills, Courtauld graduates go on to further study and to jobs across the economy including:

Curators, Conservators, Art Dealers, Auction House experts, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, Publishers, Media professionals, Teachers, Banking and Finance, Journalists, Business / Marketing & Communications, Fashion buyers, Civil servants

All students can access bespoke, one-to-one careers guidance throughout their studies. The Courtauld Careers Service offers advice and support on exploring career and further study options, changing career, finding internships, enhancing employability, understanding and navigating the jobs and self-employment market, and making successful applications. This service is available to all graduates for up to two years after graduation.


To support you through the degree, we offer:

Wellbeing: We have a dedicated Wellbeing team, with counsellors and advisors.

Academic Skills: The academic skills tutor offers group and one-to-one help to develop the skills and confidence you need to succeed on the degree. We also have two Royal Literary Fund fellows who will help you with your writing skills – concentrating on how to structure and improve your writing.

Graduate Diploma in the History of Art Virtual Open Day

Studying at The Courtauld 2023/24: an overview