MA History of Art

Course Overview


Full time


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


9 months

Awarding body

University of London


180-200 students per year

The Courtauld MA History of Art provides the best in research-led teaching by world class faculty in a unique, single-subject setting. It is renowned for offering outstanding training in the specialised analytical and communication skills necessary for further research or for employment both in the arts sector and across a wide range of other careers. The programme excels at developing wellrounded and intellectually astute art historians and museum professionals equipped to make an important contribution to public life.

Special Options, ordinarily taught in small groups of 8–10 remain, the hallmark of The Courtauld MA History of Art. Renowned for their rigour, their breadth and scope continues to expand, with options on Eastern Europe, China, the Middle East, Latin America and Russia. Special options range across media, temporalities and geographies to include topics such as ‘Strolling Isfahan: Masters, Merchants and Monarchs’, ‘Countercultures: Alternative Art in Eastern Europe and Latin America 1959–1989’ and ‘Photography, Film and Video in Global Contemporary Art’. Recent additions to the programme include ‘Beyond Abstract Expressionism: American Origins, Global Afterlives’ and ‘Wordplay: Intersections between the verbal and the visual, c.1870 to the present’.

The MA History of Art structure combines our long-standing commitment to specialism with new means to foster fresh dialogues among students from across our tightly-knit community. Throughout the first term, you will attend a signature weekly lecture course designed and delivered by faculty to explore cutting-edge thinking from across the breadth of our discipline, followed up by discussion classes led by our outstanding community of research students. You will also have expanded opportunities to participate in shared interest study strands designed to complement your chosen Special Option.

The Courtauld MA History of Art provides you with outstanding tailored support and supervision to help you to realise your full academic potential and to go on to flourish in your career.

Download the prospectus

Postgraduate Prospectus 2021/22

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).

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

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

Teaching and programme structure

The Courtauld MA History of Art combines a range of teaching methods and learning strands, delivered by way of lectures, seminars, discussion groups and individual tutorials. The course is structured as follows:

TERM 1: Students attend two classes per week as part of their Special Option: one per week takes the form of a Special Option seminar, the other may take the form of Shared Interest seminar or lecture, bringing together different Special Option groups around shared historical or theoretical concerns to provide a robust foundation for further specialisation. In addition to their Special Option and Shared Interest classes, students now participate in a flagship art historical methodologies component at the start of each week. This consists in weekly lectures delivered by permanent faculty, followed up by way of seminar discussions led by research students in groups of 10–12. Over the course of the Autumn Term, students complete a range of informally assessed writing and presentation tasks, and participate in planning and feedback tutorials devoted to the production of the first formally assessed essay.

TERM 2: Having begun planning and research for their second formally assessed essay over the Christmas break, students attend two Special Option seminars per week over the course of the second term. In addition to the taught component of the course, students spend the spring term researching and writing their second formally assessed essay and developing an independent virtual exhibition project. Planning for the dissertation begins following the submission of the Virtual Exhibition Project.

TERM 3: The third term is devoted to the research of writing of the 10,000 word Dissertation project. Students benefit from tailored individual support, one to one tutorials with faculty and receive extensive feedback on drafts of their dissertation. The results are often highly original contributions to scholarship across a wide field and are regularly commended by external examiners for being of exceptional, often publishable quality. Past MA History of Art Dissertations are made available for consultation and listed in our online library catalogue.


The formal assessment of MA History of Art is based on the following four components:

1. A 4,000 word essay relating to the special option, valued at 15% of the overall degree classification (Term 1).

2. A second 4,000 word essay relating to the special option, valued at 20% of the overall degree classification (Term 2).

3. A virtual exhibition assignment, involving the selection and presentation of works of art to be included in an exhibition addressing a particular theme, selected from a list provided for each epical option, valued at 15% of the overall degree classification (Term 2).

4. A 10,000 word dissertation, researched and written over a period of approximately three months with supervision from the special option leader. The topic generally arises from the previous two terms’ study. The dissertation is valued at 50% of the overall degree classification (Term 3).

Fees and Funding

Fees are subject to change each academic year. Fee information for 2020 / 21, including what qualifies as home, EU, and overseas fees, can be found here.

Financial support for your studies:

Postgraduate Master’s Loan Please visit the Student Finance England website for further information and to apply online.

Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit combined with financial need. The average postgraduate scholarship awarded in 2019/20 was £6,000. Applications are welcomed from Home, EU and Overseas students applying to or currently studying in 2020/21. Find out more about our scholarships.

Alumni Loyalty Scheme: This scheme is open to any graduate of The Courtauld Institute of Art admitted to a taught postgraduate programme of study. Recipients will receive a 10% loyalty discount off their tuition fee for the duration of the course.

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

Careers and Employability

The MA programme is designed to produce graduates with highly transferable skills, which will prepare you for 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

You 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, 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.

Meet our students and alumni

Meet our students

Yu: The study at The Courtauld is intense but fruitful at the same time. I studied Economics as an undergraduate and approached the world from very different perspectives. At the Courtauld, I have started learning Dutch and Latin and acquired completely new ways to explore art, history, and culture. I have realized art is a very complicated concept that is intertwined with many others, and that the interpretation of artworks should be based on the reconstruction of their specific social, political, and historical context. Surprisingly, studying Netherlandish art has also offered me new lenses to examine the culture that I come from. The Courtauld has turned what was invisible to me into exciting discoveries – I would say this is a life-changing experience.

Nina: One of my favourite things about the course is that, although you specialise in your period, there are evenings talks that cover a range of topics. I found the careers programme particularly useful. The alumni networking event gave us an opportunity to talk to successful Courtauld graduates and discuss the the next step in our career. Looking back over the year fondly, the study trip to Rome in January was a personal highlight. A travel fund from the University made the trip accessible for everyone.

Read more about our students here.

Meet our alumni

Naomi Beckwith (MA 1999) – Public Museums

Naomi Beckwith is Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, New York. She was previously Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) and was featured in Chicago Magazine’s ’50 Most Powerful Women in Chicago’ list in 2020. Naomi has also worked at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Her curatorial work focuses on the deficit of people of colour and women in the western art-historical canon, multi-disciplinary art practices and respecting cultural differences in an age of globalisation.

Ashitha Nagesh (MA 2013) – Journalism

Ashitha Nagesh is an award-winning journalist at BBC News. She has also produced pieces for BBC World Service Radio and BBC Radio 4 and has discussed her work on BBC Outside Source on World Service Radio, BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Scotland’s Podlitical and BBC Asian Network, amongst other radio shows. She previously worked as a Senior News Reporter for Metro and was a freelance art journalist for several years, writing articles for Apollo, Artforum, Art Press and many other arts publications.

Find out more about our alumni here.

Special Options