My Graduate Diploma experience

Hi, I am Alfie and I’m currently studying the Graduate Diploma in the History of Art. I joined the programme at The Courtauld coming from the Heritage Sector where I had been working in PR after graduating from UCL with a BASc in Arts and Sciences. I had always been torn between the arts and science and something my head of sixth form had said always resonated with me, it was along the lines of ‘art is the basis of my interest in everything’.

After graduating and while working, I soon saw that I too was always drawn to visual and material culture. I started writing exhibition reviews for a start-up app and really enjoyed having a foot in the art world but felt I didn’t have the knowledge to confidently talk about art. I looked into doing a Master’s in Art History but found the Graduate Diploma at The Courtauld, which although in some ways is a more intense period of study, as it is effectively a condensed version of the three-year undergraduate degree, and felt better suited to my needs as I hadn’t studied art history before and didn’t have a specific interest, especially for a Master’s level dissertation. The Graduate Diploma with the complete survey course and the shorter assessed essay was a better option for me as I could cover the basics while digging deeper into areas I found interesting and would then still have the option for further study later.

My experience at The Courtauld has been the antithesis of my experience at UCL. The size of the university means you get to know everyone, staff and students alike, small things like getting to know the caretakers and the fact that the common room is shared by everyone makes a huge difference to the warmth of a place. The Grad Dip is also interesting in that there is a huge range of people on the course from those coming straight from education to those returning after a long career or even studying for the first time.

It is a great opportunity to meet a variety of people united by their interest in art. The Student Union has also been incredibly active in organising events from the balls and views of current Courtauld exhibitions to supporting the plethora of student led societies. I greatly underestimated how much there was to do and learn from outside of formal teaching. In hindsight I would have lived much closer to campus as there is always something going on at uni whether it be a talk at the Research Forum (also available on Youtube), a networking event from the Careers Service or just a social night. If the library was a 24 hour one you could definitely live at university without have a dull day.

Unfortunately, the year goes extremely fast, and I am already two weeks from submitting the assessed essay, I would have never thought I would be writing about Islamic ceramics, having known next to nothing about Islamic art and culture. But my module on Medieval Spain ignited a passion for Spanish Lustreware that has seen me nestled in the National Art Library at South Kensington, toiling through their catalogues to analyse the continuum of Islamic motifs in the Albarelli of Christian owned workshops. Interestingly, studying Muslim craftsman and their treatment during the Reconquista of Southern Spain has taught me pertinent lessons in identity politics and nationalism. Relevant to current affairs in Southern Spain today, as well as back home on the South coast of England.