BA History of Art

Students at BA History of Art lecture

Course Overview


Applications open via UCAS


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


3 years (full-time)

Awarding body

University of London


80 - 100 students per year

Course Overview

The History of Art degree at The Courtauld introduces students to a wide range of visual art from the ancient period up to the present day. The curriculum – revised in 2022/3 – 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 the African Diaspora. Our objects of study include buildings, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, performance and installation art, fashion history, design and more. Explore our taster lectures to gain a greater insight into studying at The Courtauld.

Over three years of study, our BA degree builds up a broad, deep and multifaceted understanding of Art History, encouraging both range and specialism and fostering subject-specific and transferable skills and knowledge. It encourages you to study works of art at first hand, including The Courtauld’s own extraordinary collections, and to understand them in the light of the latest critical approaches and ideas. You will read resources from our world-class library, including books, exhibition catalogues, articles and primary sources and will learn to articulate your own ideas in relation to them both orally and in writing.  All 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. You’ll also have the opportunity to study a language, and apply for dedicated funds to travel and see works of art you are studying.

Courtauld students come from all kinds of backgrounds, and most are studying the History of Art for the first time. History of Art is a broad, exciting humanities degree that prepares students for many, diverse career routes, and our students have gone on to a range of careers both within the cultural and heritage industries, the art world and beyond.

Strategic relationship with King’s College London
In January 2022, The Courtauld and King’s College London announced a relationship which will see our institutions collaborate on teaching, research and student experience, offering joint programmes and research. As a Courtauld student, you will have access to King’s facilities, in addition to all the existing facilities and services that we offer at The Courtauld. Language modules for undergraduate students are delivered by King’s Modern Languages Centre, and BA History of Art students will be invited to take part in student-led collaborative initiatives. Read more here.

Download the prospectus:

Undergraduate prospectus 23 / 24

Entry Requirements

You do not need any background in art history to apply.

We warmly encourage students of all backgrounds to apply to the Institute. If you are applying as a candidate from socio-economic groups that are under-represented in Higher Education, we are able to make you a lower offer than our typical entry requirement.

A-levels: Grades AAA-ABB (excluding General Studies).

There are no required subjects. However, art history involves a significant amount of writing and reading texts of different types, and you may therefore find that some experience (and of course enjoyment) of studying a humanities or other essay-based subject will be an advantage.

International A-levels: Applicants sitting International A and AS Levels can generally expect their grades to be accepted as comparable, grade for grade, to UK AS and A level grades.

GCSE: A grade A-C in a language is desirable but not required.

Scottish Highers: AAAAB or AAABB, (usually supplemented by two or more Advanced Highers).

If you are studying the Advanced Higher subjects, you are likely to be set AA for two subjects, and AAB for three subjects.

Welsh Baccalaureate: Advanced Diploma with two A grades at A-Level alongside the Core Certificate at Level 3.

International Baccalaureate (IB): a minimum 35 points overall.

European Baccalaureate: 80% overall.

Cambridge Pre-U: D3, D3, M2 in three Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects.


Access: Access to Humanities Diploma at Level 3 with 39 Level 3 credits from units awarded at Distinction, with the remaining credits at Merit.

International applicants

Entry requirements for many EU and International qualifications can be found here.

English Language proficiency: You will be expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written in order to apply. If your first language is not English, we will require proof of English proficiency – for details, please see the English Language Requirements page.

Mature Students

We welcome applications from mature candidates, defined as those at least 21 years old at the time of application. If you are a mature applicant, please forward a copy of your CV and any transcripts of results from recent study to our admissions team via email, in addition to completing the UCAS application form.

For further advice on entrance requirements, please contact Student and Academic Services. 

Please note that al applications are submitted through UCAS.

Structure & Modules

Each year you will take a combination of required and optional modules totalling 120 credits, with the whole degree equalling 360 credits. The first year will establish solid foundations in the subject through modules that introduce you to a range of periods, places, and methods, and with classes taught in London’s art collections. You will also study a foreign language. In the second year, you will take two core modules that explore works of art as physical objects (Physical Histories) and examine the role that museums play in society (Critical Museology). Alongside these, a range of optional modules is offered, exploring different art histories and critical methods. In your final year, you will be able to express preferences for Special Options and other electives, and to pursue your own research project, culminating in a dissertation. We will accommodate your choice wherever possible, keeping in mind the value we place on research-led teaching in small seminar groups of ten to twelve students.

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.

Year one

The first year is designed to give you a solid basis for the study of Art History by introducing you to broad content and key skills.

Core modules – 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.

Optional modules: In each semester, you will join a module that focuses on the first-hand study of art in London, making the most of the world class works in museums and galleries that surround us. These are taught in groups of ten to twelve students and meet weekly. Indicative topics include:

• Contemporary Art in London
• Sensory Encounters with Dress and Textiles
• Techniques and Meaning in 20th Century Art
• Sites and Monuments
• Possibilities of Portraiture
• Persian Manuscripts
• Looking at the Overlooked in Early Modern Still Life
• Northern European Art in London Collections
• Graphic Arts in the Italian Renaissance
• Westminster Abbey

Academic Literacies: Throughout your first year, you will attend sessions and undertake tasks that support your transition to undergraduate level work, honing skills in writing fluently, reading critically and looking analytically – essential as you find
your own voice as an art historian.

Language: We strongly believe in the importance of offering you the chance to learn or improve a foreign language. It gives you
insights into another culture, helps connect you with other people, and provides you access to new literature and ways of thinking. It is also increasingly important as a way to stand out in the job market. You will study a language initially during your first year, though you may elect to take it further over the course of your degree. Language teaching is provided through the
Modern Languages Centre at King’s College London and a wide range of languages is available to you including French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin.

Year two

The second year is designed to help you develop your skills in critical thinking and extend your detailed knowledge of particular art historical periods and themes.

Core module – Physical Histories: A pioneering 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.

Core module – Critical Museology: In semester 2, you will 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: In each semester you will take a range of modules that look at a particular period, theme or event in the History of Art, situating it in relation to the different ways in which it has been understood or approached. You will also be introduced to theoretical and methodological frameworks for thinking about art and art history. Modules are taught weekly though a combination of lectures and seminars in groups of ten to twelve students. Indicative titles include:

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

Year three

The third year of the BA enables you to explore specialised topics in depth, and helps you to find your own critical voice as a writer and art historian.

Core module – BA Research: Beginning in semester 1, you will be supported in honing your skills in independent research, defining an area you wish to explore and establishing appropriate parameters, research questions and approaches before embarking on a sustained piece of work, supervised by a member of our teaching faculty. The research module culminates in the writing of an 8,000-word dissertation, to be submitted at the end of semester 2. For many students, this is one of the most rewarding aspects of the degree.

Optional modules: In your final year, you will be able to express preferences for Special Options and other electives, some of which may be delivered through departments at King’s College London.

You will meet twice a week in a Special Option seminar group, one in each semester. These modules are designed to engage with materials and methods at an advanced level, and to equip students for further study or for a broad range of careers. Indicative Courtauld modules include:

• Reassembling Modernism: Artists’ Networks in Europe 1909–1960
• Beyond Painting and Sculpture: Happenings and Performance through the Twentieth Century
• Leisure, Commerce and Crime in the Victorian Metropolis
• Monuments and Memory
• Art and Empire in Eighteenth- century London
• Dripping Guts and Heavenly Wonders: the Body as Subject and Object in North Western Europe 1100–1450
• Afro-Queerness and the Black Body
• Surrealism: History, Themes and Concepts
• Art and the Modern Nation: from Medieval Islam to Post- Modern Iran
• Investigating Michelangelo: Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and the Myth of the Artist

Teaching & Assessment

The BA course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminar and discussion classes, site visits and one-to-one tutorial meetings.

Seminar classes are held in classes of up to 12 students to facilitate an intimate environment in which to study and engage with subjects in depth with your teacher and your classmates.

Lectures are delivered and taught to the full student cohort, and are supported by discussion classes in which you are divided into smaller groups of up to 15 students. The discussion classes enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of topics covered in lectures in a setting where you are invited to actively participate in debates and discussion.

In addition, you have timetabled meetings with your personal tutor at least once per term and you can always request further meetings with your personal tutor should you wish.

Throughout your degree, you will be taught by a mixture of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and doctoral researchers, who bring a rich diversity of knowledge and experience to the classroom. Our faculty come from many different backgrounds across the world and are among the leading experts in their field. They have published important works about their areas of expertise, and will introduce you to the excitement and dynamism of their cutting-edge research.


The degree is assessed by a range of methods, including coursework, independent study, take-home and sat exams and a final-year dissertation. You must pass the first year in order to progress to the second year (pass mark: 40%). The second year counts towards 40% of your final degree average and the third year counts towards the remaining 60%.

Fees, Funding, Scholarship & Bursary

Tuition fees:

Tuition fees are available here.

Undergraduate Student loans:

Please visit the Student Finance England website for further information and to apply online.


The Courtauld is committed to making its degree accessible to all suitably qualified Home students. We offer financial support, up to £3,000 per year, on a sliding scale for Home undergraduate students who meet set criteria. More information can be found here.


The James Hughes-Hallett Undergraduate Scholarship has been established through generous philanthropy to support students who are from groups that are underrepresented in UK Higher Education. The scholarship is worth £10,000 over the duration of your three-year degree. More information can be found here.


In addition, many final year special options include short group trips with the lecturer to see the art they are studying. These trips are generously subsidised according to their location (UK or abroad), and are planned with the subsidies in mind in order to minimise any additional costs for students. However, it is possible that subsidies will not cover all costs in some instances. Students are encouraged to speak to Student and Academic Services, should they need further support.

Careers & Employability

The BA 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

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, 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.

Find out more about careers and alumni here.


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.

Personal tutor: You will be supported throughout your degree by a personal tutor, who will meet with you regularly to discuss your work and progress, assist you in selecting appropriate modules and offer guidance in your future plans.

Get Involved Now

Learning Programme: If you are a student attending a non-selective state school or college and you want to discover what Art History is all about, we run many exciting programmes which are free of charge and led by Courtauld art historians, curators and contemporary artists. You can participate in workshops, projects, lectures, courses and discussions, and even presentations of your own. This includes our Year 12 Art History Summer University. Find out more here.

The Research Forum deliver an extensive programme of lectures, conferences, workshops and seminars supporting advanced inquiry into the History of Art, Conservation and Curating. We host around 150 events per year, from research group seminars to lecture series catering to a wider interest. Our varied programme of events look to different periods and themes in art, visual culture and its history.  Explore upcoming events, and watching recordings of previous events, here.

The Courtauld Gallery is home to one of the greatest art collections in the UK. The gallery is most famous for its iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces– such as Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere – but also displays major paintings, drawings and decorative arts from the Renaissance through to the 20th century.  Tickets to The Courtauld Gallery’s main collection are free for 18 and under, and for students. You can book your ticket here. You can also explore the Gallery virtually here.

Our students & alumni

Meet our students

Rosie: For me, coming to The Courtauld has changed my life, and definitely for the better. I had never studied History of Art before and had only been to three art galleries before arriving to study in London. I had also been working in a supermarket on a not so glamorous gap year, so felt incredibly detached from any hint of academic life, but none of this was a problem when it came to engaging with the degree.

Teaching here introduces everyone to varied, global and thought-provoking material while diving into the depths of the theory behind it. The first year allows you to construct essays creatively, unpressured by your final year grade, so you have all year to work out your writing style and the technicalities of academic essays. Your seminar leaders and lecturers encourage maximum engagement with all the galleries and museums that London has to offer, hundreds of thousands of artworks that can’t be seen in person in any other city.

Hannuri: The Courtauld has opened my eyes to a broad range of art historical discussions. From Medieval Reliquaries to Contemporary Asian photography, I have developed an interest in diverse forms of art and how they could express reoccurring ideas beyond time and space. From the beginning of my first year, I have noticed that The Courtauld was being very vocal about the decentering of the Eurocentric canon of Art History, striving to incorporate multiple sociocultural narratives into the discussion. The lectures and researches reflect the progressive aims, acknowledging the marginalised voices and highlighting the dominant frameworks at work in the writing of Art History.

As an international student, coming to London was a big transitional moment in my life. Whilst the city offers immediate access to museums, galleries, and historical sites, the course enriches such moments of encounter. Even outside of academics, The Courtauld community has been very supportive and caring such as through regular meetings with tutors and professors and the Student Union’s social events. As a small community, it was a huge benefit that I have got to know everyone in my grade and have made friends who share similar interests yet diverse ideas.

Read more about our students here

Meet our alumni

Charlie Casely-Hayford (BA 2009) – Fashion

Charlie Casely-Hayford is a fashion designer and founder of the internationally renowned menswear brand Casely-Hayford, which he co-founded at the age of just 22. Clients have included Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Smith, Drake, John Legend and David Beckham.

Jennifer Scott (BA 2001) – Public Galleries

Jennifer Scott is the first female Director of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, a vibrant cultural hub hosting some of the UK’s leading exhibitions alongside its Permanent Collection of Baroque masterpieces. Under Jennifer’s creative leadership the gallery has seen a bold programme of events and collaborations, as well as sold-out exhibitions such as Rembrandt’s Light in 2019.

Atticus Ross (BA 1989) – Music and Film

Atticus Ross is a musician and composer, who won both an Oscar and an Academy Award for Best Original Score for the film The Social Network in 2010. He also won the 2021 Golden Globe Award for his soundtrack for the Disney film Soul. He has recently received two BAFTA nominations, two Oscar nominations and received an Emmy for Watchmen in 2020. When not composing award-winning scores for films, Atticus is also a member of the rock band Nine Inch Nails, which in 2020 was accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Find out more about our alumni

Open Day talk | Undergraduate overview