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Illumination of the king in parliament, 15th century (courtesy of the National Archives)

MA in the History of Art (by research)


About the MA by research


The MA by research consists of a 30,000-word thesis, researched and written over a period of one year full-time or two years part-time.


The dissertation is the sole component of this degree; there is no taught element. It is read by one external and one internal examiner. The external is an expert in the field in which the dissertation is written.


There are no marks awarded and examiners decide solely on pass, fail or referral.




This degree is designed for students who have already identified a specific research topic and who wish to focus exclusively on writing a thesis, working with a particular supervisor in our department.

Before applying

Prior to making an application, applicants are expected to consult other sections in this website for information on our areas of research and to contact potential supervisors to discuss the topic.

General enquiries are welcome at any time to our Postgraduate Administrators or the Chair of research studies, as appropriate.


Applicants should have a good 2.1 or 1st-class undergraduate degree, or equivalent. Exceptions can be made for applicants with an unusual career profile, but who have substantial related experience.

English Language requirements

If your first language is not English you will need to show evidence that you meet our English Language requirements. Read the University's full listings of accepted tests and scores.


Ordinarily, research students should live within reasonable travelling distance of their designated place of instruction, i.e. the university. However, when undertaking extensive fieldwork, the fieldwork location may be regarded as the designated place of instruction.

All research students are encouraged to participate in the wide range of research activities the department offers. These include research seminars, conferences, activities organized by our departmental research schools, study days and reading groups.

Students in York also take full advantage of resources such as the Raymond Burton Humanities Research Library and Borthwick Institute for Archives.


How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

Application guidance

Full guidance information about the process of applying can be found on the central web pages for postgraduate admissions:

Research proposal

The most important aspect of the research degree application is the research proposal of around 350 words. Applicants should discuss their topic and proposal with potential supervisor(s) prior to submitting an application, to establish whether the topic appears viable and a supervisor is available. The potential supervisor may require written work or request a meeting with the applicant either prior to or after a formal application. Preliminary support from a potential supervisor is normally a prerequisite for application, although it does not guarantee admission.

Sample of writing

Online applications

Files uploaded to online applications cannot exceed 1MB. You may therefore need to remove digital images from your work so that the file size does not exceed this limit.

We will read art-historical writing samples without images as long as your text indicates which images were originally included.

All research applicants should submit one sample of academic writing, c. 1500 words in length. Where possible the subject matter should concern art history, but if your background lies in other areas, we would welcome work in another field such as literature or history.

If you have any questions or concerns about the writing sample, contact the Postgraduate Administrators for advice.


Research degree applicants will normally be called for an interview at York with their potential supervisor and/or the Chair of research studies, either before or after submission of the application.

Applicants should be prepared to discuss the research proposal in depth, although the specific details will not be regarded as binding: applicants should be prepared to be flexible in adapting their interests to the sources and expertise available to them.

Overseas applicants may be asked to submit additional pieces of written work as an alternative to attending an interview, or they may be interviewed over the phone.

Deadline for applications

Research students normally begin their studies in October, but it is possible to commence at other points in the academic year, such as January, depending on circumstances. Thus the deadline for research degree applications is flexible.

Potential Supervisors

Potential Supervisors

The following members of staff* would be particularly interested to hear from research candidates with topics which fall within the following broad areas. However, these are by no means restrictive. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact our Postgraduate Administrators or Dr Tim Ayers (Research Programmes Chair)

*Please note that this list is not indicative of current staff availability.

Staff Research areas 
Prof Tim Ayers British art and architecture of the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries.
Dr Ana Bilbao Yarto Curating contemporary art; histories of exhibition-making and art institutions; contemporary art from the Global South.
Dr James Boaden Post-war and contemporary art history.
Prof Sarah Brown The relationship between stained glass art and craft and the interactions between art history and conservation.
Prof Jason Edwards British, American and European sculpture in its global contexts, c.1760-1914; queer theory; animal studies; the polar world. 
Prof Anthony Geraghty British architectural history, 1550-1900, particularly architectural drawing, the English baroque, and architecture and intellectual history. 
Prof Jane Hawkes Early medieval / Anglo-Saxon art, the history of its study, and the area of medieval revival art. 
Dr Richard Johns British art, especially of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Dr Teresa Kittler Artistic practices from 1945 to the present day, specifically Italian postwar art and primarily on issues related to art and the environment and questions related to gender.
Dr Richard McClary Islamic art and architecture; the architecture and ceramic arts of the wider Iranian world from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries.
Dr Jeremy Melius  Modern art and art writing, especially in Britain, c. 1840-1960; critical theory and aesthetics;
historiography; afterlives of medieval and early modern art; histories of sexuality.
Prof Jeanne Nuechterlein Any aspect of fifteenth of sixteenth-century German or Netherlandish art.
Dr Jessica Richardson Italian art c.1300–1550; Materiality and the agency of matter; Temporality; Magic, the supernatural and the miraculous image (image/relic); Image, ritual space and the performance of script; The reception, reworking and display of ‘medieval’ art.
Dr Erhan Tamur  Ancient Western Asian art; museum studies; art historical and archaeological theory; politics of archaeology; theory and practice of decolonization
Dr Hanna Vorholt Medieval art, especially illuminated manuscripts and the early history of the book; Jerusalem in Western medieval art and architecture; Romanesque art and its cultural and intellectual contexts; medieval encyclopedias, maps and diagrams. 
Prof Michael White Twentieth-century art, architecture and design, particularly modernism, the avant-gardes and abstract art.
Dr Cordula van Wyhe Early modern cultural history with particular reference to the seventeenth-century Low Countries. Major interests include the history of dress (including fashion), Rubens, religious and political imagery, royal patronage, and early modern court culture.


Admissions enquiries


For information on applying, please see individual programmes pages and the university's central admissions pages.

For questions specific to the History of Art courses, please contact:


From the very beginning my experience of the History of Art department at York has been one of sincere welcome, friendship, help and support.

Current MA by Research student, Joy Bailey

Further information: