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MA History of Art (Sculpture Studies)

Investigate a wide range of sculptures and sculptural practices

2018/19 entry


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

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From past cultures to contemporary society, sculpture continues to be an essential part of human space.

You’ll be able to study sculpture stretching across a wide field of material aspects ranging from large scale, urban monuments, to intimate figurines to surface structures such as ornamentation. You’ll also engage with concepts of the conservation, documentation and installation of sculpture and questions of its site-specificity.

Our flexible degree programme encompasses a wide variety of sculpture and related visual practices from the antique to the contemporary. You'll learn practically with field trips to some of the internationally significant centres for sculptural display and study in the region such as the Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Henry Moore Institute. You can also study modules that are jointly designed and taught in collaboration with the Tate.

We are one of the largest and most vibrant History of Art departments in the UK, recognised for the excellence of our research environment and research-led teaching.

We have developed successful partnerships with museums, galleries and country houses which will enrich your studies and may offer you placement opportunities and privileged access to collections.


Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your established or emerging specialisms, and designing exciting research projects. You will also develop a heightened methodological awareness, helping you to forge a more sophisticated understanding of how artworks create meaning, and why some artworks have been deemed culturally more significant than others.

The course enables you to develop advanced skills in verbal and written communication, and effective project management. You will acquire a high level of expertise in visual analysis and art historical research through object-focused study and an intensively researched MA dissertation.

You also have the option to develop your interdisciplinary interests by taking modules in related academic disciplines such as history, literature, archaeology, philosophy, sociology and others.

Our expert academic staff support you every step of the way through personalised, small-group teaching, individual tutorials and field trips. 

Sculpture on building


You'll learn about different approaches to a range of three-dimensional objects across different periods, ranging from the Anglo Saxon period to contemporary explorations of the idea of ‘sculpture’. You'll learn about early twentieth century notions of ‘direct carving’ and ‘truth to materials’ in the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, and the ‘readymade’ objects of the Dadaists and surrealists in Europe. You'll be able to explore other kinds of sculptural objects such as three-dimensional objects made from unusual, non-art materials, installation art and other kinds of ‘mixed media’ works from the 1950s in internationally diverse geographic locales.

You'll study one core module and four option modules. Further information about the degree structure.

Core module: Research Skills and Methods in History of Art (10 credits)

You'll study archival, bibliographic and art-historical resources, and you'll be introduced to a range of significant methodologies. You'll learn how to apply and adapt methodologies appropriate to your own research and to develop your own independent research skills.

Option modules (20 credits each):

The list of options offered each year will vary according to staff availability, but will include modules to which curatorial or research staff from Tate will contribute. Read more about your choice of option modules.

You can choose up to two option modules from those offered by other humanities departments at York and by our world-class Interdisciplinary Centres in the Humanities.

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


You'll complete your dissertation during the Summer Term and summer vacation with the support of your academic supervisor. The dissertation will be 15,000-20,000 words. You'll submit this in September, and it will account for 50% of your final degree mark.

Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • The Politics of Parian: Examining the Role of John Bell's Slave Sculptures in a Domestic Victorian Environment 
  • The Art of the Weave: An analysis of interface as signifier and binding, bringing together textiles and stone sculpture in Anglo-Saxon England
  • Ornamentalism: Edward Onslow Ford's Indian Portrait Sculptures
  • Heroes and the Holy: The Role of the Church in the Production of Stone Sculpture in Deira, c. 850-1000
I have been able to bring history, anthropology, and theology skills into my History of Art study. My critical thinking and visual analysis skills have become sharper. I love being able to look at something unfamiliar now and try to work out a way to understand it.
Tabbetha, MA History of Art

Read more about the course from our students.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year)£7,580£16,780
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Department scholarship information

A wide range of funding opportunities includes placements with funding from the Department's partnership studentships with museums and galleries, AHRC-funded studentships offered via the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities, departmental studentships, overseas scholarships, travel fellowships, and funding for students with specific research interests.

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

Easy access to amazing local resources

Discover a rich variety of sculpture nearby, in parish churches, high-profile museums and our partnership institutions. Explore the extensive collections of classical sculpture in local country houses and the internationally significant collections of modern and contemporary sculpture in the Henry Moore Institute, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Wakefield. Visit Yorkshire's surviving works of Anglo-Saxon sculpture, and the York area's later medieval sculptures in wood and stone.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

Each optional module is taught by weekly two-hour seminars, and the core module is taught on a fortnightly basis. You'll have the opportunity to go on field-trips organised by the Department to view art and architecture, these will be an integral part of your learning.

You'll be taught with lectures, seminars and one-to-one meetings with your lecturer or supervisor. You'll have between seven and nine hours on average per week of classes.
You'll study independently for 31-33 hours per week on average. This time gives you space to read widely and develop your thoughts on specialised topics.

We offer an extensive programme of research seminars and events which are an invaluable way to engage with different aspects of your subject, along with discussing module themes with your peers, and the staff weekly office hours.


You'll be part of the vibrant interdisciplinary Humanities Research Centre and as a History of Art student you'll also have access to extensive resources.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of History of Art on Campus West.

Most of your contact hours will be in Vanbrugh College, with some additional teaching on Campus West and King's Manor in the city.

Course location

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You'll submit a 4,000 word essay per optional module. For the Research Skills and Methods in History of Art module, you'll produce a dissertation synopsis as your assessment. You'll also complete a dissertation.

Hepworth Wakefield field trip
Dryad by Austin Wright in front of Heslington Hall

Careers and skills

Watch our video to find out more about your career and placement opportunities. 

We offer amazing partnerships and placements with numerous museums and galleries that will help you in your future career. We work with the National Gallery, Tate, the V&A, and York Museums Trust. We have excellent relationships with regional museums, galleries and country houses— including the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Castle Howard, the Hepworth Wakefield, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and the Henry Moore Institute. Our collaborations will support your learning and research through modules jointly designed with the partnership institution, and with opportunities for exclusive partnership studentships, work experience and privileged access to collections. The course prepares you for higher research degrees and a range of possible careers. Read about some of our alumni and where their degree has taken them.

Career opportunities

  • Museums, galleries and auction houses
  • Cultural management
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Journalism and media
  • Teaching
  • Academia
  • Education
  • Art administration

Transferable skills

  • The ability to analyse and interpret information from different sources
  • Intellectual independence and autonomy
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Applying and adapting methodologies appropriate to your own research
  • You'll be familiar with principal archival, bibliographic and art-historical resources
  • Delivering projects to meet time constraints
My time as a graduate student partner at Yorkshire Sculpture Park has been incredibly eye-opening and stimulating. I spend one day a week in their offices working with the curatorial staff and program assistants.
Kat, MA History of Art (Modern and Contemporary Art)

Read more from Kat. Read Kat and Becca's blog.

Entry requirements

Qualification Grade

We welcome students who have previously studied History of Art, but also those from other backgrounds.

You should have, or be about to complete, a 2:1 undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification.

We will consider applications from mature students or applicants without formal academic qualifications if you have substantial related experience. We may ask you for an interview in this instance.

If you are unsure about your eligibility, or want an informal chat about whether this course would be suitable for you, please contact us.

The international equivalents of UK qualifications are shown on our country-specific pages. You can also contact the international team for guidance.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability.

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 6.0 in Writing and no less than 5.5 in all other components
  • PTE: 67, with a minimum of 55 in Writing and no less than 51 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 169 in Writing and no less than 162 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 21 in Writing, 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading and 20 in Speaking
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all requirements


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

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Department of History of Art