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MA History of Art (Architectural History and Theory)

Explore architectural and art history across different times and cultures

Year of entry: 2020/21


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2020 (term dates)

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Our course will change the way you think about architecture. 

Architecture is fundamental to human survival and living in the world. You'll investigate the exact nature of our relationship with art and architecture, which is much disputed by architectural historians and theorists. At York we enable you to explore some of the most exciting, and cutting-edge, as well as traditional and accepted, of ideas and theories around art and architecture.

Our flexible course has exceptional historical and geographical breadth and depth. You’ll read architecture critically, and think about architecture beyond the study of individual buildings. We encourage you to engage with architecture as metaphor, interiors, exteriors, materials and materiality, urbanism, patronage, and design process. You’ll explore the relationships between architecture and power, religion, gender and sexuality, education, and imperialism. You’ll be able to study a module that is jointly taught in collaboration with our partners (eg the Tate or the V&A).

We are one of the largest History of Art departments in the UK, with one of the most wide-ranging groups of experts in architectural history and theory. 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.

The reputation and access to medieval architecture here is truly incredible and the university’s vicinity to the Minster is a huge source of inspiration in my research.
George, MA History of Art (Architectural History & Theory)

Read more about the course from George.

Research excellence

We are first in the UK for History of Art research impact according to Times Higher Education’s ranking of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your established or emerging specialisms and designing research projects. You'll heighten your methodological awareness, helping you to forge a more sophisticated understanding of how art and architecture create meaning and why some works have been deemed culturally more significant than others.

The course enables you to develop advanced skills in communication, and effective project management. You'll be given specialist training in archival work and the study of drawings. You'll 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 archaeology, history, literature, 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.

At least two of your option modules, your research skills module and your dissertation must be completed on Architectural History and Theory. You can either specialise entirely in this area, or select up to two option modules from other fields.

Taken full-time, the one-year taught MA consists of:

  • Autumn and Spring Terms: Research Skills and Methods in Architectural History and Theory. 
  • Autumn Term: two taught option modules of your choice. 
  • Spring Term: two further modules of your choice.
  • Summer Term and vacation: a dissertation of 15,000 words.

If you study the course part-time you'll take one option in each of the Autumn and Spring Terms, and work on your dissertation during the Summer Terms and vacations.


You can focus on time periods: medieval, early modern, and modern, or explore geographically in Britain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. You can study methodologically by approaches including historical materialism, critical theory, materiality, patronage and feminism. You can also benefit from our significant expertise in stained glass, architectural drawings, architectural models, urbanism, rural buildings and environments, domestic and religious architecture. 

You'll study one core module and four option modules. 

Core module

Architectural History and Theory: Research Skills and Methods (10 credits)

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 our partners will contribute. It is expected that more modules will be added before the start of the academic year.

Term 1

Term 2

You can choose up to two option modules from those offered by other humanities departments at York and by our interdisciplinary centres.

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 words. You'll submit this in September, and it will account for 50% of your final degree mark.

Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • The built surface at Blenheim: a discussion of process and materiality in English Baroque
  • Richard Wright: contemporary wall-painting and the depiction of space
  • "You saw the crescents, we saw the whole of the Hulme": a revised approach to modernist planning and community architecture in Hulme, Manchester
  • Constructing an identity: the assemblage architecture of York Art Gallery

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Demonstrate in-depth understanding of current research, theoretical approaches, context, sources and advanced scholarship at the forefront of architectural history and theory.
  • Synthesise information in a sophisticated and mature fashion and critically analyse a wide range of buildings and settlements by rigorously applying observational, descriptive, analytical and methodological skills.
  • Deploy knowledge of specialist fields within the broader remit of architectural history and theory - examples might include Le Corbusier's housing theory, architecture and gender, English Gothic architecture, or the politics of the interior in Renaissance villas - in order to formulate innovative questions regarding the uses, the contexts and the underlying conditions of the build environment and answer them from original readings of archival, written, visual and spatial sources.
  • Analyse and critique the assumptions, theoretical principles and the use of evidence employed in present and past ideas about architecture and situate them within larger urban, national and trans-national dynamics.
  • Confidently present relevant information and sophisticated arguments verbally and visually to a high professional standard to a range of academic and other audiences.
  • Initiate, conduct, and take responsibility for independent research projects, drawing on skills honed by graduate-level research training.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2020/21

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year) £8,040£18,240
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

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 additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

I am focussing on medieval stained glass traditions. In the city you will meet with an abundance of churches. All slightly different but all a treasure trove of medieval delights. One of my modules ‘Art and Imagery of the York Minster’ is based in the Minster itself and at King’s Manor. Being able to learn about a building whilst being in the building itself is incredible.
Becca, MA History of Art (Medieval Art and Medievalisms)

Read more from Becca in her blog. Read more from our students.

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

We're making changes to comply with rules on social distancing. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students

Teaching format

Each option module is taught by weekly two-hour seminars, and the core module is taught on a fortnightly basis. You'll also usually have the chance to go on field-trips to view art and architecture.

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. You'll be able to attend related lectures, conferences or site visits offered by the Architectural History and Theory Research School.

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.

About our campus

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 option module. For the Research Skills module, you'll produce a dissertation synopsis as your assessment. You'll also complete a dissertation.

Art Gallery Columns King's Manor
Louis Vuitton Fondation

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 architectural and design department of the V&A, the National Gallery, Tate, 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, with the 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
  • Architectural design, planning, and urban design
  • Environmental work
  • 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
  • Time management

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent. We welcome students who have previously studied History of Art, but also those from other backgrounds.
Other qualifications and experience 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.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Qualification Minimum requirement
IELTS 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
PTE Academic 61, minimum 55 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements
Duolingo Minimum overall score of 110

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current IELTS scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


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

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