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MA History of Art (Modern and Contemporary Art)

Interpret art and forms of cultural production in the modern and contemporary era​

Year of entry: 2024 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2024 (semester dates)

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This course will take you on a journey that explores how art and visual culture speak to urgent global issues, including identity and memory, politics and social justice, health and technology, economies, and sustainability.

The study of modern and contemporary art allows us to understand the world we live in today and its historical development. We engage in a variety of approaches to the study of art, across different temporal and geographical contexts. We cover diverse artistic media, including painting, sculpture, installation, architecture, photography, film, video, performance, digital and ‘new’ media.

You'll be able to chose modules to study throughout your degree, either specialising or working across a range of areas. Our department also has strong connections to a range of museums and galleries across the north of England.

10 reasons to study at York

Find out more about the benefits of studying your MA in History of Art at York.

Research excellence

Our research is ranked first in the UK for its impact and environment - the support we give to researchers - according to the Times Higher Education’s ranking of the latest REF results (2021).

Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your established or emerging specialisms and designing research projects. You can study works of art from the last century, or focus on a specific period, issue, or media. At least two of your option modules, your research skills module and your dissertation must be completed on Modern and Contemporary Art. You can then choose two other options from different fields, or continue to focus on this area.

Our course requires you to connect close analysis of works of art to wider trends in local, national and global histories. You'll gain essential skills for careers in a wide range of arts and creative industries. You'll also learn advanced research, presentation and writing skills applicable across the world of work.

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


You’ll study artworks from geographically diverse regions. You also have the option to develop your interdisciplinary interests by taking modules in academic disciplines such as history, literature, archaeology, philosophy, sociology, media and communications, law, human rights, and via the Centre for Modern Studies.

Core modules

Option modules 

You will also study four option modules. At least two of these must pertain to Modern and Contemporary Art. Examples may include: 

The options available to you will be confirmed later in the year. For further information, please get in touch.

Interdisciplinary options

You can choose a limited number of modules from those offered by other humanities departments at York and by our centres.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff, and in line with Department/School academic planning.


You'll complete your dissertation with the support of your academic supervisor. The dissertation will be up to 15,000 words.

Recent dissertation topics have included:

  • Spatial politics of display in art in the late 20th century
  • Romanian art of the early 20th century and inter-war years: constructing and transforming national identity?
  • Richard Wright: contemporary wall-painting and the depiction of space
  • Interaction and interpretation in the branded museum in the twenty-first Century: a critical analysis of the presentation of Barbara Hepworth and her works and the construction of visual identities in contemporary museum practice
  • Resistant to representation: queer desire and the enslaved subject in the work of Glenn Ligon and Isaac Julien
  • Mapping the works of Beatriz Milhazes and interpreting her practice with styles from Brazil, North America and Europe

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 art historical studies, as relevant to chosen programme (Depth of Knowledge)
  • Synthesise information in a sophisticated and mature fashion and critically analyse a wide range of materials by rigorously applying observational, descriptive, analytical and methodological skills, as relevant to chosen programme (Methodological Rigor)
  • Formulate independent research questions stemming from the accurate location and evaluation of archival, written, and visual sources and informed by knowledge of scholarly arguments and relevant disciplinary approaches, as relevant to chosen programme (Originality)
  • Analyse and critique the assumptions, theoretical principles and the use of evidence employed in present and past scholarship and situate them within larger art historical dynamics, as relevant to chosen programme (Critical Evaluation)
  • Confidently present relevant information and sophisticated arguments verbally and visually to a high professional standard to a range of academic and other audiences (Communication and Digital Literacy)
    Initiate, conduct, and take responsibility for independent research projects, drawing on skills honed by graduate-level research training (Project Management).
  • Initiate, conduct, and take responsibility for independent research projects, drawing on skills honed by graduate-level research training (Project Management)
I am always interested in art and I was fascinated by the discussion of modernity during undergraduate study as an English major. I chose York because I really appreciated the flexibility to combine modules from different paths and different departments together.
Yayi, MA History of Art

Read more about the course from Yayi.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2024/25

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £10,590£23,900
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student 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.

  • UK (home) fees may increase in subsequent years (up to a maximum of 2%).
  • International fees may increase in subsequent years in line with the prevailing Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate (up to a maximum of 10%).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status.

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Funding information

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

We'll confirm more funding opportunities for students joining us in 2024/25 throughout the year.

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

Funding opportunities

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.

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.

Teaching format

Each option module is taught by weekly two-hour seminars. 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 six 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 Modern and Contemporary Research Cluster, and you'll benefit from our close links to the Centre for Modern Studies.

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 portfolio as your assessment. You'll also complete a dissertation.

A student analysing a piece of art
Two students examining work in a gallery

Studying here allows you to make your engagement with History of Art as personal as you’d like, with incredible opportunities to travel and develop outside your course.

Senah, History of Art student. Read more on Senah's blog.

Careers and skills

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, York Museums Trust and many more. Our collaborations will support your learning and research through modules jointly designed with the partnership institution, and with opportunities for exclusive studentships, work experience and privileged access to collections. Hear from some of our alumni about where their degree has taken them.

Career opportunities

  • curator/digital curator
  • heritage manager
  • conservationist
  • collections manager
  • marketing officer
  • art administrator

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
  • delivering projects to meet time constraints

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or equivalent. We welcome students who have previously studied History of Art, but also those from other backgrounds. Applicants below 2:1 or equivalent will be considered on condition of an interview with the programme leader
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

Additional requirements

You will need to submit an example of written work with your application. Please see our guidance on submitting written work.

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:

Minimum requirement
IELTS (Academic and Indicator) 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
Cambridge CEFR B2 First: 176, with 169 in each component
Oxford ELLT 7, minimum of 6 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 105 in all other components
LanguageCert SELT B2 with 33/50 in each component
LanguageCert Academic 70 with a minimum of 65 in each component
KITE 459-494, with 426-458 in all other components
Skills for English B2: Merit overall, with Pass with Merit in each component
PTE Academic 61, minimum 55 in each component
TOEFL 87, minimum of 21 in each component
Trinity ISE III Merit in all requirements

For more information see our postgraduate English language requirements.

If you haven't 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 English language test 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 online. 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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