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MA History of Art (British Art)

Investigate the global process of cultural production with British Art from the Anglo-Saxon to the contemporary

Year of entry: 2019


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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British art making has been at the heart of a wide range of world-wide networks and dialogues, from the material culture of Anglo-Saxon Britain through the painting and sculpture of eighteenth-century and Victorian Britain, to British Modernism and Britart.

Studying on our MA in British art you’ll investigate notions of national, imperial, cosmopolitan and global visual and material cultures; you’ll be able to engage with debates about British and European cultural identity.

Our flexible degree programme is unique in the variety of works that you can study from painting, sculpture and architecture, through to graphic art, design and craft. You can explore photography, installation, performance and contemporary works engaging with new media, digital and other innovative technologies. You’ll also be able to study modules that are jointly designed and taught in collaboration with the Tate.

We are recognised as one of the leading centres of British Art studies in the UK, and 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.


21.09.18 Link in overview changed, core module info added, research skills info altered.

Course content

You play an active role in building your degree, furthering your specialist interests, and designing exciting research projects. You can study works of art from different periods or focus on a specific period or issue.

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.


You'll study two core modules and three option modules. Further information about the degree structure.

Core modules

British Art (20 credits)

You'll explore the tools and methodologies specific to research in British art. The focus of the module changes year by year in keeping with the most recent trends of the discipline. It takes place in the Autumn Term to bring our cohort of students together.

Research Skills in History of Art (10 credits)

You'll be introduced to key concepts and cutting-edge methods of art historical research so to improve your understanding of artwork, to develop a critical attitude towards existing scholarship, to identify future fields of inquiry and to hone your communicative and digital skills. This course runs throughout the year.

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 submit a dissertation of 15,000-20,000 words in September. The dissertation will account for 50% of your final degree mark and will be supervised by a member of staff. Recent dissertations have included:

  • Interior Worlds: The Watercolours of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1850-1870
  • An Artwork of Conflict: 'The Leake Panels' in the Context of Ecclesial Imagery in England Throughout the Course of the Reformation
  • 'Unity in Variety': The Victorian Design Reform's Institutional Network Beyond the Centre and Periphery Model, York School of Design 1842-c.1857
  • Richard Jack's 'Love Tunes the Shepherd's Reed': an Anthropological Study of Early Twentieth-Century British Art
  • The Politics of Parian: Examining the Role of John Bell's Slave Sculptures in a Domestic Victorian Environment

Rich local resources

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

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year)£7,810£17,370
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

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

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

Departmental scholarship information

​A wide range of funding opportunities includes 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.

Read more about available funding specific to History of Art.

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.

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.

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 option 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. You'll be able to attend related lectures, conferences or site visits offered by our British Art 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 optional module. For the Research Skills in History of Art module you'll produce a dissertation synopsis as your assessment.

Students at Beningbrough Hall
Minster stone figures

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. You'll have the opportunity to engage first hand with some of the most exciting collections of British art in the country. We work with the National GalleryTate, the V&A, and York Museums Trust. We have excellent relationships with regional museums, galleries and country houses— including the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern ArtCastle Howard, the Hepworth WakefieldYorkshire 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​
The interdisciplinary style of the MA course at York has allowed me to develop and apply a range of different skills and work with people from a wide variety of fields, skills I know will prove invaluable.
Eleanor, MA History of Art (Medieval Art & Medievalisms)

Find out more about the course from our students.

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

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.

You should provide an academic writing sample as part of your application.

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

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