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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: 2021 (September)


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

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

Investigate notions of national, imperial, cosmopolitan and global visual and material cultures; engage with debates about British and European cultural identity and study a variety of works 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. 

We are one of the largest History of Art departments in the UK. We have developed successful partnerships with museums, galleries and country houses that will enrich your studies, and may offer you placement opportunities and privileged access to collections.

10 reasons to study at York

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

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 specialist interests, and designing 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.

At least two of your option modules, your research skills module and your dissertation must be completed on British Art. 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 British Art. 
  • 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'll study one core module and four option modules. 

Core module

British Art: Research Skills and Methods (10 credits)

Option modules (20 credits each)

The list of options offered each year will vary according to staff availability. Modules offered may change 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 and interdisciplinary centres.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


You'll submit a dissertation of 15,000 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

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 British Art studies.
  • 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.
  • Deploy knowledge of specialist fields within the broader remit of British art - examples might include Turner's seascapes, early 20th-century ceramic modernism, or the royal patronage of stained glass in York - in order to formulate innovative questions regarding the uses, the contexts, and the underlying conditions of British art and answer them from original readings of archival, written, and visual sources.
  • Analyse and critique the assumptions, theoretical principles and the use of evidence employed today as well as in the past in promoting and dismantling notions of 'British Art' as an art historical genre, and situate them within imperial legacies and the term's currency in the contemporary world.
  • 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.

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 2021/22

Study modeUK (home)International and EU
Full-time (1 year) £8,440£18,700
Part-time (2 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

Students on a Student Visa (formerly 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 (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 2021/22 throughout the year.

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

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.

Studying at York allowed me to work with scholars of international reputation and explore the world of British Art from a whole new perspective.
Christine, MA History of Art (British Art)

Read more from Christine

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've made some changes to the way our courses are delivered to minimise potential disruption from the ongoing global pandemic.

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 option module. For the Research Skills 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

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 6.5, minimum 6.0 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 176, minimum 169 in each component
Duolingo 110, minimum 100 in all other components
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'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 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 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.

Apply for this course

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Department of History of Art

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