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MA in Art History

This MA course will equip you with critical skills necessary for higher level study of art history and build on your existing knowledge in this field. You begin your studies by using texts and module materials to explore the theoretical and methodological issues in 'old' and 'new' art histories. An extended project then provides you with research training which will enable you to carry out a more substantial piece of independent research on a topic of your choice for the final dissertation module. You need a substantial background in art history at undergraduate level to succeed in obtaining this qualification.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Career relevance and employability

Studying art history at postgraduate level will deepen your understanding of painting, sculpture and architecture. Through a critical engagement with some of the key theories and approaches developed to interpret and explain works of art from the Renaissance to the present day you will learn to study independently and undertake appropriate research. An MA in Art History will provide you with a range of skills, including visual and textual analysis and critical thinking and writing, which can be successfully transferred to a variety of careers in the professional and educational sectors.

There is more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.


For this masters degree you require:

180 credits from the following compulsory modules:

Postgraduate compulsory modules Credits Next start
Postgraduate foundation module in art history (A840)

Prepare for higher level study of art history by learning about methodological approaches, from biography and iconography to feminist art history and the 'period eye'.

See full description.

60 Feb FINAL
Themes and issues in contemporary art history (A841)

Explore issues currently important in art history - from recent developments in the social history of art to themes of identity and difference in contemporary works.

See full description.

60 Feb
The art history dissertation (A847)

Complete your MA in Art History with a dissertation of 16,000-18,000 words, on a subject of your choice, with the guidance of your course tutor.

See full description.

60 Feb

Educational aims

This taught postgraduate programme in art history (which comprises the postgraduate foundation module (A840), the subject module (A841) and the dissertation module (A847)) will:

  • encourage you to develop your undergraduate knowledge and understanding of art history in higher level and more focused work
  • introduce you to a range of significant scholarly debates among historians of art and architecture
  • provide you with an advanced academic training in research methods, with regard to different media and periods, using both traditional methods and those employing new technologies
  • enable you to make effective use of primary sources, both artistic and archival, in developing and completing a research project.

Learning outcomes

The programme provides you with opportunities to develop and demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and skills in the following areas.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have a sound knowledge and understanding of:

  • different kinds of art-historical methods and approaches
  • a range of major scholarly debates influencing the practice of art history today
  • a detailed knowledge and understanding of two fields selected by yourself: one minor topic (the short project in A841) and one major field (the dissertation in A847).

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • compare and assess different methods and approaches to art-historical research
  • analyse and describe works of art and architecture
  • analyse and evaluate different types of source material
  • apply art-historical methods and approaches to the analysis and interpretation of works of art and architecture
  • understand how to select the appropriate research methods for a specific enquiry.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • use research libraries, their archives and their contents efficiently
  • make discriminating use of specialist online databases and other online resources
  • construct sophisticated arguments and defend these in substantial pieces of writing using proper academic conventions
  • apply visual discrimination to the analysis and interpretation of images.

Key skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • write extended pieces of prose based on your own research
  • use internet resources efficiently and discriminatingly
  • deploy visual and textual sources in support of these arguments.

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