Frequently Asked Questions, Postgraduate Study - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Frequently Asked Questions, Postgraduate Study

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How to Apply to Postgraduate Courses

Frequently Asked Questions, Postgraduate Study

Please see below for some of the frequently asked questions regarding the application process and completing the Online Application Form for our postgraduate degree programmes.

Don’t forget to check the ‘Application Instructions’ and ‘Guidance on Completing the Application Form’ available on the How to Apply page.


Do references need to be in before the application deadline?

We request that references will be submitted by your referees within two weeks of submitting your application.

As your referees are not sent our automatic reference request email until you complete and submit your application, we do typically allow for two weeks following the application deadline for references to come in.

As your referees may be unavailable to write a reference at the last minute, you should contact your referees well in advance of submitting your application – preferably 4-6 weeks. Your application cannot be considered until after we have received both references and any English translations of references, if necessary.

Regardless of when you submit your application, we will automatically prompt you to follow up with your referees every two weeks if we do not have both of your references – we will not chase up references on your behalf, nor will we automatically confirm that we have received references.

How are my references contacted? / How do they submit their reference?

Referees are automatically contacted by email via our application portal once you have submitted your application. This email provides a link to the portal where they will be invited to directly submit their reference to our system.

Can I submit professional references? / What type of reference are you looking for?

As your referees will be asked to attest to your academic abilities, you should make every effort to provide two academic referees.

If this is not possible, you may use professional referees instead. They will still be expected to be able to provide an assessment of your intellectual abilities and potential to learn.


Do references have to be in English?

References must be written in English.

Is there any guidance available for referees on what to write in their reference?

The below is provided to the referee when they log in to our online portal to submit the reference:

Referees should be able to comment, in detail and impartially, on an applicant’s recent work and his/her preparedness to undertake the proposed course of study. References are of vital importance as they help us to distinguish between very high-calibre applicants. References that do not offer a detailed appraisal of an applicant’s academic development and suitability for the proposed study, but are simply a general statement of support, may disadvantage even the strongest applicant. It is helpful to provide evidence of the applicant’s skills and, importantly, how these skills relate to the proposed study. Please do not make inappropriate comments such as personal remarks. 

We rely, to a significant extent, upon the accuracy and completeness of your comments. Please comment under the following headings: 

A: Intellectual qualities 

• A realistic appraisal of the applicant’s abilities based on the quality of academic performance to date, both overall and within individual modules or courses. Please give examples to illustrate your comments. 
• Please assess the strengths and weaknesses of the applicant. Do you have any concerns about his/her ability to complete the course, suitability for the proposed study, or ability to progress on to further study or a research career? If so, how might these concerns be addressed? You may wish to highlight the applicant’s particular strengths, relevant to the proposed study. Please give evidence to support your comments. 
• For professional referees, please draw upon your experience of the applicant’s work to give an appraisal of his/her professional performance to date. Please highlight his/her strengths in the area in which he/she plans to study and work, and note any weaknesses he/she may have. Please give examples to illustrate your comments. 

B: Suitability for chosen course of study/programme of research 

• Please assess the suitability of the course/programme, the applicant’s potential to complete the studies successfully, his/her motivation and commitment, and his/her relevant intellectual skills. You should state how the proposed course/programme relates to his/her experience to date, and to his/her future plans. You should comment within the context of his/her proposed course/programme, as we will be assessing his/her preparedness, not just his/her abilities. Please describe how he/she has developed and improved during his/her undergraduate/postgraduate career. It would be useful if you could also compare his/her ability to other relevant groups or individuals of whom you have had experience. 
• Please assess the applicant’s aptitude and preparedness for the proposed course/programme, and for continuing to doctoral study. Are there areas in which he/she will require additional training in order to complete the course/programme? (Highlighting any such areas will not necessarily disadvantage the applicant since training is expected to be part of postgraduate study.) 
• Please comment on factors such as the applicant’s conceptual ability, problem-solving skills, capacity for independent thought, potential for innovation and organisational skills.
• Professional referees should state the type and range of duties that were performed, describe how the professional experience he/she has gained has complemented his/her academic studies, and explain how this may have prepared him/her for the proposed study and research at postgraduate level. Please comment on the applicant’s professional commitment, motivation and potential. 

C: Powers of expression 
• Please comment on the applicant’s ability to express himself/herself orally and in writing. 

D: Interests 
• Please refer to the applicant’s contribution to the life of the community of your institution/organisation. 

General points of guidance 
• References should state how long you have known the applicant, and in what capacity.
• We will not release references to applicants, so please feel free to speak freely and openly. 
• We may contact you to request further verification. 

Please email the e:Vision Support Team at quoting your username and the full error message details. if you experience any difficulties submitting the reference.

Written Work Sample

It's been a long time since I attended university. What kind of writing sample should I send in?

If you have recently attended a course or summer school for which you have submitted written work, you should provide that. If you are required to write as part of your job, you could provide examples of this kind of written work provided they are relevant to your application. The samples need not be on an art historical subject, but should demonstrate your capacity for writing in academic English. Your written work should be between 3,000 and 5,000 words for the MA courses. If you do not have a suitable piece of this length you may submit two shorter pieces.

If you are applying for Graduate Diploma, you may submit a new piece of writing. Please see the Programme Application Instructions for more information.

If you are submitting a piece of written work in another language, you may provide an official translation or translate the piece yourself.

Does the written work sample include title, bibliography, images etc.? / Can it exceed the word limit?

You must submit an example of your written work that demonstrates your academic writing abilities as detailed in the Application Instructions.

Unlike other elements of the Online Application Form, the written work sample is intended to be flexible – within reason.

The written work example must be close to the advised word count, not including things that sit outside of the main body of text – title, bibliography, footnotes etc.. The written work sample must also meet the file type requirements as detailed in the guidance for completing the Online Application Form.

English Language Requirement

I am booking an English test but am unable to do so before the application deadline, can I still submit my application?

If you are unable to book a test at a centre ahead of the application deadline, then you may submit your application without an English proficiency result. It will be passed to the tutors for consideration. You must email your test result as soon as it becomes available to you. Any offer made in the absence of a test result will be conditional on your achieving the required score. IELTS test results must be no longer than two years old.

What is the latest date I can submit my English proficiency test results?

You can submit your test results no later than August 31st. However, we strongly advise that you plan ahead and submit your test results well in advance of this date.

Applicants for the Postgraduate Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings have earlier deadline to submit the test results.

I am not a native English speaker, but I studied for my degree at an English-speaking institution. Do I need to take an English proficiency test?

If you have studied at an institution for three or more years where English is the language of instruction, you do not need to take an English language test. However, you must provide a letter from your University/ Institution verifying this.

MA History of Art - Options

I saw an option last year that is not longer available this year - will it return next year?

Option availability is subject to staff availability and changing research interests.

We publish the list of options for each admissions cycle the preceding October – i.e. 2017/8 options were published in October 2016.

Can I repeat elements across each option statement? Can the tutors for the other options see all the statements?

You may repeat some elements of your statement, approaching it as a template – for example, you might repeat some basic information or context to your applying to the programme. You will of course want to ensure you tailor each statement to each option.

Personal statements are only made available to the relevant option tutor – tutors cannot see the other statements for your other preferred options.

Other Questions

Can I apply for more than one programme in the same year?

You may apply for more than one programme, but will need to complete separate applications for each programme.

My degree will not be completed by the time of application. Should I send in an academic transcript of my grades and courses up until this point or wait until my degree is complete?

Please do submit an interim (or in- progress) transcript from your current University/Institution. Final transcripts showing the degree conferred must be received by the Admissions team at The Courtauld by August 31st.

Can I apply after the deadline?

We do not accept late applications for MA in Curating the Art Museum or Research. We may consider late applications for the other programmes – please check the How to Apply page to see if the programme you are interested in is still accepting applications. A late application will be processed and considered after applications received before the deadline.

Can I apply for deferred entry to the MA History of Art/ MA Curating/Graduate Diploma?

We do not accept applications for deferred entry into our postgraduate programmes.

Can I study part-time?

We do not offer the opportunity to study our MA History of Art, MA Curating or Graduate Diploma courses on a part time basis.

I'm American and I don't know what information to give for my high school/ university qualifications.

Under the section ‘School Attended’ put your high school. Leave the ‘examining body’ part blank, and add N/A for years attended and then put ‘High School Diploma’. Don’t worry about subject. Additionally, put in your AP exams by skipping ‘School Attended’ and list the AP exam, when you took it, your Subject and for what level you scored. Do the same for SAT and ACT.

For University/Institution attended, first indicate what universities you attended during which years, and finally your major, your GPA and your degree title (if conferred or the date it should be conferred).

I have been made a conditional offer – what does that mean?

If you have not yet completed your degree, you may be made a conditional offer. This offer is conditional upon achievement of a specified level of performance in your degree (for example, achievement of a good 2:1). If you have already satisfied the academic entry requirements of your chosen course, you may be made an unconditional offer.

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