BA (Hons) History of Art - The Courtauld Institute of Art

BA (Hons) History of Art

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BA (Hons) History of Art



BA (Hons) History of Art

Why History of Art?

Art History is a dynamic and lively subject. It combines the rigour of a history degree with visual skills and the ability to look at and interpret works of art. It will help you develop critical skills in how to look, to think and to present your ideas succinctly and persuasively that are essential in today’s job market. Watch Courtauld academics discuss why art history matters.

Why The Courtauld?

As an institute dedicated to Art History, Conservation and Curating, with one of the major art collections in the UK at its heart, The Courtauld brings together all aspects of the visual world in one centre. We have the largest faculty of art historians in the country, who are working on an increasingly global scale, from the Americas to Europe, from North Africa and the Middle East to Iran to China.

We study, research and teach about art in all forms and all media, from the smallest, most personal painting or object to the design and evolution of whole cities; from medieval cathedrals, mosques and temples, to contemporary fashion, photography and performance art.

Girl looking through a book, surrounded by shelves, in the book library

Key Facts

Course Overview

The History of Art degree at The Courtauld introduces students to a wide range of visual art from the ancient period up to the present day. Through a mixture of lectures, seminars, discussion groups and study trips, you will have the opportunity to experience an exciting range of approaches to art from around the world. Our objects of study include buildings, paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, performance and installation art, fashion history, design and more. Alongside specialist courses taught by world-leading experts in the field, the degree also introduces you to theoretical and critical approaches to works of art throughout the three years.

We also make the most out of London’s art and architecture, as well as The Courtauld’s own world-leading art collection (which will reopen in 2021 after a major redevelopment of Somerset House). A hallmark of The Courtauld degree is the small size of our classes, and friendly, informal environment where everyone is studying either the History of Art, curating, or the conservation of the work of art. You’ll also have the opportunity to study a language, and apply for dedicated funds to travel and see works of art you are studying.

Courtauld students come from all kinds of backgrounds, and most are studying the History of Art for the first time. History of Art is a broad, exciting humanities degree that prepares students for many, diverse career routes, and our students have gone on to a range of careers both within the cultural and heritage industries, the art world and beyond.

Entry Requirements

You do not need any background in art history to apply; only an interest in art and its histories and a willingness to work hard.

We warmly encourage students of all backgrounds to apply to the Institute. If you are applying as a candidate from socio-economic groups that are under-represented in Higher Education, we are able to make you a lower offer than our typical entry requirement.

A-levels: Grades AAA-ABB (excluding General Studies).

There are no required subjects.

International A-levels: Applicants sitting International A and AS Levels can generally expect their grades to be accepted as comparable, grade for grade, to UK AS and A level grades.

GCSE: A grade A-C in a language is desirable but not required.

Scottish Highers: AAAAB or AAABB, (usually supplemented by two or more Advanced Highers).

If you are studying the Advanced Higher subjects, you are likely to be set AA for two subjects, and AAB for three subjects.

Welsh Baccalaureate: Advanced Diploma with two A grades at A-Level alongside the Core Certificate at Level 3.

International Baccalaureate (IB): a minimum 35 points overall.

European Baccalaureate: 80% overall.

Cambridge Pre-U: D3, D3, M2 in three Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects.


Access: Access to Humanities Diploma at Level 3 with 39 Level 3 credits from units awarded at Distinction, with the remaining credits at Merit.

International applicants

Entry requirements for many EU and International qualifications can be found here.

English Language proficiency: You will be expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written in order to apply. If your first language is not English, we will require proof of English proficiency – for details, please see the English Language Requirements page.

Mature Students

We welcome applications from mature candidates, defined as those at least 21 years old at the time of application. If you are a mature applicant, please forward a copy of your CV and any transcripts of results from recent study to our admissions team via email, in addition to completing the UCAS application form.

Admissions flexibility for students affected by Covid-19 pandemic: The Courtauld acknowledges that students completing their A-Levels and equivalent qualifications worldwide have faced a year of disruption to their studies. To ensure students are not disadvantaged, we will afford extra flexibility, accepting students who miss out on our entry requirement range by one grade (or equivalent), in particular candidates from socio-economic groups that are under-represented in Higher Education. Read more here.

For further advice on entrance requirements, please contact Student and Academic Services

Structure & Modules

The Art History degree at The Courtauld builds over the course of the three years to give you a broad knowledge of the history of art, as well as detailed, in-depth teaching with increased specialisation towards the end of the degree. There are opportunities to develop your own particular research interests as well. 

Year 1:

The first year provides you with a groundwork for the study of art history

The Foundations course gives you a broad historical introduction to the study of art history from antiquity to the present day in many different global contexts. You will also take two Topic courses which focus on direct encounters with art at first hand in the museums and galleries of London. In addition, you take a Language Course, delivered by the Language school at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Indicative modules:

• Contemporary Art in London
• The Global City: Urban Issues in Contemporary Art
• Sensory Encounters with Dress and Textiles
• Techniques and Meaning in 20th Century Art
• Modernism and the Sacred
• Sites and Monuments
• Possibilities of Portraiture
• Persian Manuscripts
• Looking at the Overlooked: An Introduction to Early Modern Still Life
• Northern European Art in London Collections
• Graphic Arts in the Italian Renaissance
• Early Italian Art in London Collections
• Westminster Abbey
• Medieval Sculpture in London Collections
• The Pursuit of Leisure in the Middle Ages
• Late Antique and Byzantine Art


Year 2

The second year will give you a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the history of art. You select two courses that look in greater depth at a particular period, theme or place to understand the art in its context, and you take the Frameworks course that introduces you to the theories and conceptual approaches that have been developed to understand and interpret art. You also begin as an independent researcher, writing an essay on a topic you develop with a supervisor.

Indicative modules:

• Mapping Contemporary Asian Art
• Cold War Cultures: Art in a Divided World 1945–1991
• Artists, Radicals, Mystics: European Art c.1800
• From Shiraz to Beijing: Persian Arts in the Global Fifteenth-Century
• From London to Namibia: Art, Travel and Imagination in the Middle Ages
• Art and Identities in Medieval Spain


Year 3:

The final year is centred around two Special Options in which you focus on two new aspects of art history, and engage with the latest ideas and debates in the subject. These are driven by cutting-edge research. You also take a year-long course, Lessons in Critical Interpretation, that looks at the study of particular objects, buildings and works of art, and asks you to develop a pair of lectures yourself around a work that you choose. The final year essay gives you the opportunity to show your own research and writing skills.

Indicative modules:

• Body, Space and Power in Contemporary Chinese Art
• Modern and Postmodern Photography
• Art and the Modern Nation
• Reassembling Modernism: Artists’ Networks in Europe 1909–1960
• Beyond Painting and Sculpture: Happenings and Performance through the Twentieth Century
• Leisure, commerce and crime in the
Victorian Metropolis
• Monuments and Memory
• Art and Empire in Eighteenth-century London
• Dripping Guts and Heavenly Wonders: the Body as Subject and Object in North Western Europe 1100–1450
• East and West at the Time of the Crusades

Teaching & Assessment

The BA course is taught through a combination of lectures, seminar and discussion classes, site visits and one-to-one tutorial meetings.

Seminar classes are held in classes of up to 10 students to facilitate an intimate environment in which to study and engage with subjects in depth with your teacher and your classmates.

Lectures are delivered and taught to the full student cohort, and are supported by discussion classes in which you are divided into smaller groups of up to 20 students. The discussion classes enable you to discuss and develop your understanding of topics covered in lectures in a setting where you are invited to actively participate in debates and discussion.

In addition, you have timetabled meetings with your personal tutor at least once per term and you can always request further meetings with your personal tutor should you wish.

Throughout your degree, you will be taught by a mixture of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and doctoral researchers, who bring a rich diversity of knowledge and experience to the classroom. Our faculty come from many different backgrounds across the world and are among the leading experts in their field. They have published important works about their areas of expertise, and will introduce you to the excitement and dynamism of their cutting-edge research.


The course involves a variety of methods of assessment:



In addition, each year you will give presentations in class and write a number of informal essays or other exercises on which you get feedback to help develop your speaking and writing skills. These are compulsory but do not count towards your degree marks.

Year 1: 50% examinations; 42.5% coursework; 7.5% oral examination (language). These marks do not count towards your final degree, but you must pass in order to progress into your second year.

Year 2: 67% examinations; 33% coursework. The Second year represents 25% of your final degree mark

Year 3: 50% exams; 50% coursework. This represents 75% of your final degree mark

Fees, Funding, Scholarship & Bursary

Tuition fees:

2020/21 fees are available here.

Undergraduate Student loans:

Please visit the Student Finance England website for further information and to apply online.


The Courtauld is committed to making its degree accessible to all suitably qualified Home students. We offer financial support, up to £3,000 per year, on a sliding scale for Home undergraduate students who meet set criteria. More information can be found here.


The James Hughes-Hallett Undergraduate Scholarship has been established through generous philanthropy to support students who are from groups that are underrepresented in UK Higher Education. The scholarship is worth £10,000 over the duration of your three-year degree. More information can be found here.


Where possible, we encourage and support travel to see artworks at first hand.

For individual projects, you can apply to the John Hayes Travel Fund, which awards about £13,000 each year to students to travel to see art at first hand for themselves.

In addition, many final year special options include short group trips with the lecturer to see the art they are studying. These trips are subsidised:

  • UK trip: £150
  • European trip: £350
  • Non-European International trip: £550.

Trips are planned with the subsidies in mind, in order to minimise any additional costs for students. However, it is possible that subsidies will not cover all costs. Students are encouraged to speak to Student and Academic Services, should they need further support.

Careers & Employability

The BA programme is designed to produce graduates with highly transferable skills, which will prepare you for a wide range of employment opportunities, or further academic study. Our graduates are not only equipped with a detailed knowledge and understanding of the History of Art, but also learn how to:

  • Analyse visual imagery and articulate sophisticated arguments in formal writing and in oral presentations.
  • Read critically and economically.
  • Assimilate complex material.
  • Formulate and express a broad range of different ideas.
  • Present research to a varied audience.
  • Develop independent research skills.
  • Experience collaborative work in groups.

With these skills, Courtauld graduates go on to further study and to jobs across the economy including:

Curators, Conservators, Art Dealers, Auction House experts, Lawyers, Entrepreneurs, Publishers, Media professionals, Teachers, Banking and Finance, Journalists, Business / Marketing & Communications, Fashion buyers, Civil servants

All students can access bespoke, one-to-one careers guidance throughout their studies. The Courtauld Careers Service offers advice and support on exploring career and further study options, finding internships, enhancing employability, understanding and navigating the jobs and self-employment market, and making successful applications. This service is available to all graduates for up to two years after graduation.


To support you through the degree, we offer:

Wellbeing: We have a dedicated Wellbeing team, with counsellors and advisors.

Academic Skills: The academic skills tutor offers group and one-to-one help to develop the skills and confidence you need to succeed on the degree. We also have two Royal Literary Fund fellows who will help you with your writing skills – concentrating on how to structure and improve your writing.

Personal tutor: led by the Associate Dean for Students, you are given an academic personal tutor who will guide you on academic matters throughout your degree.

Student Stories


For me, coming to The Courtauld has changed my life, and definitely for the better. I had never studied History of Art before and had only been to three art galleries before arriving to study in London. I had also been working in a supermarket on a not so glamorous gap year, so felt incredibly detached from any hint of academic life, but none of this was a problem when it came to engaging with the degree.

Teaching here introduces everyone to varied, global and thought-provoking material while diving into the depths of the theory behind it. The first year allows you to construct essays creatively, unpressured by your final year grade, so you have all year to work out your writing style and the technicalities of academic essays. Your seminar leaders and lecturers encourage maximum engagement with all the galleries and museums that London has to offer, hundreds of thousands of artworks that can’t be seen in person in any other city.

My biggest worries when applying to The Courtauld were undoubtedly money related. Coming from very rural countryside, London was considered more of a holiday destination than an affordable or plausible place to live. However, the higher amount of student loan you receive in London, coupled with the Courtauld bursary, meant that I ended up with more than enough to live on, and funds leftover to engage with all that the city had to offer.

Morganmorgan ba student

For me, the primary benefits of studying at The Courtauld are the opportunities offered by being in the middle of one of the world’s cultural centres. When studying the History of Art, the advantages of being able to see great works on your doorstep are immeasurable – I can’t imagine doing it another way. With its collection of world-class galleries and museums, London allows you to see art from around the world through a vibrant programme of exhibitions and shows throughout the year. But London offers so much more for a student than just galleries and museums. Great institutions like the British Library and the University of London’s own Senate House Library allow you access to some of the best research resources in the country.

Outside academic work, there is always something interesting and exciting happening in London. No matter your interests there will be something for you, from the London Jazz Festival to the Lord Mayor’s Show, the BFI Film Festival to the Royal Opera House. The city is home to hundreds of different musical venues offering world-class performances of every genre and type. Even just walking the city itself can be entertainment enough, from its winding Victorian passages and grand Georgian streets to the enchanting medieval corners seemingly untouched by the advancing years – to explore London is to explore history. And, if you want to escape the urban sprawl, London has excellent transport connections to help you escape to green spaces, whether that’s as nearby as Hampstead Heath and Richmond Park or further afield like Brighton or St Albans.

Studying in London is an education in itself.


The Courtauld has opened my eyes to a broad range of art historical discussions. From Medieval Reliquaries to Contemporary Asian photography, I have developed an interest in diverse forms of art and how they could express reoccurring ideas beyond time and space. From the beginning of my first year, I have noticed that The Courtauld was being very vocal about the decentering of the Eurocentric canon of Art History, striving to incorporate multiple sociocultural narratives into the discussion. The lectures and researches reflect the progressive aims, acknowledging the marginalised voices and highlighting the dominant frameworks at work in the writing of Art History.

As an international student, coming to London was a big transitional moment in my life. Whilst the city offers immediate access to museums, galleries, and historical sites, the course enriches such moments of encounter. Even outside of academics, The Courtauld community has been very supportive and caring such as through regular meetings with tutors and professors and the Student Union’s social events. As a small community, it was a huge benefit that I have got to know everyone in my grade and have made friends who share similar interests yet diverse ideas. I believe that the greatest strength of The Courtauld is the people who are here. For me, the people I have met at The Courtauld are not only great because of their intellectual abilities, but also their kindness in sharing such ideas and experiences with others, which ensures me lifelong friendships to cherish.


One of my favourite things about studying Art History at The Courtauld has been attending the many Research Forum events. These lectures and seminars were ideal as I had not studied Art History before coming to The Courtauld and I was keen to engage with as much material and as many topics as possible. These events allow for an insight into specialist topics that would not ordinarily be featured in taught lectures and seminars, as well as encourage engagement with materials that cover several different disciplines all at once. The frequency of the Research Forum seminars and lectures has meant that I have had the opportunity to learn about everything from Mozarabic choral manuscripts to the politics of university architecture.

During my first year I had the opportunity to live in central London. Being sandwiched between the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral, and in walking distance of the National Gallery, the British Museum, the British Library and Somerset House made me feel as if I was living in the best possible place to study our chosen subject. While living and studying in London did seem daunting, the close-knit community fostered at The Courtauld allayed any fears I might have had.

Get Involved Now

Learning Programme: If you are a student attending a non-selective state school or college and you want to discover what Art History is all about, we run many exciting online programmes which are free of charge and led by Courtauld art historians, curators and contemporary artists. You can participate in workshops, projects, lectures, courses and discussions, and even presentations of your own. This includes our Year 12 Art History Summer University. Find out more here.

The Research Forum deliver an extensive programme of lectures, conferences, workshops and seminars supporting advanced inquiry into the History of Art, Conservation and Curating. We host around 150 events per year, from research group seminars to lecture series catering to a wider interest. Our varied programme of events look to different periods and themes in art, visual culture and its history. Our public programme of events have been moved online this autumn. Explore upcoming events, and watching recordings of previous events, here.

The Courtauld Gallery is home to one of the greatest art collections in the UK. The gallery is most famous for its iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces– such as Van Gogh’s Self Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergere – but also displays major paintings, drawings and decorative arts from the Renaissance through to the 20th century.  The Gallery is currently closed as part of an ambitious transformation project that will make The Courtauld accessible to even more people, and is due to reopen in 2021. In the meantime, you can explore the Gallery virtually here.

Undergraduate Prospectus 2021/22

Download the prospectus


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