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History of Art (3 Years) [BA]

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Course description

BA(Hons) History of Art is a wide-ranging and in-depth degree which explores Art History and Visual Culture from the Medieval to the present. The broad range of staff expertise offers students the opportunity to study a varied and exciting curriculum.

As you progress to Years 2 and 3, you select pathways of study that suit your individual interests. There is emphasis on flexibility and choice within the degree

For further information about the subject area, teaching staff and research projects, please see the subject website .

Flexible Honours may allow you to study an additional arts, languages or cultures subject. Find out more here


The aims of the course are:

  • to provide a broad-based knowledge and understanding of art and its histories;
  • to develop the student's understanding of the production, circulation, and interpretation of visual culture in specific historical contexts;
  • to promote awareness of the role of the visual arts within different cultures and societies, both Western and non-Western;
  • to foster awareness of the role of museums and galleries in the production and reproduction of cultural values;
  • to enable students to choose pathways of learning that reflect their own interests;
  • to develop specific expertise in analysing, interpreting and writing about visual images, together with more general intellectual and academic skills;
  • to produce graduates who are ready to embark on a range of career paths in the art world or beyond, or continue on to postgraduate study.

Special features

We offer an unusually broad choice of subject areas, paired with in-depth study and research. Particular strengths are in Medieval, Renaissance, Post-Renaissance, Modern, Contemporary and Global Art History. We pride ourselves on the quality of the student experience, offering close contact with staff at all stages of study, taught where possible in small groups via various methods.

The University has the third-largest academic library in Britain, with a Special Collections Department in the John Rylands Library on Deansgate, containing a superb, diverse collection of manuscripts, illustrated books and other material relevant to our subject. We also share a library with Archaeology - a valuable learning and teaching resource and convenient work environment, housing a very large video/digital image collection.

Our partners the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, on the Grand Canal, Venice, accept two Yr 2 students to spend the summer as interns at this world-famous collection of modern art.

Students may apply to study abroad for a semester during Yr 2.

The University's Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery offer unique access to the environment of a working museum and gallery as well as to important artworks; they are just part of the rich cultural heritage of Manchester/the North-West. Our student societies enrich the learning process through regular social/academic events designed to encourage knowledge and understanding of such regional creative communities.

Teaching and learning

A variety of teaching methods are used, including teaching by lectures, seminars, individual supervision of dissertations and fieldwork. The precise methods depend on the programme you are taking; fieldwork for art history students means regular classes in Manchester (at places like HOME, the City Art Gallery and the University's own Whitworth). Most courses at Level Two and Three include a fieldwork element,  and students are also offered the opportunity to spend a week in a European city on our Level Two Field Trip. We also offer a number of Travel Bursaries through the Lady Chorley Fund, to assist final year students with their dissertation research.

Coursework and assessment

You will have close contact with staff at all stages of your university career and will be taught wherever possible in small groups and through a variety of methods. Assessment is broadly divided equally between coursework and examinations.

Coursework can take a variety of forms including traditional essay writing, oral presentations, group projects and the final year dissertation.

Course content for year 1

This is a foundation year that introduces key art historical concepts and methods of analysis and interpretation as well as skills in academic writing. It includes a substantial amount of gallery-based teaching. In your first year you will follow five main course units.

The lecture/seminar courses 'Art Works in History' (1 and 2) and 'Art Spaces' are designed to familiarise you with a range of materials from the ancient world to the present; they will also introduce you to the institutional and other spaces that mediate the reception of art, from the Renaissance to the present, from art academies, to the rise of the museum, through to art fairs and biennials.

Lectures are complemented by weekly `Art History Tutorial' seminar courses, which run in both semesters. These courses offer interactive, personalised learning in small groups on a range of topics designed to refine critical and writing skills, and to introduce current issues in Art History and Visual Studies.

Finally, you must take one outside course unit from a wide-ranging selection of courses in other disciplines.

Course units for year 1

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Art SpacesAHVS1005120Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 1AHVS1038120Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 2AHVS1038220Mandatory
Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in HistorySALC1004120Mandatory
Rococo to Now: Artworks in HistorySALC1004220Mandatory
Themes in ArchaeologyARGY1007220Optional
Introduction to World ArchaeologyARGY1013120Optional
Introduction to Chinese StudiesCHIN1005020Optional
Beginners Chinese 1CHIN1811120Optional
Beginners Chinese 2CHIN1811220Optional
The OdysseyCLAH1010120Optional
Advanced Latin Language 1CLAH3011020Optional
Advanced Greek Language 1CLAH3012020Optional
Theatre & Performance 1 - TextsDRAM1000120Optional
Theatre & Performance 2 - ConceptsDRAM1000220Optional
Ab-Initio French LanguageFREN1011040Optional
Modern French LiteratureFREN1013020Optional
French Language and Life IFREN1021020Optional
Introduction to French LinguisticsFREN1040020Optional
Introduction to German LinguisticsGERM1004020Optional
Beginners' German Language SkillsGERM1010040Optional
German Language Skills IGERM1021020Optional
German Cultural StudiesGERM1035020Optional
Italian Language Ab-initioITAL1020040Optional
Italian Language Post-A LevelITAL1021020Optional
Italian Cultural StudiesITAL1030020Optional
Language, Culture and SocietyLALC1003020Optional
Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology: The Sounds of EnglishLALC10221A10Optional
Introducing English GrammarLELA1004110Optional
Introduction to the History of EnglishLELA1019210Optional
Introduction to Classical Islamic History: From Muhammad to the OttomansMEST1003220Optional
Arabic Language 1MEST1011040Optional
The Contemporary Middle EastMEST1071120Optional
Tonality: Form and FunctionMUSC1001110Optional
Tonality: Motive and MeaningMUSC1002210Optional
Approaches to MusicologyMUSC1051120Optional
Music and Its ContextsMUSC1051220Optional
Introduction to Christian TheologyRELT1013220Optional
Intro to the Study of Religions & TheologyRELT1031120Optional
Bible in Ancient and Modern WorldsRELT1071120Optional
Russian Language Skills 1RUSS1021020Optional
Beginners' RussianRUSS1054040Optional
Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in HistorySALC1004120Optional
Rococo to Now: Artworks in HistorySALC1004220Optional
Portuguese Language ISPLA1002020Optional
Introductory Portuguese LanguageSPLA1011020Optional
Cultures of Portuguese ColonialismSPLA1013020Optional
AB INITIO Spanish LanguageSPLA1020040Optional
Spanish Language 1SPLA1021020Optional
Introduction to Spanish and Latin American StudiesSPLA1030020Optional
Displaying 10 of 51 course units for year 1

Course content for year 2

In second year, you take a mix of core and optional course units. The objective is to provide you with a deeper understanding of theories and approaches in the study of art history, and a broad-based knowledge of both pre-modern and modern art, architecture and visual culture. different historical periods in the optional courses.

Course units for year 2

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Collecting, Museums, Display: The Afterlife of ObjectsAHVS2011120Mandatory
Collecting, Museums, Display: The Afterlife of ObjectsAHVS2011220Mandatory
Art in TheoryAHVS2043120Mandatory
Art in TheoryAHVS2043220Mandatory
European Art History FieldtripAHVS2070120Mandatory
Art in Britain from Turner to WhistlerAHVS2022120Optional
The Neo-Avant-Garde and the Crisis of Medium, 1945-1974AHVS2281120Optional

Course content for year 3

In the third year you take two seminar courses each semester, allowing you in-depth contact with a wide range of subjects (many of which are the specialist areas of the members of teaching staff). These `Option' courses are focused on an area of study defined by genre, artistic identity, medium or approach. They are taught in small groups and encourage participation and active learning.

Finally you will also write a dissertation of 10,000-12,000 words on a topic of your own choosing. The dissertation, supervised by a member of staff, gives you the chance to research a subject in depth and helps you to refine your research and study skills. It also gives you the skills necessary to organise a coherent argument over a long piece of writing.

Your four option course units will be chosen from a wide array of choices.

Course units for year 3

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
History of Art DissertationAHVS3000040Mandatory
Women and Art in Italy 1280-1530AHVS3103120Optional
Fairy Tales and Other Utopias in Modern ArtAHVS3240120Optional
Fairy Tales and Other Utopias in Modern ArtAHVS3240220Optional
Prometheus Unbound: Art, Science and Technology in the RenaissanceAHVS3312120Optional
Modernisms 1848-1925AHVS3322120Optional
Making Art PublicSALC3006120Optional
Science & the Modern WorldUCOL1022110Optional
Science and the Modern World (20 Credits)UCOL1072120Optional
Industry Projects: Sustainability and Environmental ImpactUCOL1330110Optional
Leadership of LearningUCOL2000110Optional
Leadership in Action 20 Credit UnitUCOL2002020Optional
Leadership in Action UnitUCOL2002110Optional
Leadership in Action UnitUCOL2002210Optional
Leadership in Action Online UnitUCOL2003110Optional
Leadership in Action Online UnitUCOL2003210Optional
From Cholera to Aids: A Global History of EpidemicsUCOL2008120Optional
The Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental HistoryUCOL2009210Optional
Multilingual Manchester (Societal Multilingualism)UCOL2010210Optional
Science, the Media and the PublicUCOL2018110Optional
The Information AgeUCOL2028210Optional
From Cholera to Aids: A Global History of EpidemicsUCOL2033110Optional
Crisis of Nature: Critical Issues in Environmental HistoryUCOL2059220Optional
The Information AgeUCOL2078220Optional
An Introduction to Current Topics in BiologyUCOL2088210Optional
Leadership of LearningUCOL2100210Optional
Diverse Britain in a Globalising WorldUCOL2110210Optional
Bioethics: Contemporary Issues in Science and BiomedicineUCOL2120210Optional
Communicating with ConfidenceUCOL2130110Optional
Communicating with ConfidenceUCOL2130210Optional
Innovation for a Sustainable SocietyUCOL2140210Optional
Security and SurveillanceUCOL2170120Optional
Body, Health and Well-BeingUCOL2180210Optional
Humanitarian Challenges in an Unequal WorldUCOL2190210Optional
Essential EnterpriseUCOL2200110Optional
Intercultural CommunicationUCOL2210210Optional
Collecting and Exhibiting CultureUCOL2230210Optional
Global Citizenship and SustainabilityUCOL2250110Optional
The Golden Empire: Investigating Egypt's 18th DynastyUCOL2280110Optional
Building Ancient Egypt: The Technology of the Dynastic AgeUCOL2290210Optional
Figuring out Society: Data in the NewsUCOL2300210Optional
Science and Civilisation in East AsiaUCOL2310220Optional
Disability and Society: Interdisciplinary PerspectivesUCOL2320210Optional
Science and Civilisation in East AsiaUCOL2330210Optional
The Art of EnterpriseUCOL2400210Optional
Science, Technology and DemocracyUCOL2414110Optional
Science, Technology and DemocracyUCOL2415120Optional
The Digital SocietyUCOL2500210Optional
"You can't say that!"UCOL2800210Optional
Physics & The Grand Challenges of TodayUCOL2900210Optional
Introduction to Computer Systems (ITMB)UCOL2951210Optional
Manchester Sustainable City ProjectsUCOL3000020Optional
From Baker Street to CSIUCOL3201110Optional
From Baker Street to CSIUCOL3251120Optional
Displaying 10 of 57 course units for year 3

What our students say

The best thing about studying History of Art is the standard of the resources available, the close student relationships and the high quality of support maintained by both administrative and teaching staff. (Benjamin Davies)

The best thing about studying the history of art is the wide range of subjects and time scale from Greek to present day. (Nicola Garner)

In the summer after my second year I applied for an internship at Sotheby's. I spent the summer working in their auction house in London. Primarily, I worked in the Old Masters department, but spent my final month in the Impressionist department. My job included researching many of the works that came to Sotheby's for forthcoming auctions. This enabled me not only to experience some of the world's finest art firsthand, but also opened up areas of research previously unknown to me. The experience of working in an auction house opened my eyes to the commercial art world and helped me with my studies.  (Katie Zeitlin)

The lectures in first year gave me a great start to my degree, the subjects were varied enough to provide a good grounding in art history, yet detailed enough to prepare for second year. I was surprised how much I enjoyed areas of the course that before having had the lectures and doing the reading hadn't been of interest to me. The seminar courses were also invaluable in providing a more detailed look at aspects of art history.  (Paul Statham)

Interning at The Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, was an incredible experience that enabled me to work amongst world-renowned artworks in a beautiful location. I was asked to stay for a second month and was selected as one of two interns to assist the intern co-ordinators. The internship programme, provided by the University of Manchester, offers many opportunities - from exploring Venice with fellow interns to giving private tours of the collection. It was a wonderful experience! (Tuesday Knowles)


The University has its own art gallery, museum and special library collections and the rich cultural heritage and attractions of Manchester and the North-West are within easy reach.

  • The Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery offer you unique access to the environment of the working museum and art gallery as well as to important works of art.
  • The John Rylands University Library is one of the largest academic libraries in Britain and houses a Special Collections Department on Deansgate which contains a superb and diverse collection of manuscripts, illustrated books and other material relevant to Art History and Visual Studies.
  • Finally, we have our own library for Art History, shared with Archaeology, which provides a valuable service and a convenient, well-ordered work environment; it houses a very large and well-organised slide, video, and computer-based image collection which is an essential learning and teaching resource.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants from the Disability Support Office. Email: