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Student examining painting in Manchester Art Gallery
BA History of Art

Explore art history and visual culture from the Medieval period to the present day.

BA History of Art / Course details

Year of entry: 2017

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 Spaces AHVS10051 20 Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 1 AHVS10381 20 Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 2 AHVS10382 20 Mandatory
Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in History SALC10041 20 Mandatory
Rococo to Now: Artworks in History SALC10042 20 Mandatory

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 Objects AHVS20112 20 Mandatory
Art in Theory AHVS20431 20 Mandatory
European Art History Fieldtrip AHVS20701 20 Mandatory
Art in Britain from Turner to Whistler AHVS20221 20 Optional
Autonomous Objects: Sculpture Since 1900 AHVS22512 20 Optional
The Neo-Avant-Garde and the Crisis of Medium, 1945-1974 AHVS22811 20 Optional

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 Dissertation AHVS30000 40 Mandatory
Art and Fiction Since the 60s AHVS30532 20 Optional
The Global Renaissance AHVS30552 20 Optional
Art After Modernism: Approaching Contemporary Art since the 1960s AHVS30561 20 Optional
Dress and Adornment in Renaissance Italy AHVS30591 20 Optional
Magic in Modern and Contemporary Art and Film AHVS30612 20 Optional
Women and Art in Italy 1280-1530 AHVS31031 20 Optional
Connoisseurship:The Theory and Practice of Attribution AHVS32202 20 Optional
Fairy Tales and Other Utopias in Modern Art AHVS32402 20 Optional
Prometheus Unbound: Art, Science and Technology in the Renaissance AHVS33121 20 Optional
Picasso AHVS33131 20 Optional
Romanticism AHVS33191 20 Optional
Exhibitions that Changed the (Art) World AHVS33211 20 Optional
Science & the Modern World UCIL10221 10 Optional
Science and the Modern World (20 Credits) UCIL10721 20 Optional
Leadership of Learning UCIL20001 10 Optional
Leadership of Learning UCIL20002 20 Optional
Leadership in Action 20 Credit Unit UCIL20020 20 Optional
Leadership in Action Unit UCIL20021 10 Optional
Leadership in Action Online Unit UCIL20031 10 Optional
From Cholera to Aids: A Global History of Epidemics UCIL20081 20 Optional
The Crisis of Nature: Issues in Environmental History UCIL20092 10 Optional
Multilingual Manchester (Societal Multilingualism) UCIL20102 10 Optional
Science, the Media and the Public UCIL20181 10 Optional
The Information Age UCIL20282 10 Optional
From Cholera to Aids: A Global History of Epidemics UCIL20331 10 Optional
Crisis of Nature: Critical Issues in Environmental History UCIL20592 20 Optional
Science the Media & the Public UCIL20681 20 Optional
The Information Age UCIL20782 20 Optional
An Introduction to Current Topics in Biology UCIL20882 10 Optional
Leadership of Learning UCIL21000 20 Optional
Leadership of Learning UCIL21001 20 Optional
Leadership of Learning UCIL21002 10 Optional
Diverse Britain in a Globalising World UCIL21102 10 Optional
Bioethics: Contemporary Issues in Science and Biomedicine UCIL21202 10 Optional
Communicating with Confidence UCIL21301 10 Optional
Communicating with Confidence UCIL21302 10 Optional
Innovation for a Sustainable Society UCIL21402 10 Optional
Body, Health and Well-Being UCIL21802 10 Optional
Humanitarian Challenges in an Unequal World UCIL21901 10 Optional
Essential Enterprise UCIL22001 10 Optional
Essential Enterprise UCIL22002 10 Optional
Curating Culture UCIL22301 10 Optional
Global Citizenship and Sustainability UCIL22501 10 Optional
Science and Civilisation in East Asia UCIL23102 20 Optional
Science and Civilisation in East Asia UCIL23302 10 Optional
The Art of Enterprise UCIL24002 10 Optional
Science, Technology and Democracy UCIL24141 10 Optional
Science, Technology and Democracy UCIL24151 20 Optional
The Digital Society UCIL25002 10 Optional
"You can't say that!" UCIL28002 10 Optional
Physics & The Grand Challenges of Today UCIL29002 10 Optional
Introduction to Computer Systems (ITMB) UCIL29512 10 Optional
Madness and Society in the Modern Age UCIL30332 20 Optional
Madness and Society in the Modern Age UCIL30832 10 Optional
From Baker Street to CSI UCIL32011 10 Optional
From Baker Street to CSI UCIL32511 20 Optional
Climate Change & Society UCIL33201 10 Optional
Climate Change & Society UCIL33501 20 Optional
Displaying 10 of 59 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: