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BA History of Art / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

Course description

Miriam Dafydd - BA Art History and Visual Studies

"My favourite thing was how close-knit the department feels.

"When I hear of my friends being on courses with hundreds of other students, I feel fortunate that I was one of just 60, which meant we all got to know each other by name, and it was easy to make a lot of friends."

Miriam Dafydd / 2017 graduate

BA History of Art is a wide-ranging and in-depth degree which explores art history and visual culture from the Medieval era to the present.

The broad range of staff expertise offers you the opportunity to study a varied and exciting curriculum. As you progress to Years 2 and 3, you will select pathways of study that suit your individual interests.

We offer a 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.

Our curriculum includes a pathway devoted to curating and gallery studies. Topics covered include the museum as institution, collecting, practical aspects of curating and making exhibitions, and art writing. 


You will:

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

Special features

Placement year option

Apply your subject-specific knowledge in a real-world context through a placement year in your third year of study, enabling you to enhance your employment prospects, clarify your career goals and build your external networks.

Overseas opportunities

We offer two unique summer internships at the world-famous Venice Peggy Guggenheim Collection. In your second year you'll go on a five-day field trip to a European city, such as Paris, Rome, Barcelona or Berlin. The trip combines guided tours and talks with independent research and culminates in an extended essay on your return to the UK.

You may also apply to spend one semester studying abroad during the second year of your degree. Exchange partners are offered via the Worldwide Exchange scheme, in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong or Singapore.

Extracurricular opportunities

Join our student society, the Manchester Art Group, which curates events, talks, exhibitions and trips, and aims to link up with contemporary art practice in Manchester and across the North West.

You could also join Arts Emergency, which aims to encourage the production of a new generation of thinkers by highlighting the reversal of decades of social and educational access to arts and humanities, or the Whitworth Young Contemporaries Student Society , which brings together students who have an interest in the arts, culture and creativity to make the Whitworth part of students' academic, cultural and social life.

Teaching and learning

Teaching takes place in a variety of formats, including lectures, small seminar groups, workshops, gallery visits, and one-to-one tutorials.

Seminars are normally very interactive - you may be given reading in advance that will form the basis of a class discussion and you will be expected to contribute occasional oral presentations, building your skills and confidence in presentation techniques.

Some course units feature group projects culminating in online content development or a physical exhibition/display.

Classroom time is frequently supplemented by new media, such as the virtual learning environment, Blackboard. You will also have access to other digital resources to support your learning.

Many of our courses include fieldwork visits to galleries or special exhibitions throughout the UK. This means regular classes in Manchester at places like HOME, the City Art Gallery and the University's own Whitworth Art Gallery.

We offer a number of travel bursaries through the Lady Chorley Fund to assist final-year students with their dissertation research.

You will spend approximately 12 hours a week in formal study sessions. For every hour spent at University, you will be expected to complete a further two to three hours of independent study. You will also need to study during the holiday periods.

The individual study component could be spent reading, producing written work, or revising for examinations.

Coursework and assessment

You will be assessed in various ways, including:

  • written and oral examinations;
  • coursework essays;
  • research reports;
  • practical tests;
  • learning logs;
  • web contributions;
  • small-scale practical assignments;
  • seminar presentations and participation;
  • library research, linguistic fieldwork and data collection.

Many course units are assessed through a mixture of techniques.

In your final year, you can choose to write a dissertation.

Written feedback is provided in the form of essay and exam cover sheets and, in the case of orally delivered seminar papers, a verbal report from the tutor. We provide feedback on both the content of your writing and the construction and clarity of the argument posed.

As a student here you'll gain both academic writing skills and insight into the development of arts-specific composition, such as catalogue entries, gallery interpretation, exhibition reviews and journalistic articles.

Course tutors are available without appointment in their office hours twice a week outside scheduled teaching hours, allowing you to gain advice and feedback on your work.

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.

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 AHCP10051 20 Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 1 AHCP10381 20 Mandatory
Art History Tutorial 2 AHCP10382 20 Mandatory
Ice Age to Baroque: Artworks in History SALC10041 20 Mandatory
Rococo to Now: Artworks in History SALC10042 20 Mandatory
Introduction to World Cinema SALC11002 20 Optional

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. You will learn about 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
Art in Theory AHCP20431 20 Mandatory
European Art History Fieldtrip AHCP20702 20 Mandatory
Art and the Early Modern Body AHCP20132 20 Optional
Art in Britain AHCP20222 20 Optional
Art in South Asia AHCP20802 20 Optional
Surrealism, Gender, Sexuality AHCP23711 20 Optional
Art of Fourteenth Century Italy AHCP23921 20 Optional
Visual Cultures in China and East Asia CHIN22521 20 Optional
Core Themes in Animated Film and Visual Culture of Postwar Japan JAPA20131 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 AHCP30000 40 Mandatory
The English Baroque: Architecture and Society 1660-1730 AHCP30012 20 Optional
Art and Ecologies AHCP30052 20 Optional
Art After Modernism: Approaching Contemporary Art AHCP30562 20 Optional
Picasso AHCP33132 20 Optional
Romanticism AHCP33191 20 Optional
Exhibitions that Changed the (Art) World AHCP33212 20 Optional
Renaissance Florence: Culture, History and Art ITAL30621 20 Optional

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 rich cultural heritage and attractions of Manchester and the north-west are within easy reach.

The Manchester Museum and the Whitworth Art Gallery offer unique access to the environment of the working museum and art gallery, as well as to important works of art. The Whitworth is a major resource, and its outstanding collections of paintings, prints, textiles and wallpapers are used extensively in our teaching.

You can also explore original art in the city's famous galleries, such as the Lowry, Manchester Art Gallery and the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.

The main library provision is the University Library, one of the UK's top university libraries with arguably the best access to electronic resources of any library in Europe. This 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.

Art History students also enjoy a discipline-specific library in the same building as our department. It provides a pleasant and quiet working environment for students, with access to the most commonly used publications.  A convenient and comfortable study environment, it also houses a very large, well-organised slide, video and computer-based image collection.

Learn more on the Facilities page.

Disability support

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