MA History of Art: Renaissance to Modernism by Research

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Course overview

  • 2024
  • 2025
  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Sep, 1 Year
  • Sep, 2 Years
  • Sep, 1 Year
  • Sep, 2 Years
  • Research
  • Research
  • Research
  • Research
  • Master of Arts by Research
  • Master of Arts by Research
  • Master of Arts by Research
  • Master of Arts by Research
  • £10,300
  • From £5,150 per year*
  • £10,300
  • From £5,150 per year*
  • £16,480
  • From £8,240 per year*
  • £16,480
  • From £8,240 per year*
  • London
  • London
  • London
  • London
  • Upcoming events

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    About the course

    The University of Buckingham’s Master’s programme in the History of Art offers the opportunity to pursue research at Master’s level in any one of a wide range of art historical topics: from explorations of individual artists, to examinations of styles, themes, movements and the role of art in society across the centuries.

    Individual research topics are closely focused; but the approach of the course is to encourage students to investigate the interconnections between art’s multiple facets and roles. Recent dissertations have surveyed, for example, the role of modern church art, the links between three twentieth-century female sculptors, Caravaggio’s biblical understanding, the origins of the Official War Artists scheme during the First World War, and art commissioned by the East India Company. The choice of subject area is ultimately the student’s own.

    The Master’s degree can be taken either full-time and completed in a single academic year, or taken part-time and extended over two years. Although original research it the prime focus of the programme, there is also a strongly collegial aspect to the course, as all research students meet regularly throughout the year for a series of early-evening seminars by some of the most distinguished scholars working in the history of early-modern England. The seminars are held in the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BE, and provide an opportunity for students to meet and debate with the visiting speaker. Each seminar is followed by a working dinner at a nearby restaurant at which discussion continues. (The full seminar programme is given below.)

    The MA is awarded solely on the basis of the dissertation (there are no ‘exams’), and the relationship between the student and supervisor is therefore at the heart of the course.

    The maximum length for the MA dissertation in the School of Humanities is 25,000 words (or approximately 75 pages at line-spacing of 1.5), excluding notes and references. Student and supervisor meet regularly on a one-to-one basis to discuss, plan, and review the dissertation as it develops through the year.

    The University of Buckingham MA programmes are intended to impart all the skills necessary for the student to work as an independent researcher and writer – skills that are valued by both academic and non-academic employers. But the MA can be undertaken just as fulfillingly as an exercise in the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, and as a means of exploring areas of enquiry that are of particular interest to the student.

    The academic year begins in October with classes on how to undertake archival research, how to plan and structure a dissertation successfully, and on the many online resources that are available to assist in historical research. Specialist classes are also offered on paleography (the study of historic handwriting) to enable students to read contemporary manuscripts with speed and accuracy.

    Tutorials and classes will normally take place at the University of Buckingham’s London offices at 51 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, WC1E 6HJ, very close to the British Museum.


    Some students know from the outset the precise subject on which they intend to work. For most, however, the definition of a research proposal is usually a gradual process, with the student starting with a general area of interest, and then focusing on a more closely defined topic as a result of further reading and consultation, usually with the Course Director. Most students do not arrive at the final title of their dissertation until towards the end of the first Term, before Christmas.

    The Course Director, Michael Prodger, is available to offer advice to prospective students who would like to discuss possible subjects for their research before they apply.


    Private research and supervision are complemented by a rich programme of seminars which give students direct access to some of the United Kingdom’s most distinguished scholars of the country house. These seminars, which are chaired by Michael Prodger, take place in the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BE, in central London (see below for further details).

    The seminar meets regularly between October and March. All seminars begin at 6:30 pm with the talk by the visiting speaker, and this is followed by a question session and discussion that runs to 7:45 pm. There is then a short break for pre-dinner drinks and the group reconvenes at 8:15 pm for a three-course dinner with wine, during which the historical discussion continues. Proceedings usually end at 10 pm. The programme aims not only to offer a stimulating intellectual experience, but one which is an enjoyable sociable experience as well. The cost of the dinners is included in the tuition fees.

    The seminars are of course academic events, with a talk by a visiting expert; but they also have a social dimension, bringing research students and senior scholars together to discuss matters of common interest in an informal and congenial atmosphere.
    The seminar programme offers a broadly chronological survey of Western art from the late fifteenth century to the late twentieth, enabling students to place their own individual research within the broader context of developments in art history since the Renaissance. For those taking the course as Associate Students, this seminar programme may be enjoyed as a self-contained survey.

    This coming year’s seminars explore a broad range of topics, ranging from Leonardo and Michelangelo, the spread of Caravaggism, the art of the Dutch Golden Age, the ‘long’ British eighteenth century, to Post-Impressionism and twentieth-century British art.

    Location, unless otherwise stated: the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1J 0BE.


    The seminar programme for 2024-25 will be published close to the start of the academic year.


    The usual period of Master’s degree research is one year for the those who engage in full-time study. Part-time study is also available, with students completing the dissertation in two years.


    Every Master’s student in School of Humanities is supported by two supervisors. There is a First (or Principal) Supervisor, who is the student’s regular guide during his or her research, and with whom the student meets regularly throughout the year. There is also a Second Supervisor, whom the student may consult on a more limited basis where a ‘second opinion’ on a particular draft chapter may be helpful. Full-time students see their supervisor for one-to-one supervisions not less than twice a term.
    The University has an extensive group of scholars available to undertake supervision in the field of Art History, including:

    Michael Prodger, Course Director, is art critic for the New Statesman and The Critic magazines and a regular writer on art for Apollo, The Times and Sunday Times, and The Guardian. He is a former literary editor and Booker Prize judge.

    Dr Susanna Avery-Quash, for supervision in the history of private and public art collections, especially the National Gallery; the trends in artistic taste; and the evolution of the art market.

    Dr Adriano Aymonino FSA for the history of the Classical tradition, particularly in the eighteenth century; the history of collecting; the relationship between historical scholarship and the visual arts.

    Sir Nicholas Penny FBA FSA, Renaissance art; European sculpture from the High Renaissance to the present day; the reception of Antiquity and the history of taste.

    Professor Dame Rosalind Savill DBE, for eighteenth-century French painting, especially on porcelain.
    Professor Robin Simon FSA, for eighteenth-century British art, especially portraiture.


    For those who wish to attend the seminars and to join the post-seminar dinners with the visiting speakers, it is possible to join the programme as an Associate Student (what is known as an Audit Student in the United States). Associate Students do not enrol for the MA and do not have to submit any written work, but they are otherwise full members of the seminar and free to take part in discussion. There is also a substantially reduced fee.

    For further information, please contact


    “The University of Buckingham’s MA in the History of Art is an academically rigorous and highly rewarding post-graduate programme. I came to it as a practising artist looking for a new set of challenges. Attending first as an Associate student the lectures were inspirational. My interest in the modern was informed by a set of brilliant contextualizing lectures spanning the history of great art from the Renaissance onwards

    The convenience and splendour of the central London location and the opportunity to debate issues over dinner with distinguished tutors set this course apart from anything I had previously experienced. So much so that I came back as an MA student the next year – and thoroughly enjoyed the course again, making good friends from a fascinatingly varied and able cohort. Importantly, I was brilliantly well supported throughout my research and the dissertation writing process by the ablest and motivational of personal tutors. Studying History of Art at Buckingham was, without a doubt, the best educational experience of my life, and I commend the course to you: it is beyond excellent.” – James Broomfield

    “For me this course for me was inspiring, enabling flexible and in-depth study of my chosen research topic together with excellent support and critical analysis from expert supervisors. There was also regular stimulating engagement, informal debate and the exchange of ideas with fellow research students throughout the course, either meeting in central London or virtually. The guest lecturers, leading specialists in their field, were superb and overall they brought the breadth and range of art history from renaissance to modernism brilliantly to life, with thought-provoking insights and cogently argued contextualisation. The course was welcoming and inclusive for all its students and I found that the range of art-history topics addressed was ideal for the intellectually curious and for those who wish to become more visually literate.” – Suzanne Phillips

    “The University of Buckingham MA in History of Art, gave me the opportunity to attend a series of lectures by world-class art historians. The original format of the course which includes a post-lecture dinner, creates an informal, less intimidating atmosphere encouraging truly inspiring interaction with the lecturers. The support and encouragement from the Course Director and the supervisory team nurtured my research and academic skills during the writing of the dissertation, making my MA a life-enriching and enormously stimulating experience.” – Gabriella Lecis

    View course modules


    Entry requirements

    The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:

    • a first or upper second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
    • a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience.

    In cases where candidates are applying on the basis of work experience, they will be asked to attend an interview as part of the application process; in some cases, they may also be asked to produce a short sample of written work.


    Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students. Due to their flexibility, our London-based MAs by research attract a wide variety of applicants from a range of backgrounds, including people in full-time employment and retirees. Our current students range in age from 21 to 75.


    We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

    The University is a UKVI Student Sponsor.


    If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.


    Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director. The Programme Director or Admissions Assistant will be happy to answer any enquiries. Call us on +44 (0)1280 820227 or get in touch via our online form.


    When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the student contract between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the student contract in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the student contract contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting an offer. Read the Student Contract.

    Teaching and assessment

    The MA does not offer systematic instruction in factual knowledge; instead, the emphasis is on independent thought and research.

    At the heart of the Buckingham Master’s degree is the close working relationship between student and supervisor. While the final thesis must be an independent work, it is the supervisor who offers advice on refining the topic (if necessary), on primary sources, on secondary reading, on research techniques and on writing the final text (which should be not less than 25,000 words).

    Supervisors and students meet regularly throughout the year, and not less than twice in each of the academic year’s four terms; and the supervisor is the student’s primary contact for academic advice and support.

    After your course

    Many of the University’s research students have gone on to publish their MA or PhD dissertations, either in book-form or as articles in learned journals. The skills of authorship are one of the numerous ‘transferable skills’ that students acquire through the programme. The academic staff are available to offer advice on the process of preparing their work for publication.

    The University’s Course Directors, students’ supervisors, and the Research Officer and Tutor for Graduate Students are available to discuss students’ post-graduation plans and how they may utilise most effectively the skills acquired during their studies.

    Course fees

    The fees for this course are:

    StartType1st YearTotal cost
    Month Year
    Full-time (2 Years)
    Month Year
    Full-time (2 Years)

    The University reserves the right to increase course fees annually in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI). If the University intends to increase your course fees it will notify you via email of this as soon as reasonably practicable.

    Course fees do not include additional costs such as books, equipment, writing up fees and other ancillary charges. Where applicable, these additional costs will be made clear.


    A system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK is available with support from the UK Government. The loan is available for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.


    Details of scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.

    How to apply

    Apply direct

    Apply online from this page as:

    • The most flexible option.
    • You can apply until shortly before the course starts.
    • There are no application fees.

    You can apply directly through our website by clicking the ‘Apply now’ button below.