History of Art MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

By studying for your graduate research degree at UCL History of Art, you will join prominent researchers in diverse fields and a thriving graduate community. Our students pursue successful academic positions and curating and related careers. They participate in our regular research seminars and produce our journal Object. We also offer opportunities to work as Teaching Assistants in the department.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A UK Master's degree in a relevant discipline (pass of 68% or better), or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Students are normally required to have achieved an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s or its overseas equivalent at first degree level.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

A PhD in the History of Art department will allow you to pursue independent, original research and encourage you to develop work that engages with various historical and contemporary cultural debates. As a PhD student, you will be an essential part of our research community; as such, we invite you to attend our various seminar series and conferences and to be involved in producing the events. We offer opportunities to train as a Teaching Assistant, providing valuable preparation for the demands of an academic career.

Who this course is for

Our MPhil/PhD History of Art is suitable for candidates wishing to pursue research in one of the most dynamic and pioneering centres for the study of art history in the world.

What this course will give you

We have a thriving graduate research community. Students participate in our weekly graduate seminar and actively organise events for the department's Past Imperfect and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art (CSCA). Research students also write, edit and produce the journal Object. PhD students are also encouraged to participate in ReSkIN, a seminar and support scheme for PhD students working in art and architectural histories, as well as visual, cultural and curatorial studies. The programme brings together students from eight institutions: the Bartlett School of Architecture, Birkbeck, the Courtauld Institute, Goldsmiths, SOAS, the Slade School of Art, UCL, and the Warburg Institute.

The foundation of your career

PhD students can work as Teaching Assistants in the department; the combination of research and teaching skills prepares them for the diverse demands of an academic career. Our PhD can also prepare students to take up senior curatorial or management positions in museums or the heritage industry.

Recent graduates have been awarded prestigious postdoctoral fellowships and secured academic positions at top universities and research institutes in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia. Many have also pursued successful curatorial careers at major museums and collections in Britain, including the Tate Modern, the Hayward Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Barbican Art Gallery and many more, including museums and galleries abroad. Others work as art journalists or in publishing.


The PhD in the History of Art requires independent, self-motivated research and will teach students to formulate and convey their ideas to specialised and broader audiences. It will enable students to develop original thinking on all aspects of visual culture, drawing on historical and contemporary cultural debates. Students gain experience working in different kinds of archives and with different approaches to visual material.


The History of Art Department hosts extensive research seminars, conferences, public lectures, and workshops with external contributors and partners. First-year students participate in the Research Skills Intercollegiate Network (ReSkIN), which brings together students and research staff in history of art, architecture, fine art, and visual culture across London’s universities for networking and conferences. Research students are directly involved in organising events for the department’s research groups, including Past Imperfect and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art, and contribute to creating the Object journal. Visits to museums, galleries, archives, and collections throughout London and beyond are integral to our research culture.

Teaching and learning

Most of the years during which you are studying for your PhD will be spent engaging in independent research in consultation with your supervisor. Regular meetings with this supervisor will inform the structure and timescale of your research.

All students working toward a PhD are initially registered for the MPhil degree; this is changed to PhD registration upon satisfactory completion of the upgrade procedure. PhD students will then produce a thesis of no more than 100,000 words. 

Meetings with supervisors will be regular but arranged on an individual basis. Predominantly, students will be engaged in self-directed study.

Research areas and structure

  • Art theory and the history of the discipline
  • European art and architecture c. 1700–1945
  • Art, architecture, and aesthetics of the Global South
  • Cross-cultural studies and globalisation
  • Materials, objects and practices of art history
  • Modern and contemporary art
  • Medieval and early modern studies
  • The history of the body and the relationship between art and science
  • The history of visual technologies (print, photography, time-based media).

Research environment

UCL History of Art is a world-leading centre of scholarship consisting of a diverse community of researchers. The department ranked 1st in London and 3rd in the UK for Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory in the Research Excellence Framework 2021 (overall GPA rankings). The research culture of the department is vibrant, a place where the challenge and excitement of thinking about visual form and material practices in their historical, social and political dimensions are never forgotten. More than a set of degree programmes and research outputs, the department is a community of scholars committed to pushing the boundaries of the critical and scholarly study of all art forms.

You will join ReSkIN, the UCL-founded intercollegiate network that brings together students from across London institutions where the History of Art and Visual Culture is studied. This offers you a chance to meet other PhD researchers across London and participate in discussions led by research staff in the field.

Throughout your time with us, the department will encourage you to present and share your work in various ways. Typically, this has included a third-year symposium and the Object journal, where you can submit your work for publication and serve on the editorial board.

The length of registration for the research degree programmes is three years for full-time and five years for part-time. However, most students take up to one more year, or up to two years part-time, to submit, during which time they are registered as completing research status (CRS) students.

You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transferring to a PhD after successfully completing an upgrade viva nine months (15 months part-time) after initial registration.

In your first year, you will embark on the first steps of your research - you will undertake mandatory skills training and begin to update your research student log to track your initial progress in the department. You will be expected to meet with your supervisor regularly and define your research project's basic structure and timelines. You will also prepare your upgrade paper and presentation, and upon the successful competition of this upgrade, you will move from an MPhil to a PhD. This upgrade paper is typically the basis for the first chapter of your thesis.

Your second year is primarily devoted to carrying out archival and library-based research, which is then developed through further writing. This is also often the year in which you may travel to other locations and institutions to further your breadth of research. 

In your third year, you will be expected to focus on completing the full draft of the dissertation. Then, you will prepare for submission - mainly through fine-tuning your research apparatus, such as referencing, bibliography and other supporting material. You will also usually present your work in a third-year student symposium. If you are not ready to submit at the end of the third year, you will be able to register for completing research student status (CRS) while you write up your thesis, assuming other criteria have been met.

You can complete your PhD over five years on a part-time basis. You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transferring to the PhD after successfully completing an upgrade viva 15 months after initial registration (nine months for full-time).


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035 £3,015
Tuition fees (2024/25) £28,100 £14,050

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

Additional research costs associated with PhD research vary depending on the project. Some students may need to complete research trips, both in the UK and overseas, depending on the scope of their research.

Students whose PhD is being funded by an external body will likely receive a research allowance as part of their award. The department also offers all PhD students the opportunity to apply for some limited funding to support their research once a year - however, this is not guaranteed.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

The majority of our research students receive funding for their studies. There are several sources of funding, including awards offered centrally by UCL.

AHRC Scholarships
The department has typically secured 2-4 AHRC scholarships each year. AHRC scholarships are awarded and administered by the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP). Applicants for these scholarships must apply to the UCL History of Art research degree before applying for funding via LAHP.

In addition, there are some sources of funding offered by the department each year. Please check the departmental website for details and deadlines.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Deadline: 12 January 2024
Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements; check with the department to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. You should identify and contact potential supervisors or consult with the departmental Graduate Tutor before making your application. For more information, see the How to apply page.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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