Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

History of Art, Theory and Display MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This programme offers you the opportunity to explore the history and theory of art, and of its display in exhibitions and museums. Based in one of the largest art history departments in the UK, it is perfect for providing you with a comprehensive overview of the discipline as well as giving you access to an exceptionally wide range of art-historical expertise across time and place.

The city of Edinburgh is a World Heritage Site of leading museums and galleries with a rich range of collections and exhibitions, while its Scottish setting gives you access to an exceptional wealth of historic properties, buildings and sites, from medieval castles to the palace and parliament of Holyrood.

Within the university there are also research collections and noted museums and galleries ranging from contemporary art to the history of medicine as well as rare illustrated books and manuscripts. You will also have access to the National Library of Scotland with exceptional collections in rare books and manuscripts and their exhibition display.

You will examine art in its historical contexts, the theoretical frameworks of interpretation and their relationship as physical objects to practices and concepts of display. You will have the opportunity to put your learning into practice through an optional internship within one of Edinburgh’s many museums or galleries.

The programme content will allow you to develop an excellent knowledge of the discipline of art history, advanced research abilities and valuable vocational experience.

Teaching includes a mixture of small-group teaching, individual tutorials, research seminars, lectures, and an internship by competitive application and subject to availability.

Approximately half of the working week involves independent study and research.

Formal assessment is by means of essays, project work, presentations, and a dissertation.

This programme is heavily based in reading academic texts, writing essays, and class discussion of ideas. Courses require students to read and prepare notes on up to 12 academic articles or book chapters per week, and a high level of personal and group participation in class discussion is expected. Course assessment is through 4,000 word essays, and overall, students are required to write 12,000 words for their assessment each semester, as well as the 15,000 word Dissertation in the summer.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScHistory of Art, Theory and Display1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
MScHistory of Art, Theory and Display2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

Students who successfully complete the programme will:

  • have studied courses offering them a thorough grounding in the History of Art

  • (if choosing the internship option) have valuable work experience in a field related to art history, and/or in writing art criticism

  • have completed a major piece of original, independent art historical research for their dissertation

  • have shown themselves to be capable of further research in the History of Art

History of Art is an interdisciplinary subject that provides transferable skills in the analysis of images and texts, research, academic writing, public presentations, and IT.

The wide-ranging nature of this programme will equip you for further, more specialised study in the History of Art, and potentially a future academic career.

The vocational element of your learning is the ideal stepping-stone to a career in the gallery and museum sector.

You will also have gained an array of highly transferable skills, such as communication, curatorial practice and project management, which will prove an asset in any career.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

Normally a UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional costs may include the travel fare to the site of local cultural institutions for training or seminars.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScHistory of Art, Theory and Display1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScHistory of Art, Theory and Display2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Admissions Office
  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU