Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating and Criticism MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This programme will deepen your knowledge and understanding of the history and theory of modern and contemporary art, and prepare you for further research and/or a range of careers in the art world. The programme focuses on academic study and is taught by research-active staff who specialise in a range of subjects that shape the field internationally.

Core courses

There are two compulsory courses:

  • Research, Theories and Methods (Semester 1)
  • Cultures and Politics of Display (Semester 2)

Option courses

There is a selection of option courses that address contemporary art theory and attend to the complexities of modern art and contemporary art theory and practice as well as of the contexts where art is experienced.

Option courses allow you to acquire specialist knowledge on a subject that relates to the focus of this Masters. Normally, the optional internship is available as an option course in Semester 2.

Option courses vary annually depending on the availability of staff and/or the update of the material following research in the field.


Your work culminates in a supervised dissertation of around 15,000 words on a subject of your choice that relates to the focus of the Masters.

Learn from specialists

The School of History of Art, where the Masters is based, is one of the largest in the UK and covers an extraordinary range of subjects in art history. Academic staff teaching on the Masters are research-active and, in many cases, present substantial work in their field and/or lead their fields. An external Fellow in Contemporary Art Theory and Curating, a leading voice in the field, shares his/her experience with students as part of the Semester 2 core course classes in March. External theorists and curators may also be invited to teach on their specialism in specific courses.

Moreover, extracurricular research seminars organised by History of Art will introduce you to emergent trends and world-class researchers in the field. These are held weekly during term time. In addition, talks and events held across ECA and the University can contribute to advancing your knowledge of the arts and humanities.

The programme is delivered through a mix of large and small group teaching, individual tutorials linked to supervision, while research seminars enhance the student experience. The programme is available full-time (one year) or part-time (two years). The programme can combine on-campus and online classes but normally it is on-campus.

You will be taught by research-active staff, including leading experts in their fields. You are also expected to undertake independent study and research, especially for the dissertation.

Assessment and progression

Formal assessment is by means of academic essays, a dissertation, and project work where appropriate.

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
MScModern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25
MScModern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the field of modern and contemporary art, as well as transferable research skills. The possibility of an internship in a museum, gallery or comparable work environment can provide useful experience in a changing art world.

Our aim is to provide you with the knowledge and understanding necessary for your intellectual development in ways that prepare you for your future contribution to the field.

The comprehensive nature of this programme, including its specialised option courses, will equip you for a confident start in a range of art-world and related work contexts and will be invaluable if you are interested in further academic study, such as a PhD, or a career in an art-world setting.

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.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject.

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:

Application fee




Additional programme costs

This programme has additional costs.

This may include the travel fare to the site of the internship and/or to any local art institutions.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScModern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScModern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism2 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 residency 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.

Your application's personal statement should answer the following questions:

  • How have your first degree and work experience prepared you for post-graduate study in the discipline of art history?
  • Where do your specific interests lie within this broad field?

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