Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: History of Art

Why choose History of Art at the University of Edinburgh?

  • You will work alongside leading academics, many of whom are involved in curating or displaying their work at major international art exhibitions.

  • You will be given behind-the-scenes access to Edinburgh’s renowned art galleries and museums and could take up work experience in one of the city’s collections.

  • The University’s own Talbot Rice Gallery exhibits work by leading contemporary artists alongside important historical collections.

  • Our range of teaching specialisms is one of the broadest in the UK and covers everything from Celtic and early Islamic art right through to contemporary art and the current global art market. We have specialisms in medieval and Renaissance, early modern, and 19th and 20th century art. We also teach Chinese, Japanese and Indian art.

  • Many of our academic staff exhibit in, or curate, major international art exhibitions.

Study abroad

I have loved my time at the University of Edinburgh, and especially my time studying History of Art. The staff are friendly, approachable and extremely talented in their own field.

Lindsay Kieltyka MA (Hons) History of Art graduate
Lindsay Kieltyka  MA (Hons) History of Art graduate

History of art will introduce you to art from different periods and world cultures. You will learn how, and for whom, works of art were made.

You will explore their meanings and the ways they continue to be interpreted. In your final years you will have the opportunity to specialise. If you are studying history of art as a joint honours with a language, you will spend one year of your programme abroad.

Our intention is to produce graduates who have a professional understanding of artistic practice and who also possess an extensive and well-based knowledge and understanding of art history and the methods of its study.

Year 1

You will study History of Art 1, covering the period from the fall of the Roman Empire until the end of the Counter-Reformation. This will include non-western material. History of Art students will also choose two option courses. If you study History of Art with another subject, you will study compulsory courses from that subject and may be able to choose one option course from another subject area.

Year 2

You will study History of Art 2, which begins with the 18th century and continues to the present day. As with Year 1, History of Art students will be able to choose two option courses from related fields such as Architectural History and Classical Art or, alternatively, from unrelated subjects available across the University. If you are studying History of Art with another subject you will take compulsory courses from that subject and may be able to choose one option.

Year 3

You will start to specialise and can either focus solely on History of Art or choose courses from other academic areas. If you are studying History of Art with another subject you will take specialist courses from that subject. All students will complete either a placement within a gallery or cultural institution or a major independent project that focuses on skills relevant to careers in history of art. Projects in the past have included writing exhibition reviews and cataloguing works of art. Study abroad is possible in Year 3. All History of Art & Chinese Studies students spend Year 3 in China.

Year 4

You will select courses that build on your subject choices in Year 3. You will also write a dissertation.

Are there additional costs?

Costs of materials will vary depending on your programme of study. In addition, some programmes offer fieldwork and you will usually be required to cover accommodation, subsistence and travel costs. Your actual contribution will depend on your programme and courses you select.

Our facilities

Most History of Art teaching takes place in the University's Central Area or at the School of Art within Edinburgh College of Art (ECA).

You will have access to the University’s libraries and computing facilities and can take advantage of Edinburgh’s galleries and museums, many of which are located near the University.

The University is investing in the ECA estate and facilities to further develop our flexible, stimulating, supportive and sustainable learning and research environment for students and staff.

Further information is available on the ECA website.

Facilities and resources at ECA


Third year History of Art students who do not go abroad have the option of pursuing three forms of independent project: the critical portfolio, which explores the role of art critic and art criticism; the analytical project, which focuses on a specific object, theory or text; or a work placement, which involves a supervised position within Edinburgh's many museums, galleries, special collections and heritage management institutions.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad in Europe and North America and you can complete gallery placements during Year 3.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and museum and gallery visits. If you do not go abroad in Year 3 you will have the opportunity to pursue supervised independent projects that aim to develop pragmatic skills and experience directly relevant to careers in areas such as galleries, museums, heritage management, auction houses and art journalism.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by coursework and exams. In Year 3 and 4, you will complete a major independent project and a dissertation.

Studying history of art at the University of Edinburgh prepares you for a range of careers in the art world such as curatorships in galleries and museums, art journalism, publishing, art dealing, tourism, graphics, advertising, heritage management and auctioneering.

Some graduates use their skills and experience for careers in management or teaching, after additional training, while some choose to go on to further study.