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Postgraduate study

In addition to our successful taught MA courses, we also supervise research students (MPhil and PhD) in the same way as at other universities - on a face to face basis. We accept part-time and full-time registration for these degrees.

The Open University is now a member of CHASE (Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England). This initiative links the Arts Faculty at the OU to those of other CHASE members (Essex, Kent, Sussex, University of East Anglia, Goldsmiths and The Courtauld Institute). A new CHASE Block Grant Partnership (BGP2) bid has resulted in the award of an AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership grant, resulting in 232 fully funded studentships across the consortium over five years from October 2014.

CHASE AHRC studentships are available to UK and EU residents at The Open University in the Faculty’s subject areas including Art History. Awards for UK residents include fees and maintenance while EU residents are eligible for fees only. Find out more ...

The Open University graduate student community forms an important part of the university’s research culture. Students participate in the full range of on-campus research and are seen as valued members of the department. The Open University Research School offers a year-round programme of workshops, seminars and training for postgraduate students.

The art history department welcomes applications from suitably qualified candidates. Look at the staff pages to find out more about the research we do and to identify potential supervisors. The principal areas of research in the department are:

  • Byzantine Art
  • Renaissance Art and Sculpture
  • Eighteenth-Century Art and Architecture
  • Modern and Contemporary Art
  • Western and Non-Western Art
  • Aesthetics and Art Theory


All of our PhD students are provided with one or more supervisors for the duration of their studies. They will meet with you regularly and act as your academic advisors. They will provide guidance on your research topic, on the skills you will need to successfully complete your studies, on planning your research and on writing your thesis. They will read all your work and discuss it with you, helping you to develop your ideas and to think critically and independently about your topic. They will encourage you in your studies and give advice if things are not working according to plan.

Applying to study for a research degree

If you wish to work towards a research degree, you will need to satisfy the department that

(a) you have a viable research proposal (advice on preparing a proposal is available here)

(b) you are likely to be able to complete a research degree in Art History successfully;

(c) and you are strongly motivated.

The department will also need to be satisfied that it will be possible to provide you with good support and supervision.

If it looks as if these conditions can be met, you will be asked to attend for an interview with two members of the department, one of whom is likely, should you be accepted, to be your internal supervisor.

For detailed information on how to make an application, together with details of fees, requirements and so on, please visit the Research Degrees Prospectus website. The deadline for submitting applications for starting a PhD in October is usually in mid January.

Current PhD students

Samuel Aylett - ‘Curating Empire in the 21st Century’ (co-supervision with History).

Antonio Fiore - ‘The Artist as an Instrument of Propaganda: Giulio Rosso and the Decorative Arts in Italy during the Fascist Ventennio’.

Nick Garrard - ‘Ecclestiastical Art of the Fifteenth to Seventeenth Centuries from a Contextural/Liturgical Perspective’.

Jan Harthoorn – ‘Patronage, Production, Purpose and Provenance: An examination of an unpublished group of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Illuminated Books of Hours at Alnwick Castle’.

Jill Howitt – ‘Contemporary Public Art in the North of England’.

Jane Lamb – ‘The Commodification of the Celebrity Portrait: An analysis of photographic business practice in relation to image mass production in London, c. 1855-1865’ .

Margaret Leeson – ‘The Image of the Beggar in Britain c. 1760 to 1815’ .

Siobhan McDermott – ‘Travelling Irish Artists: Orientalism and the British Empire 1775-1850’ 

Matthew Steele - ‘The Architectural Profession and its Engagement with Historic Places of Worship in England, 1945 to the Present’. Funded through the AHRC Empowering Design Practices project (

Amanda Stevens - ‘Home on the Rails: The design, fitting and decoration of train interiors in Britain, c.1920-1955’, AHRC funded CDA with the Science Museum Group (National Railway Museum, York).

Angela Sutton-Vane – (History Department) co-supervision ‘The Material Culture of Murder Files: Police Archives as Text and Artefact’(co-supervised with History).

Recently completed PhDs

Nick Baker – ‘A Market of Reputations: The British Art-World 1975-90 and the Marketing of the 'New British Sculpture'’ (2015)

Mandy Bentley – ‘The Unknown Florine Stettheimer: Fame, Femininity and 'Salon Space'’ (2015)

Kevin Parker – ‘Elusive Translation: Film and Video in the work of Isaac Julien, Zineb Sedira and Alia Syed’ (2015)

Ben Pritchett – ‘British Neo-Constructivism between 1956 and 1978: Art and the Politics of Technoscientific Modernisation’ (2015)  

Laura Bolick – ‘Culture, Humanism and Intellect: Cardinal Bessarion as Patron of the Arts’ (2014)

Marjorie Corner – ‘The Work of William Giles (1830-1913): his Paintings and Photographs’ (2013)

Gilda Williams – ‘Modern Gothic’  (2012)

Heather Hanna – ‘Framing Hair: Serial Strategies in Contemporary' (2012)

Melody Mobus – ‘The Burford Masons, c. 1630-1730’ (2012)

Clare Taylor – ‘‘Figured Paper for Hanging Rooms’: The manufacture, design and consumption of wallpapers for English domestic interiors, c.1740-c.1800’ (2010)

Mahnaz Shah – ‘The Venice Hospital: an Investigation into its Structural Formulations’ (2010)

Stella Lewis – ‘El Greco and Colour’ (2009)

Nicolette Duckham – ‘Pride or Prejudice? Sir Herbert Baker’s Architectural Work in South Africa’ (MPhil) (2009)

Gwendolen Webster – ‘Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau’ (2008)

Ekaterina Morozova – ‘American Art Criticism and the Crisis of Art History Writing, 1962-1967’ (2008)

Atta Kwami – ‘Modernist and Street Painting in Kumasi , 1950-2000’ (2007)

Mike Belshaw – ‘Art, Writing and Autobiography’ (2006)

Anna Green – ‘Growing up with Modernité: Representations of Childhood and Adolescence in French Painting, 1848-1886’ (2003)

Juan Jose Gomez Gutierrez – ‘Italian Communist Party Cultural Policies during the Post-war Period, 1944-1951’ (2003)

Funding opportunities

CHASE AHRC studentships are available to UK and EU residents at The Open University in the Faculty’s subject areas including Art History.

Enquiries before making a formal application:

Key links

Research Degree Prospectus