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MA in Art History


This MA degree will build on your existing knowledge of art history to equip you with the critical skills necessary for independent research in the field. You begin your studies by exploring core concepts and current concerns of art history. You will then examine critical debates both within the academic discipline of art history and in the 'real world' contexts of heritage, curating and museums. The taught component of the degree provides you with research training which will enable you to carry out a more substantial piece of independent research on a topic of your choice for the final dissertation module. You need a substantial background in art history at undergraduate level to succeed in obtaining this qualification.

Planning your studies

You must hold an honours degree to study for our MA in Art History course. Your degree need not be in art history but you must have the basic skills expected of a graduate in that area. The foundation module brings you up to date with the latest ideas and approaches but does not offer remedial undergraduate training for those who have an inappropriate bachelors degree or inadequate experience. Before you start your MA you must be able to:

  • write clear, concise, grammatically correct and accurately spelt prose
  • read large quantities of text quickly, accurately and critically
  • classify evidence precisely and assess its value and reliability
  • argue logically, consistently and sceptically
  • marshal various sorts of evidence to support a logical argument.

For students who started in 2014 or later, you must commence your studies towards the MA in Art History with the part 1 module which explores foundational concepts and recent developments in art history. The part 2 module builds on these foundations to expand your understanding of visual and material objects (incorporating architecture, landscape and reproduced images) and their contexts, and concludes with the writing of a dissertation.

You must complete this qualification within ten years.

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 60 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.

Career relevance and employability

Studying art history at postgraduate level will deepen your understanding of art, architecture and visual culture. Through a critical engagement with some of the key theories and approaches developed to interpret and explain works of art from the Renaissance to the present day you will learn to study independently and undertake appropriate research. An MA in Art History will provide you with a range of skills, including visual and textual analysis and critical thinking and writing, which can be successfully transferred to a variety of careers in the professional and educational sectors.

There is more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU’s Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.


For this masters degree you require:

180 credits from the following compulsory modules:
Postgraduate compulsory modules Credits Next start
MA Art History part 1 (A843)

This module explores the foundational concepts and recent developments that have shaped art history, with reference to subjects ranging from Renaissance Italy to the contemporary Caribbean.

See full description

60 Oct 2015
MA Art History part 2 (A844) NEW

Building on part 1, students are invited to consider art history and art and design in their intellectual, institutional and professional contexts. 

See full description

120 Oct 2015

Or 180 credits from the discontinued modules A840, A841 and A847 if you started before 2014. 

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills
Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes, and how they are acquired through teaching, learning and assessment methods.

Credit for previous study elsewhere

If you have already completed some successful study at postgraduate level at another institution you may be able to transfer credit for this study and count it towards this Open University qualification. If you wish to apply to transfer credit you must do so as soon as possible as it may affect your choice of OU modules. If you are awarded credit for study completed elsewhere, you may find that you need to study fewer OU modules to complete your qualification with us.

Visit our Credit Transfer site for more information and details of how to apply for credit transfer.

On completion

On successful completion of the required modules you can be awarded the Master of Arts in Art History entitling you to use the letters MA (Art Hist) (Open) after your name. You will have the opportunity of being presented at a degree ceremony.

If you leave the programme before you qualify for a degree you can qualify for a Postgraduate Certificate in Humanities (C20) after successfully completing either A840 or A843, or a Postgraduate Diploma in Humanities (D35) after completing A840 and A841.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the following regulations:

These regulations are also available on our Essential Documents website.

How to register

If you want to study for this qualification, read the description and check you meet any specific requirements (for example, some of our qualifications, require you to be working in a particular environment, or be sponsored by your employer). Then select the module you wish to study first and ensure it is suitable for you before following the registration procedure for that module. During the registration procedure you will be asked to declare which qualification you are studying towards.

See a full list of modules available for this qualification

About this Taught Masters
Code F33
Level Postgraduate
Made up of 180 credits

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