This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll start Stage 1 with a broad introduction to the arts and humanities followed by a module to develop your knowledge and skills.
- Next, at Stage 2, you’ll study art from the medieval to modern periods and engage thematically with art and visual cultures.
- Finally, at Stage 3, you’ll look at art in a global context, before completing your degree with a themed project module.
In Stage 1 you'll encounter a variety of different times and places and engage with some fascinating people, art works, ideas and stories. As an art history student, this broad interdisciplinary foundation will help you develop the skills and the confident, open approach you need to tackle more specialist art history modules at Stages 2 and 3.
Stage 2 introduces you to major artists and artworks from the Medieval to the Contemporary period and will engage you thematically with the central questions of art history and visual cultures from the Modern to the Contemporary period, beginning in the eighteenth century. You'll develop skills of visual literacy through a cutting-edge exploration of different ways of looking and analysing visual, spatial and material culture. Each module introduces the issues and debates surrounding the production and contestation of value in the sphere of culture, with a focus on ‘heritage’. An overarching aspect is that you'll study art and visual cultures in their broadest definitions, and in everyday settings, including the transfer of art historical concepts and knowledge to the wider public, curatorial, commercial and industrial contexts.
Stage 3 presents a new history of art, highlighting the vital role that art has played in the stories that Europeans have told about the wider world, and suggests ways in which these stories might be challenged or revised.
For your final module you'll explore a broad art history and visual cultures topic that opens out the widest possible range of approaches, themes, periods and geographies. From this you'll select and develop an independent research project on a subject that interests you.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 17 March 2021.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BA (Honours) Art History and Visual Cultures uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying a mixture of printed and online material. Online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- face-to-face tutorials/day schools/workshops and/or online tutorials
- working with specialist reading material such as works of art and musical manuscripts
- working in a group with other students
- using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
- undertaking practical work
- using specialist software
- finding external/third party material online
- continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays, short answer questions, and in some cases an examination
- using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance
- engagement with learning and assessment within a pre-determined schedule or timetable – time management will be needed during your studies and the University will help you to develop these skills throughout your degree.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support with any of the elements above, visit our Disability support page to find more about what we offer. Please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your individual requirements, so we can put arrangements in place before you start.
Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment
This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:
- Knowledge and understanding.
- Cognitive skills.
- Practical and professional skills.
- Key skills.
The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; e-learning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you’ve already completed some study at another university, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – reducing the number of modules you need to study.
You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. Just tell us what you studied, where and when, and we’ll compare this against the learning outcomes for your chosen course.
For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
Classification of your degree
On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our BA (Honours) Art History and Visual Cultures.
The class of honours (first, upper-second, lower-second or third) will depend on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.
You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony.
If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification.
At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.
Even though there are no entry requirements, there are some skills that you'll need to succeed. If you're not quite ready for OU study we can guide you to resources that prepare you, many of which are free.
Answer a few quick questions to check whether you're ready for study success
Preparing for study with an Access module
Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.
You’ll also benefit from:
- feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:
Arts and languages Access module
What you will study
This multidisciplinary module is an ideal starting point if you have little or no previous knowledge of the arts, humanities and languages. It's perfect preparation for your study with The Open University as you'll develop both your subject knowledge and your study skills. From the perspective of its central theme, ‘popular protest’, it explores a range of subjects, including art history, English, English language studies, history, and popular music. The module also offers an opportunity to explore other subjects, such as modern languages, classical studies, religious studies and creative writing.
View full details of Arts and languages Access module
Skills for career development
All Arts study fosters critical thinking, analysis, and communication. This qualification goes further by enabling students to develop a high level of visual literacy and confidence in engaging with both material and media objects. You'll be able to analyse works of art from a wide range of cultural and artistic genres. You'll also have excellent communication skills and will be able to use a range of digital resources appropriate for the subject, while the independent essay will enhance skills of self-management. These are key skills that are highly sought after in the world beyond study – whether you’re already working, volunteering, or changing career.
Study of the arts and humanities requires an understanding of human activities in diverse cultural environments and historical contexts. The breadth of study and range of cultural texts and objects analysed, combined with clear thinking and communication, make the BA (Honours) Art History and Visual Cultures relevant to a wide range of careers, including:
- creative and cultural industries
- museums, art galleries and other art institutions
- public administration, local government, the civil service, and social services
- advertising, journalism, publishing, and public relations
- legal work
- business, banking and retail
- human resources
- charities and campaigning.
Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
In addition to improving your career prospects, studying with the OU is an enriching experience that broadens your horizons, develops your knowledge, builds your confidence and enhances your life skills.
Exploring your options
Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.
In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree:
- museum curator
- civil servant
- advertising manager
- public relations manager
- media researcher
- marketing manager
- arts administration
- heritage management
- charity campaigner
- HR manager