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BA (Honours) Art History and Visual Cultures

This degree will equip you with the knowledge and critical skills to understand the histories and theories of visual, material and spatial cultures. This will be a rich and rounded experience as you go beyond the contextual study of art, architecture and design. You'll explore the power of images to influence debates, both historically and in the present day, and develop transferable skills in visual literacy. As you progress you'll acquire critical skills that address the subject area’s place in the wider humanities and as a component of study in the creative and cultural industries.

Key features of the course

  • Explore images and artefacts from a wide range of periods and places.
  • Become familiar with different approaches to the study of visual, spatial and material culture.
  • Gain skills in visual literacy, criticism and analysis that will make you highly employable.
  • Work on your own project, with the support of a tutor, for the final module of the degree.

We also offer a Diploma of Higher Education in Art History and Visual Cultures (W72) that is the same in structure as the first two-thirds of this degree.

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course

Degree

Degree

  • Also known as an undergraduate or bachelors degree.
  • Internationally respected, universally understood.
  • An essential requirement for many high-level jobs.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of your subject – and the tools to investigate, think critically, form reasoned arguments, solve problems and communicate effectively in new contexts.
  • Progress to higher level study, such as a postgraduate diploma or masters degree.
Course code
R27
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
360
How long it takes
Part time – 6 years
Full time – 3 years
Time limit – 16 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

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 and visual cultures from the medieval to the modern period.
  • Finally, at Stage 3, you’ll look at art in a global context, before completing your degree with a project module. 

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in at Stage 1, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

In Stage 1 you'll encounter a variety of different times and places and engage with 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.
ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Discovering the arts and humanities (A111)60
Cultures (A112)60

Stage 2 (120 credits)

Stage 2 introduces you to major artists and artworks starting in the Medieval period, and will engage you thematically with the central questions of art history and visual cultures from the eighteenth century to the present day. You'll develop skills of visual literacy through a cutting-edge exploration of different ways of looking and by analysing visual, spatial and material culture. Each module introduces 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.

ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Exploring art and visual culture (A226)60
Art and visual cultures in the modern world (A236) – planned for October 202360

Stage 3 (120 credits)

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.

ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Art and its global histories (A344)60
Art and its critical histories (A336) – planned for October 202360

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 15 March 2022.


Accessibility

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

Credit transfer

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.

International recognition

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.

Regulations

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. 


Compare this course

Entry requirements

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

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

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, all through its central theme of ‘popular protest’. 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

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • Most OU students study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,228*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits, which is equivalent to a year's full-time study, is £6,456*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £19,368*.
  • .

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2023. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access. If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.


How will I study this course?

With our unique approach to distance learning, you can study from home, work, or on the move.

You’ll have some assessment deadlines to meet, but otherwise you’ll be free to study at the times that suit you, fitting your learning around work, family, and social life.

For each of your modules, you’ll use either just online resources or a mix of online and printed materials.

Each module you study will have a module website, with:

  • a week-by-week study planner, giving you a step-by-step guide through your studies
  • course materials such as reading, videos, recordings, and self-assessed activities
  • module forums for discussions and collaborative activities with other students
  • details of each assignment and their due dates
  • a tutorial booking system, online tutorial rooms, and your tutor’s contact details
  • online versions of some printed module materials and resources.

If you have additional needs, we can also provide most module materials in alternative formats. Find out more about materials on our accessibility webpage.


Tutor support

You’ll have a tutor for each module, who will introduce themselves before the module begins.

Throughout the module, they will:

  • mark your assignments and give feedback to help you improve
  • guide you to learning resources
  • support you, whether with general study skills or help with a specific topic.

Tutorials

Tutorials throughout the course could be online, face-to-face or a mixture of the two, and they’re always optional.

Online tutorials are live presentations with module tutors in dedicated online tutorial rooms, and are sometimes recorded.


Assessment

Our assessments are all designed to reinforce your learning and help you show your understanding of the topics. The mix of assessment methods will vary between modules.

Computer-Marked Assignments

  • Usually a series of online, multiple-choice questions.

Tutor-Marked Assignments

  • You’ll have a number of these throughout each module, each with a submission deadline.
  • They can be made up of essays, questions, experiments or something else to test your understanding of what you have learned.
  • Your tutor will mark and return them to you with detailed feedback.

End-of-Module Assessments

  • The final, marked piece of work on most modules.
  • Modules with an end of module assessment won’t usually have an exam.

Exams

  • Some modules end with an exam. You’ll be given time to revise and prepare.
  • You’ll be given your exam date at least 5 months in advance; you’ll need to attend one of our many exam centres in the UK or Europe.
  • All exams taking place before 31 December 2023 will be remote exams that you will complete at home or at an alternative location.

Progressing to a point where I felt more comfortable writing my assignments, and having my scores reflecting that, made me quite happy because it showed the hard work was being rewarded.

Patrick ‘Ricky’ Skene, BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

Other support and resources

Throughout your studies, you’ll have access to our subject-specific Student Support Teams.

They’ll help you with any general questions about your study and updates to your OU account.

To help with your studies, you’ll also have access to:

  • our online library, with high-quality online resources to support your study
  • other university libraries in the UK and Ireland
  • the online Help Centre, which has general information about OU study and support, along with study skills advice
  • free Microsoft Office 365 software
  • IT and computing support from our Computing Helpdesk.

Find out more about student support and being a part of the OU community.

Skills for career development

All Arts study fosters critical thinking, analysis, and communication. This qualification goes further by enabling you to develop a high level of visual literacy and confidence in engaging with major artists and artworks, and other important visual material. 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 final project will enhance your research skills and your independent management of a substantial piece of academic work. These key skills are highly sought after in the world beyond study – whether you’re already working, volunteering, or changing career.

Career relevance

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
  • education
  • 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.

Other careers

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
  • journalist
  • publisher
  • public relations manager
  • librarian
  • archivist
  • media researcher
  • marketing manager
  • teacher
  • arts administration
  • heritage management
  • charity campaigner
  • HR manager

Register for this course

Start dates
Credit transfer: apply by 08/12/2022

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