MA in Art History - Learning Outcomes

Educational aims

This taught postgraduate programme in art history will:

  • encourage you to develop your undergraduate knowledge and understanding of art history in higher level and more focused work
  • introduce you to a range of significant scholarly debates among historians of art and architecture
  • provide you with an advanced academic training in research methods, with regard to different media and periods, using both traditional methods and those employing new technologies
  • enable you to make effective use of primary sources, both artistic and archival, in developing and completing a research project.

Learning outcomes

The programme provides you with opportunities to develop and demonstrate knowledge, understanding, and skills in the following areas.

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have a sound knowledge and understanding of:

  • art history as a critical discipline producing knowledge through scholarly debate.
  • core concepts and current issues in the discipline of art history, with reference to a range of historical periods and geographical areas.
  • the intellectual, institutional and other contexts that have contributed to the formation of art history and dissemination of art-historical knowledge.
  • a range of methods and approaches for investigating, interpreting and explaining works of art. 

Cognitive skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • analyse and compare works of art and architecture 
  • analyse and evaluate different types of written source material. 
  • analyse and evaluate approaches and debates in art history and associated fields of enquiry.
  • use sources, ideas and approaches to analyse, interpret and explain works of art and architecture. 
  • frame appropriate research questions for art-historical investigation.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • use research libraries, archives, and art collections effectively to locate visual and textual sources. 
  • use specialist online databases and other online resources 
  • apply visual distinction to the analysis and interpretation of images. 
  • demonstrate an awareness of art history’s professional contexts, including the wider arts and heritage sector. 

Key skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • develop structured arguments based on independent research and critical thinking in extended pieces of prose 
  • use online and other resources to find visual and textual sources to support these arguments.
  • use scholarly conventions for presenting and referencing written work correctly
  • develop independent study skills, including planning and organising of own learning
  • communicate and interact with fellow students and tutors in an online environment

Teaching, learning and assessment methods

Knowledge and understanding are gained and developed through the study of online materials in both Part I (A843) and Part II (A844) of the MA. Teaching materials supporting the modules include online study guides, set online readings, and access to a large number of online resources through the Art History MA website. There are also guest seminars and online forums that allow you to discuss the module materials with fellow students and faculty members. Learning outcomes are assessed primarily by means of tutor-marked assignments (TMAs). A843 has an end of module assessment (EMA), which enables you to develop knowledge and understanding of an object of your choosing related to the themes of Block 4 and prepares you for the dissertation (A844). For the dissertation you will choose a topic relating to a theme studied earlier in the programme and write this up in 10,000–12,000 words. Tutors provide feedback on a proposal and a draft chapter, but the dissertation itself forms the assessed component of this final module.

Cognitive skills
The case studies in both A843 and A844 are designed to provide you with opportunities to learn through the analysis, evaluation and comparison of primary and secondary sources including a wide range of visual material.  They will progressively encourage independence in research as you explore strategies for framing your own questions to investigate, and develop confidence in your ability to process and apply art historical knowledge and understanding. You will also be encouraged to reflect on your own learning progress at specified points in your studies.
Practical and/or professional skills and attributes
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 look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Key skills
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 issues in art history (A843). 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 (A844).  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. 


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