BA Art History (Including Foundation Year)

Overview

On our four-year BA Art History (including foundation year), we work with you to develop your subject-specific knowledge, and to improve your academic skills. You receive a thorough grounding in these areas during your foundation year (known as Year Zero) to prepare you for a further three years of undergraduate study at Essex. The five-year version of our degree allows you to spend the fourth year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the four-year course.

After successful completion of Year Zero in our Essex Pathways Department, you progress to complete your course with our School of Philosophy and Art History.

At Essex, you will acquire a broad foundation in the history of visual culture: both by learning about canonical forms of art and architecture and by discovering what has been overlooked or marginalised, such as medical photography, tattoos or objects from political protests. You will also develop the skills you need to make exciting new connections between the forms of visual culture you study, developments in other disciplines, and broader social and political forces.

You will develop the skills you need to transform your excitement about art, architecture and visual culture into the ability to uncover new insights about the material you study. You will also develop a solid grounding in the history of art and other forms of visual culture, including the ideas and forces that shaped their production, distribution and reception.

For students with a particular interest in pursuing careers in curating and museumship, we also provide modules every year that explore the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries, as well as more nuts-and-bolts issues, such as installing and marketing artwork.

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). You will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year, a rarity in UK art history courses. We also house a collection of over 750 pieces of art from Latin America, ESCALA.

Study abroad

Our BA Art History programme offers you a variety of study abroad options. The five-year version of our degree allows you to spend the fourth year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the four-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable and organised. We have established partnerships across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia, including with world-renowned institutions such as:

  • École du Louvre in France
  • University of Freiburg in Germany
  • University of Bologna in Italy

Many of our partnerships are subject to language requirements and are recommended for students on joint degrees with languages, but there are also plenty of Anglophone destinations if you don’t want to pursue a second language.

If you spend a full year abroad you’ll only pay 15% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year. You won’t pay any tuition fees to your host university

Our expert staff

Our staff all have strong subject backgrounds, and are highly skilled in their areas both as academics and practitioners.

Within our School of Philosophy and Art History, our staff’s research interests include activist art, modernist art and totalitarianism, the relationship of art and science, the artistic status of body modification, expressions of societal anxiety in art, as well as architecture and urbanism.

We also have significant experience in curation and public engagement. Recent projects include:

  • Dr Gavin Grindon co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, which was one of the most well attended shows in the museum’s history
  • Dr Matt Lodder has acted as contributor for various television shows on body art and body modification, including the Today programme, the Jeremy Vine ShowSky NewsBBC Breakfast NewsCoast, and National Geographic’s Taboo
  • Dr Natasha Ruiz Gómez co-organised a major conference on Collect, Exchange, Display: Artistic Practice and the Medical Museum at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, London

Specialist facilities

By studying within our Essex Pathways Department for your foundation year, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our Academy to support you:

  • We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials
  • Our new Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
  • Our social space is stocked with hot magazines and newspapers, and provides an informal setting to meet with your lecturers, tutors and friends

Our School of Philosophy and Art History also offers excellent on-campus facilities:

  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
  • Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks by curators and artists, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
  • Enjoy regular visits to London galleries, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, as well as many independent and alternative spaces
  • Access our lively common room and departmental film collection
  • Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery runs an exciting programme of art exhibitions, film screenings and talks

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our art history graduates leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

Some of the sectors with jobs well suited for our graduates include: museums and galleries, auction houses, education (e.g., in schools, universities and cultural institutions), marketing and advertising, and new media. Our degree also prepares students to run their own galleries, to work as specialist arts lawyers and PR agents, and for positions in charities, fashion and publishing.

To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the museum and gallery sector – arguably the single-most important area in which our students seek jobs – we offer several modules every year dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. We also give our students the opportunity to think creatively and proactively about life after university in our curatorial employability module.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Sotheby’s New York
  • Momart Ltd
  • John Lewis

We also work with the university’s Student Development Team to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.


Why we’re great

  • We equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed at Essex and beyond.
  • Guarantee your place on your chosen course if you successfully complete your foundation year at Essex.
  • Small class sizes allow you to work closely with your teachers and classmates.

Structure

Structure

Course structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change. Your course structure could differ based on the modules you choose. To view the compulsory modules and full list of optional modules currently on offer, please view the programme specification via the link below.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

Teaching

  • Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students
  • A typical timetable includes a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your four modules every week
  • Close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers
  • Subsidised gallery visits to work ‘in situ’ for each course
  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions
  • Our classes are run in small groups, so you receive a lot of individual attention

Assessment

  • Your assessed coursework will generally consist of essays, reports, in-class tests, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects

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