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.
To study on our course, you don’t need an Art History A-Level. In fact, we believe that the best art historians are those who bring fresh eyes and new perspectives to their objects of inquiry.
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.
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-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.
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
We are a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environment, across cultures and media, from the early modern period to the present day.
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 Show, Sky News, BBC Breakfast News, ‘Coast’, 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
Our outstanding facilities give you the opportunity for object-based learning, which is rare in other universities, and also enable you to gain curatorial experience:
- 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
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 are distinct – study the social and political implications of art and go beyond its historic institutions.
- Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad takes you far afield and explores local settings
- We house a collection of over 750 pieces of art from Latin America, ESCALA.
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. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
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.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
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.
- 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
- Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- Assessment methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations
- Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year