BA Curating (Including Foundation Year)

Overview

Our four-year BA Curating (including foundation year), will be suitable for you if your academic qualifications do not yet meet our entrance requirements for the three-year version of this course and you want a programme that increases your subject knowledge as well as improves your academic skills in order to support your academic performance. Our five-year version of this course enables you to study abroad during your fourth year of study.

This course includes a foundation year (Year Zero), followed by a further three years of study, or a further four years if you choose the five year course, including a study abroad year. During your Year Zero, you study three academic subjects relevant to your chosen course as well as a compulsory academic skills module, with additional English language for non-English speakers.

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.

Our BA Curating combines classroom-based learning with hands-on experience in museums and galleries. Within the classroom, you gain an overview of major developments in art history – something essential for any budding curator. You will also learn about the history and theory of exhibition design, with a particular emphasis on how curatorial choices shape our experiences while viewing artworks and the other objects on display in museums and galleries.

The Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA), Europe’s largest collection of Latin American art, will offer you a place to experiment with installing artworks. Besides getting your feet wet with the more tactical aspects of installing art, these experiences will open your eyes to how curatorial decisions transform the kinds of stories that artworks tell when displayed alongside others.

Frequent staff-led visits to London museums and galleries will also expose you to the latest developments in curating, and you will be strongly encouraged to conduct a placement in order to gain exposure to the inner workings of a museum, auction house or gallery.

Essex is the ideal choice for a BA in curatorial studies. We are ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014). We are one of the few leading art history programmes that offers an undergraduate course specialising in curating and you will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year—another rarity in UK art history courses.

Study abroad

Our BA in curating offers you the chance to choose from a variety of study abroad options. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the fourth year studying abroad.

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. Even if you don’t have (or don’t want to study) another language though, there are plenty of Anglophone destinations.

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 have some of the best teachers across the University in our Essex Pathways Department, all of whom have strong subject backgrounds and are highly skilled in their areas.

In our School of Philosophy and Art History our staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians. While our research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, core specialties include exhibition design, modern and contemporary art, public engagement and activism.

Here are a few examples of recent or current projects by staff members:

  • Dr Gavin Grindon, Lecturer in Art History and co-director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best attended shows in the museum’s history. He has also widely published on activist art in leading journals such as Art History and recently co-curated Banksy’s Museum of Colonialism at The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem.
  • Dr Matt Lodder, Lecturer in Art History with an emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, is co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opened in the U.S.
  • Dr Michael Tymkiw, co-director of the Centre for Curatorial Studies, has a book under contract entitled Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. He has also launched an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on using digital technologies to expand disability access in museums—a project that involves collaborations with several museums in Colchester and London including firstsite and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.

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 department 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 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 other facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:

  • 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 and talks by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
  • Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
  • Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history of exhibition design and curate high profile exhibitions

Your future

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

The sectors with jobs best suited for students with a BA in curating include museums, galleries and auction houses. Within these sectors, you can pursue a career in curation, museum education, programming, or sales and marketing. Our degree also equips you with foundational skills to run your own gallery, to work as a PR agent, or to work in the fields of fashion, publishing or events management.

To help our students acquire the particular skills they need to gain employment in the museum and gallery sector – the single-most important area in which our students will seek jobs – we offer numerous modules dedicated to the histories, theories and practices of museums, exhibitions and galleries. Additionally, we give you the chance to think creatively and proactively about life after university through our curatorial employability module.

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 a place on your chosen course upon successful completion of your foundation year.
  • Small class sizes allow you to work closely with your teachers and classmates.

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
  • 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, book reviews, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects

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