Frequently Asked Questions

What if I haven’t studied Art History before?

You must hold an honours degree to study for our MA in Art History course. Although your degree need not be in art history, you must have a substantial background in the subject, together with the study skills expected of a graduate in this field. The part 1 module brings you up to date with the latest ideas and approaches, but it does not offer remedial undergraduate training if your qualifications and/or experience are inappropriate – if you’re in any doubt, please contact us before you enrol.

If the theoretical background to Art History is new to you, or perhaps it’s been a long time since you studied the subject, then you will certainly want to prepare for the MA with some preliminary reading. Many prospective students who have never taken art history before confuse art appreciation with Art History.

The first module is fairly heavy on theory and methods, so with that in mind, you might like to purchase the required text for the module (Hatt and Klonk, Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods, Manchester University Press, 2006) and see whether that meets your expectations.

If you are new to theory and current art-historical methodologies, it is also highly recommended you read d’Alleva, Methods and Theories of Art History, Laurence King Publishing, revised edition 2012. You should also consider taking one of our undergraduate modules such as A226 Exploring Art and Visual Culture. At the very least you should work through some of our OpenLearn units, especially the MA OpenLearn unit, which will will give you an indication of the kind of material you will be studying (and the level).

You are also advised to read widely in order to increase your general knowledge of the history of art, particularly if you have not previously studied the subject. You will find some recommended texts on our our preliminary reading page.

What if I want to do some preliminary reading?

If you have studied art history but would like to familiarise yourself with some of the core concepts and current concerns of the discipline of art history, see our preliminary reading list.

What if it’s been a long time since I did my BA in Art History?

Many students start the MA after a gap in their studies and really enjoy the module and do well. If it has been some time since you studied art history, see our suggestions for some useful reading.

What if I come from a practice-based art school background?

You will want to familiarise yourself with some of the core concepts and current concerns of the discipline of art history. Some students with a practice-based background often find the theory and methods employed in art history overwhelming at first, so it is important to understand what exactly an MA in art history consists of. Please do read our advice on Moving on to Postgraduate study.

See our preliminary reading list for recommended books if you don't already have a degree in art history.

Am I ready?

Please see our advice on Moving on to Postgraduate study. Am I ready?

Should I already have a topic for my dissertation?

You certainly don’t need to have a topic for your dissertation when starting A843. Indeed, there is plenty of new material in A844 that might spark your interest, so you may find that your ideas for a dissertation develop during your study of A844 Part II of the MA. One way of expanding your knowledge of the field in general is to visit galleries or heritage sites and if you get the chance you should certainly take the opportunity. Of course, this might also spark a fascinating dissertation topic.

I want to do x for my dissertation is that OK? Does it need to be on something that we studied on the MA?

Although a very wide range of possible dissertation topics is available to you, you should nevertheless ensure that your topic develops clearly out of themes and issues addressed in A843 and A844. This is something that is worth discussing with your tutor as your ideas develop. The dissertation guide on A844 will also help in formulating your topic.

Is it really all online? What does distance learning mean?

Each module is entirely online—this means that required readings and all of your study materials are linked to the module’s website, the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

This doesn’t mean you will be completely isolated. Throughout the MA you will be part of a community of learners and scholars also engaged with the fascinating debates the module materials address.

You will be allocated a tutor for each module and be part of that tutor’s group of students. There are also online forums, attached to the module’s website, which will allow you to participate in the module and communicate with your fellow students. Your tutor will also conduct online tutorials throughout the module as well as commenting and giving detailed feedback on your written work— your Tutor Marked Assignments (TMAs).

In addition, some of our students arrange their own visits to galleries and exhibitions together. Furthermore, OU Art History usually organises at least one postgraduate study day a year, allowing you to meet members of the discipline and module authors as well as fellow students. 

For some of the types of activities that go on, check out twitter and instagram with our hashtags #ouarthistma

Who will be my tutor?

Students are divided into small groups (called tutor groups) with one allocated tutor. This tutor will mark your assignments, and lead small discussions online either through a forum or through a live online classroom tool which is similar to an online chat room/webinar.

Your tutor will contact you at the beginning of the module by phone, and provide advice by email/phone on module related matters during your studies (in particular around your EMA (end of module assignment) on Part 1 and the Dissertation on Part 2).

Are both parts of the module offered every year?

Yes, both A843 and A844 are offered every year, commencing in October.