Art History

Key Facts

Code V350
  • Typical A-level offer

    BBC with B in any subject

  • Course Length

    3 Years

Further details on entry requirements

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The School of Art at Aberystwyth University provides a general survey of Art History as well as the specialised and in-depth study of specific subjects. The BA Single Honours program offers you the rare opportunity to combine the historical, curatorial and (for those who wish) the practical study of art. Core and optional modules cover a period from the Renaissance to present day, with complementary modules dedicated to the historical study of particular Fine Art mediums, exhibition curation, artefact interpretation, and the management of art. Art History students benefit from access to the School’s Museum and its internationally renowned collection of artworks.

Art History at Aberystwyth is taught by scholars who are practicing historians, artists and curators. This ensures that the study of the discipline is intimately related to and immediately informed by the expertise and experiences of topics under discussion. As versatile and articulate graduates, you will be able to pursue careers as art historians, educators and curators, or continue to postgraduate studies. Our degree scheme is particularly appropriate for students considering work in museums, private galleries and auction houses, in public art organisations, or in art gallery administration. You will emerge with real world capabilities, enabling you to shape your future and develop the career you deserve.

Top 10 in the UK for student satisfaction in the subject area of History (NSS 2016)

School of Art: 100% student satisfaction (NSS 2016)

100% of undergraduates from the School of Art who graduated in 2015 were in employment or further education six months after graduating (DLHE 2015)

  • Overview
  • Modules
  • Employability
  • Teaching & Learning
  • Student Views


Why study Art History at Aberystwyth? 

The BA (Honours) Art History degree at Aberystwyth involves the study of artefacts and techniques, texts and concepts within social, historical, and philosophical contexts. The program encourages students to conduct research, to investigate and analyse, and to articulate ideas both orally and in writing. In a visual-minded world such as ours, the ability to interpret images and grasp the meaning of signs is becoming increasingly important. 

Today, art galleries and museums are an integral part of an expanding and diversifying market for cultural institutions. They are concerned not only with the exhibition of fine and decorative art, but with questions of local and national identity, as well as socio-economic regeneration. In its approaches to cultures, Art History at Aberystwyth is interdisciplinary. It involves anthropology, sociology, philosophy, literature, history, as well as cultural and gender studies. As such, the study of Art History promotes the sort of critical thinking that has many practical applications today. To be involved in the research, interpretation and display of the visual arts opens you to exciting and rewarding careers in education and publishing, in journalism and advertising, as well as curators, archivists, managers and conservators of fine art and cultural artefacts. 

The School of Art sits within the Institute of Literature, Languages and the Creative Arts (ILLCA). The Institute comprises four other academic departments: Theatre, Film and Television Studies, English and Creative Writing, European Languages, and the Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies. This collaboration of academic partners and arts providers forms a unique centre of excellence in Wales with international importance and impact as shown in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework assessment. It found that 100% of research impact is world-leading and internationally excellent. 

The School of Art is the oldest university art department in Wales. It has a distinguished history that goes back to 1917 when it was one of only a few British universities to be concerned with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Our splendid Edwardian listed building has been adapted to meet the needs of today’s education while retaining many of its original features. Set in its own grounds, the School of Art is self-contained within a stylish interior that houses lecture theatres and seminar rooms as well as studios and workshops for our practice-based students. The School also accommodates a museum, public galleries and extensive art collections. Allowing students to move with ease from one area of study to another and to remain in close contact with the staff, the proximity of these working spaces fosters a strong sense of community and cooperation. The School of Art is more than an academic department. It is a caring community of staff and students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Our objective is to introduce you to the best scholarship in Art History, to assist you in developing your learning potential, to apply your knowledge, and to become an active, confident, and well-educated member of society.

Aberystwyth is a friendly, cosmopolitan community with considerable cultural resources: five art galleries, four theatres, cinemas and film festivals. It has the largest Arts Centre in Wales, a major venue for theatre, concerts, events and exhibitions by contemporary artists and designers. Aberystwyth is also home to the National Library of Wales. One of only five copyright libraries in Britain, its extensive collection of watercolours, drawings, prints and photographs of international significance provides excellent facilities for academic study and research in the visual arts. While dedicated to the study of Art History as an international phenomenon, the School is also mindful of its particular relationship and commitment to the visual arts in Wales. We aim to provide a critical account of the country’s art history through an optional module on Art in Wales. 

Originally a medieval walled-town, Aberystwyth nestles between countryside and sea, an area of mid-Wales renowned as an environmental haven and for its spectacular scenery. The vestiges of the Iron Age and thirteenth-century fortifications, together with an eclectic mixture of Victorian, Gothic, and Classical revival architecture, make up the rich historical flavour of the town. For over two centuries its combination of pastoral and picturesque, romantic and sublime landscape has inspired artists like Richard Wilson, J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman, and John Piper. A visit is recommended. Those who come usually find that it is a great help in making up their minds about coming to study with us! 

Our Staff

Through their active involvement with the practice, history and curation of art, staff members of the School of Art seek to provide a rich learning environment for the student. Their experience as exhibiting artists, publishing art historians and practising curators actively informs the teaching.



Career Prospects 

Mindful of the career prospects of its graduates, the School of Art maintains a close relationship with the University Careers Service. Throughout the three years of the degree schemes, it advises and encourages students in their career options and identifies viable, practical skills to ensure that graduates are well prepared for the job market. 

The School of Art offers vocation-oriented, hands-on Art History modules that have been designed to enhance your employability. At the School, students also benefit from visiting art historians, artists and curators, from guidance in CV writing, preparing for interviews, and from the numerous volunteer employment opportunities that we organise. 

Our graduates enter high-profile careers in a variety of subjects both within and outside the arts, craft and design. Recent School of Art graduates have moved on to become secondary school teachers, higher education lecturers, art gallery managers and curators, as well as employees with the Design Council, Arts Council, Tate Gallery, Royal Academy, Carlton Television, Saachi Gallery, Damien Hirst, BBC, and the Universities of St Andrews, Lancaster, Leeds, Brighton, Kingston and Oxford. 

Transferable Skills 

Apart from being intellectually stimulating and personally rewarding, the study of Art History at Aberystwyth has many practical benefits. It fosters a hands-on approach to the challenges of everyday life, encourages creative problem solving, improves the ability to adapt in a changing world, and enhances interpersonal liaison skills. These assets, sought after in today’s job market as transferable skills, are actively promoted during your course at the School of Art. These include the ability to: 

  • conceive creative solutions for specific problems
  • research, evaluate and organise information
  • clearly communicate ideas and information, both orally and in writing
  • work independently and with others
  • effectively organise your time and deploy your skills
  • be self-motivated and self-disciplined. 

Year in Employment scheme (YES) 

If you consider a year out between your second and third years to work in a museum, art gallery, art studio or a related activity in the UK or overseas, then the Year in Employment Scheme (YES) offers you a fantastic opportunity to fulfil your ambitions. YES provides a rewarding and worthwhile experience, both personally and professionally, and can help you to stand out from the crowd in a very competitive job market. The University’s Career Service will help you to explore your options and secure a suitable work placement. Many students who have participated in the scheme have considerably benefited in their preparations for their future careers.

Teaching & Learning

What will I learn? 

The course will provide you with a general introduction to a broad range of traditional art media and fundamental concepts of artistic practice, before moving into a more specialised study of the subject.

In your first year core modules cover European and American art and its histories from c.1700 to 1900, while option modules will address many thematic and stylistic aspects of art, including the representation of the body, landscape in art, the history of the graphic arts, photographic theories and practices, and traditional painting techniques, among others.

In the second and third years, you will continue your core art historical studies from 1900 to the present day, and you can construct your own curriculum from a broad portfolio of optional modules including: Art and Society; Contemporary Art; History of Graphic Art; History of Photography; Nineteenth-Century Art; the Gothic Imagination; and Italian Art. Whilst it is dedicated to the study of art as an international phenomenon, the School is also mindful of its particular relationship and commitment to the visual arts in Wales. In your second year you will take a core module in professional practice that will help you to develop skills in communication, information technology and CV writing that are likely to be relevant to your future career, and also research and writing skills to prepare you for your final-year dissertation and possible postgraduate study. The dissertation allows you to carry out a substantial piece of independent research on a topic of your choice under supervision from an expert in your field.

The study of art history requires clarity of thought, academic rigour, thorough planning and a high level of personal motivation. Having proven yourself in such disciplines, you will be at an advantage over your competitors in any general employment context.

How will I be taught?

This course will be delivered through a programme of lectures and seminars designed to stimulate your academic interest in fine art and its history and equip you for work in and beyond this sphere. As you study, you will be both challenged and inspired by our staff members, who have created a vibrant culture of creativity and intellectual curiosity perfect for the study of this fascinating subject.

You will be assessed through essays, exams, practical exercises, presentations and final dissertation. You will also be required to complete additional assignments and work with others on particular tasks.

As you study, you will develop a range of skills which will benefit you in further study or any graduate workplace. You will learn to: develop a reflective learning style to promote self-improvement; employ multiple practical techniques when approaching different media; develop a rigorous approach to research and analysis; and articulate a detailed critical appreciation of your subject.

You will be assigned a personal tutor throughout your degree course, who will help you with any problems or queries, whether these are academic-related or personal issues. You should feel free to contact them at any time for help and advice.

You will also have the opportunity to complete a Personal Development Plan (PDP) at Aberystwyth. This is a structured process of self-appraisal, reflection, and planning, which will enable you to chart your personal, academic and professional development throughout your time at university. By recording your academic performance, and highlighting the skills you already have and those you will need for future employability, the PDP portfolio will equip you with the necessary tools to plan effectively, develop successful approaches to study, and consider your future career options and aspirations.

Student Views

I love that Art History is so many courses rolled in to one. It is not just looking at art. It is about social and political history, social anthropology, studying different cultures and learning about how artists communicate their ideas and thoughts through their own mediums. It has helped me to get a much greater grasp of history in general and to understand how to enjoy looking at art and comprehend its messages. Learning about art history has also taught me a lot about how to research and the importance of maintaining and appreciating our shared cultural heritage. Amy Barson

I'm currently in my second year studying for a BA in Art History. I'm glad I chose to study the subject, as it has been highly interesting and has opened my eyes to the vast history of Art, as well as challenging me to consider it's growing importance in today's world. I did not previously have a vast knowledge of Art History, but the course has given me a thorough overview of many of the major aspects of the subject. It has also provided me with useful skills in observation, communication and experience with artist's materials. Rebecca Jones

Entry Requirements

A Levels BBC with B in any subject

GCSE requirements (grade C min):
English or Welsh

BTEC National Diploma:

International Students

International Baccalaureate:
30 points overall

European Baccalaureate:
65% overall

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