Undergraduate Certificate in the History of Art

Course details

Are you fascinated by paintings, sculpture and architecture? Do you love visiting galleries and exhibitions, and wish you knew more about the history, techniques and terminology of art?

If so, our two-year, part-time Undergraduate Certificate in the History of Art might be the right choice for you. Equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree, it offers an excellent introduction for students who want to develop their knowledge of art through structured study. You will learn more about how artworks are made, and receive an overview of the development of Western art from the classical period to the 20th century. You do not need to have any formal qualification or previous study in the subject area.

The first year will give you an introduction to techniques, ways of looking at the visual arts, and the necessary terms that will underpin all further study. In the second year, you will explore various historical periods in art in greater depth.

Tutors will lead visits to museums and art galleries throughout the course, with trips to current exhibitions whenever possible. Oxford has a wealth of museums and gallery spaces, and we will take every opportunity to introduce these to you.

Completing this course will prepare you well for further study, for example, the Department’s Undergraduate Diploma in the History of Art.

Coronavirus update

The admissions cycle for this programme is progressing as planned, and the University is committed to ensuring that offer holders can take up their place as expected. Information will be made available as the situation develops.

Open evening: Tuesday 28 January 2020

The open evening for this course took place on Tuesday 28 January 2020.

If you missed the open event and have a question about the programme please email undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk.

We have also held an online open day event for both our Certificate and Diploma programmes, which is available to view. This hour-long presentation is a great opportunity to see the Course Directors discussing both programmes and answering questions.

Who is this course for?

You will need enthusiasm, commitment and a high degree of motivation if you are to enjoy and complete this course. You do not need any formal qualification or previous study of the history of art. We will judge all applicants by the same criteria – an evidence of interest in the subject, the necessary language skills (see below for English language requirements), a determination to succeed and sufficient time available to devote to studying.

How you will study

The course is taught through weekly sessions, held on Wednesday mornings from 10.00am - 12 noon at Ewert House, Ewert Place, Banbury Road, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7DD. The classes are lively, structured and informative with plenty of time for discussion. Each class will be illustrated with slides and, occasionally, with video material.

There will also be study visits to museums and galleries, which we will make every effort to arrange at convenient times.

You will need to spend about 8–10 hours in home study per week in term time.

The course in detail

Course structure

Year 1

In the first year, students will be introduced to art historic methods and be given a broad overview of the development of Western art.

Michaelmas term 2020: Unit 1

  • Learning to look at the visual arts. A study of colour, subject matter, space, tone, form, composition, etc
  • The Materials and Techniques of painting

Hilary term 2021: Unit 2

  • Understanding Sculpture
  • An introduction to Critical Theory and the use of primary texts

Trinity term 2021: Unit 3

  • Understanding Architecture
  • Understanding the Decorative Arts

Year 2

In the second year students will study specific art historic periods in greater detail.

Michaelmas term 2021: Unit 1

  • Medieval art and the significance of context

Hilary term 2022: Unit 2

  • The Renaissance

Trinity term 2022: Unit 3

  • Towards Modern

Guidance will be given about reading and detailed book lists will accompany each module.


For Year 1, you must complete five assignments of not more than 1,500 words, and a research project of not more than 3,000 words.

For Year 2, you must complete three assignments of not more than 2,000 words, and a research project of not more than 5,000 words.

There is no formal examination at the end of the Certificate course.

IT requirements

To study at this level you are expected to have some IT skills, access to a computer and the internet. Your course requires you to engage with the Virtual Learning Environment for course materials and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. Students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet, and some level of experience and skill including the use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

The computer you use should meet our recommended minimum computer specification.

Teaching staff

The Course Director is Dr Janina Ramirez. Along with Dr Ramirez, the teaching panel includes:

  • Mary Acton, BA Hons (Courtauld), FE Diploma
  • Antony Buxton, MA, PhD
  • Patrick Doorly, MA, PGCE, FRSA
  • Oliver Gosling, MA, RCA
  • Bryony Leighton, MA
  • Kristine MacMichael, MA
  • Dr Hubert Pragnell

All our tutors are very experienced, not only in their subject but in teaching adult students. They understand the learning needs of students returning to education and will able to advise you on subject-based study skills throughout the course.

If you are returning to learning after a period of time the Department has a number of Study Skills workshops to help you with study techniques or to write essays. You can obtain information about the Department’s Study Skills programme by contacting +44 (0)1865 280728.

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before applying you may contact the Course Director, Dr Janina Ramirez: janina.ramirez@conted.ox.ac.uk

Applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 280154 undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

How to apply

We are now closed to applications for 2020 entry.

We will open to applications for 2021 entry from September 2020.

Please use the apply button on this page to download the application form, which includes a reference form. You should complete the reference form and send it to your referee, asking him/her to provide a reference by direct email to us. Please note that the reference is compulsory and we cannot consider your application without it.

If possible, your referee should be a person who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not possible, you should name a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Please complete the rest of the application form and send it to the address below with the following additional materials:

  • a statement of 300 words outlining your previous experience of the subject (if any) and your reasons for wishing to enrol on the course. No need to send in written work.
  • proof of your English language ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant (see below for more information).

Please send your application with the additional materials to the:

Course Administrator

Department for Continuing Education, Oxford University 

Ewert House

Ewert Place

Banbury Road


Oxford OX2 7DD

Applications will be considered on a rolling admissions basis until 16 July 2020 if places remain. Early application is encouraged. Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview. The final decision on entry to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

An Undergraduate Certificate will be awarded on completion of the course. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Certificate at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.

The syllabus and teaching of the course are aimed at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4). An Undergraduate Certificate in the History of Art (120 CATS points) will be awarded to students on completion of the two years of the course. Credit points may be transferred to the Open University, modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University, and other institutions of higher education. For further information about transfer of credit, contact the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 280154 or undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

Fees and expenses

The fee for 2020-21 is £2,575 (Home / EU students) or £4,840 (non-EU students), which includes tuition and tutorials. An option to pay the fee in instalments is available. There may be a small fee increase for the second year of the course.

The course fee does not cover entry fees to museums, art galleries or exhibitions. Usually group rates are available and every attempt will be made to keep costs as low as possible by car sharing or by group coach travel. Some books will be recommended for you to purchase but recommendations will be made with costs in mind.

Following an announcement by the Universities Minister on 28 May 2019, EU students commencing their studies in 2020/21 academic year will be charged fees at the home rate for the duration of their course, whether a deal for leaving the EU is in place or not. 

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.


The Department for Continuing Education offers day and weekend courses, weekly classesonline short courses and summer schools in the History of Art. In the Undergraduate programme, we offer the Certificate in History of Art, the Certificate of Higher Education, and the Diploma in History of Art. At Postgraduate level we offer a Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural HistoryMSt in the History of Design and MSt in Literature and Arts, along with the DPhil in Architectural History and DPhil in Literature and Arts.

You may also be interested in studying History.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.

Non-EU students

This course is not suitable for non-EU students who do not already live in the UK before the course begins. For information, refer to www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration.

English language requirements

Check information on the specific English language requirements for this course.

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.