Undergraduate Certificate in the History of Art
Images shape our lives: they shock and soothe, educate and stimulate. We are bombarded by imagery of all kinds but rarely take the time to stop and think about what makes a picture meaningful or impactful.
Our two-year part-time Certificate in the History of Art, taught at first-year undergraduate level, teaches you how to look at art with a critical and informed eye. The history of art isn’t always what you think. It isn’t just galleries and oil paintings; it is the way humans design the material and visual world around them. On this course we will explore the function and significance of art in its historical context as well as considering how its uses and meanings have changed over time. What role has art played in our histories? How does it reflect the world in which it was made – and how does it change it? As well as considering themes of skill and beauty, students will reflect on the politics of representation in images that confront issues of power and identity.
The first year will introduce students to key art historical methods of looking and thinking. Students will explore a wide range of artistic materials and their meaning and develop the critical vocabulary and analytical tools necessary to gain a deeper understanding of art and material culture. The second year provides a survey of Western art history in its global contexts, considering the fine arts in relation to wider forms of visual and material culture, from Renaissance altarpieces to documentary photography and from medieval artefacts to abstract art.
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.
Online open event
An online open event was held on Wednesday 12 April 2023, from 6-7pm (UK time). If you missed this event but have questions about the course, please get in touch with the course team by emailing: email@example.com
- How you will study
- The course in detail – course structure and assessment
- IT requirements
- Teaching staff and contact information
- Application details – how to apply, fees, award and credit transfer
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: evidence of interest in art history and ideas; openness towards studying a range of historical art forms and grappling with critical debates about meaning; the necessary language skills (see below for English language requirements), a determination to succeed; and sufficient time available to devote to class time and private study.
How you will study
The course is taught through weekly sessions, usually held on Wednesday afternoons from 2.00pm - 4.00pm 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 usually be illustrated with slides and 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.
This course is expected to be taught in person at Ewert House, Ewert Place, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7DD. Should circumstances dictate, the teaching can be moved online (either fully or partly).
The course in detail
In the first year, students will learn how to look carefully at various art forms and interpret their historical and cultural significance. Students will be introduced to important art historical theories and methods of looking via the discussion of key examples of scholarship. Each term students will engage closely with different forms of artistic media, including painting, sculpture and other types of visual and material culture.
Michaelmas term 2022: Unit 1
- Ways of Seeing part 1
- Materials and Meaning part 1
Hilary term 2023: Unit 2
- Ways of Seeing part 2
- Materials and Meaning part 2
Trinity term 2023: Unit 3
- Ways of Seeing part 3
- Material and Meaning part 3
In the second year students will study the visual and material culture of historical periods in greater detail. While the year follows a broad chronological sweep, each unit addresses themes that cut across geography and time.
Michaelmas term 2023: Unit 1
- Medieval Art and Material Culture
Hilary term 2024: Unit 2
- Renaissance Art and Material Culture
Trinity term 2024: Unit 3
- Modern Art and Material Culture
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.
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.
The Course Director is Dr Sean Willcock. Along with Dr Willcock, the teaching panel includes:
- Mary Acton
- Catherine McCormack
- Patrick Doorly
- Oliver Gosling
- Bryony Leighton
- Kristine MacMichael
- 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.
If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before applying you may contact the Course Director, Dr Sean Willcock: firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 270312 email@example.com
For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 firstname.lastname@example.org
For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 email@example.com
How to apply
Please click on the ‘Apply’ button which will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee, and guidance on completing and submitting your application.
You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:
- 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 submit any written work.
- contact details for one referee
- proof of English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be found here. Please note that candidates are required to have the higher-level score.
If possible, your referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.
Admissions decisions will be based on an assessment of knowledge, relevant experience, academic ability, potential and suitability for a course of study. We welcome applicants without traditional qualifications, including those with relevant career or life skills.
Even if a course has no specific academic entry requirements then: (a) assessment of an applicant’s academic ability and suitability for the course of study will still take place and (b) since applications for many courses often significantly exceed places available, each application will be judged against the gathered field of applicants for each course each year.
The University is committed to promoting diversity, equality, inclusion, and widening access, including during the admissions process. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.
Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.
The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.
Award and credit transfer
An Undergraduate Certificate will be awarded on completion of the course. 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). Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Certificate in the History of Art, equivalent to 120 CATS points at first-year undergraduate level (FHEQ Level 4) in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other higher education institutions, including the Open University and modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University.
Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Course Administrator on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Learn more about the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS points).
The fee in 2023-24 is £3,000 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,650 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.
Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.
Information for applicants from the EU, EEA and Switzerland
If you are an EU national and do not live in the UK then you are likely to be charged Overseas fees. Students with settled and pre-settled status granted under the EU Settlement Scheme and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for Home fee status as long as they meet the residence criteria. For more information about fee status criteria please visit the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website as well as the Oxford and the EU webpage.
Information for applicants from the Republic of Ireland
Irish nationals who have been living in the Republic of Ireland or the UK can qualify for Home fees as long as they meet the residence requirements which can be found on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website.
UK nationals who have been living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar and are returning to England to study
UK nationals living in the EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar from December 2020 until the first day of their course and for the three years before the first day of their course will also be charged Home fees subject to the requirements on the UK Council for International Students' (UKCISA) website. Children of UK nationals will also be eligible on the same terms, even if they are not themselves UK nationals, as long as both they and their parent meet the above criteria.
Information on financial support can be found on our website here.
This course is not suitable for overseas 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
Please check the information on the specific English language requirements for this course. Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.
The Department for Continuing Education offers day and weekend courses, weekly learning programmes and summer schools in the History of Art.
In the undergraduate programme, as well as the Certificate in the History of Art, we also offer the Certificate of Higher Education and the Diploma in the History of Art. At postgraduate level we offer the Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural History, the MSt in the History of Design, the MSt in Literature and Arts, 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.
Top image: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons.