Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art

Key facts

Level: Undergraduate

Mode: Part-time

Duration: 2 years

Applications deadlines: By 7.00pm GMT/BST on Thursday 8 March 2018 and Thursday 10 May 2018.

Later applications will be considered if places remain.

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art

This is a two-year, part-time modular course equivalent to one year full-time undergraduate degree study at second-year level. Upon successful completion of two different modules (within a five-year period) students will be granted the award of the Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in the History of Art.

There are four modules offered with two being available each year on a rotating basis. The modules will focus on four periods with each syllabus immersing you in a specialist period of the History of Art:

  • Module 1: The Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance;
  • Module 2: High Renaissance and Baroque;Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University
  • Module 3: Revolution to Modernity;
  • Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art.

A panel of tutors will do the bulk of the weekly teaching with specialist guest speakers for the Saturday workshops. The weekly seminars will be illustrated, and the Saturday workshops will provide a special opportunity to analyse original works of art and buildings in Oxford and further afield. You will be expected to undertake the necessary background reading from the lists supplied, using the resources of the Oxford University reference libraries and online academic journals and to complete essays, an oral presentation and a research project to the required standard.

The course reflects Oxford’s exceptional richness in works of art. You will be offered a rare chance to gain first-hand experience of the visual arts on a regular basis, an option not often possible elsewhere. The programme has been arranged to allow for this kind of opportunity in the five Saturday workshops. Experts will be invited to conduct these classes on site wherever possible. The topics have been selected so that the art and architecture of Oxford, Oxfordshire and London can be used to augment and illuminate the syllabus in a way which is both stimulating and relevant.

Open Evening for 2018

The open evening for the Diploma will take place on Wednesday 13th December 2017 at 6pm. Please RSVP to the Course Administrator, by emailing ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk.

Structure of the course

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University

In 2018-2019

Module 1: The Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance will be taught in Ewert House on Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm.

Module 3: Revolution to Modernity will be taught in Ewert House on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm.

In 2019-2020

Module 2: High Renaissance and Baroque will be taught at Ewert House on Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm.

Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art will be taught at Ewert House on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm.

The weekly class sessions are conducted as seminars (combining lecture presentation with opportunities for group discussion). There will also be four additonal group tutorials from 4-5pm in the fourth and eighth week of each term devoted to primary sources, research methods and essay writing classes to develop art historical skills.

Saturday workshops

Each module has four Saturday workshops looking at artworks, design and architecture in situ. The fifth Saturday in May of each year is a forum where students present their research projects.

The Saturday workshops focus on developing skills in close visual analysis through direct individual observation and group discussion led by the tutor. We will explore orginal artworks and the built environment of Oxford in depth as well as London’s temporary exhibitions and permanent collections.


Who may apply and what are we looking for?

Formal qualifications are not essential, though previous experience in the study of the History of Art at ‘A' level or first-year undergraduate level is naturally likely to be an advantage. What is required is evidence of enthusiasm and a high level of commitment to the subject, critical analysis and writing.. The willingness and interest to discuss visual experience analytically and historical aspects of the subject will be looked for, and evidence of recent written work may be required. Above all, we are looking for the capacity for intellectual growth and development. Admission will be based on information provided in the application form and at interview. The final decision on admission to the course rests with OUDCE.

Student support

Academic advice and support will be provided by the Director of Studies, Dr Catherine Oakes, the Course Director, Dr Janina Ramirez, and the other tutors on the courses. In addition, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. For full details of the Study Skills programme, please contact 01865 280892.

For advice on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs facilities and sources of funding, please contact the Registry on 01865 280355.

Programme details


Module 1: The Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance

Tuesday afternoons from 2-4pm at Ewert House, Oxford

The aim of the Module 1 is to provide an understanding of the nature and function of visual culture in the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance.  Students will study six themed units. These specific areas of study will provide students with the skills to examine architecture, sculpture, decorative and graphic art and painting more generally and to interpret their respective roles in historical culture.  Saturday workshops will give opportunities to study original objects and sites both in Oxfordshire and also at London.  

Welcome/Induction meeting: 25 September 2018

Michaelmas term 2018

2 October 2018 to 4 December 2018

Unit 1: Introduction to Themes and Approaches

This unit will examine central themes underlying the course by focusing on a variety of mediums and a range of disciplinary perspectives. This part of the course is designed to give a chronological overview to the module, and set major ideas, such as attitudes towards death and the importance of trade, alongside specific examples, including reliquaries and manuscript illumination. Taught by many of tutors you will meet throughout the module, this unit should also familiarise you with the skills and terminology required for the study of this period, and highlight the various teaching and learning approaches you will experience throughout the course.

Unit 2: The Gothic Enterprise: Architecture c.1200-c.1300​

Beginning with the emergence of a new and pre-eminent architectural style out of the workshops of northern France, this unit will assess the formation and development of a mature Gothic architecture. Central to this is a consideration of the influence strongly centralising monarchies exercised on architectural style, and the effect of court and episcopal patronage on an understanding of the role of architecture as an instrument of advertisement for the Church. The notion of didactically ordered, internationally understood concepts of style, iconography and design will be discussed alongside local, populist and vernacular solutions, whose prevalence and richness have tended to be historically downplayed.

Hilary term 2019

8 January 2019 to 12 March 2019

Unit 3: The Art of Worship

The Gothic cathedral has often been perceived as the apogee of the medieval moment. We will consider the distinct, yet related, manifestations of the Gothic in England, France and Italy, examining cloisters and ivories; glass and effigies. By examining the changing symbolism in expressive objects such as alabasters, and the technological developments in areas like sculpture, we can see how the Gothic sentiment was expressed in its entirety, and fill the famous architecture with the images and adornments that made them all the more complete and spectacular.

Unit 4: Painted Page and Panel​

Books of hours and panel paintings capture the transition from Medieval to Renaissance visual modes of expression. We will investigate the dialogue between word and image, the role of patrons such as Mary of Burgundy and the rise of portraiture typified by the panel paintings of Jan van Eyck. As we move from England, across through Paris, Bruges and Ghent, we will explore the finest paintings of the Late Medieval period, and discover how images emerged from the pages of manuscripts, onto miniatures and panels.

Trinity term 2019

9 April 2019 to 11 June 2019

Unit 5: Sculpture and painting in Duecento & Trecento Italy 

Sculpture in late medieval Italy developed in a dialogue with antiquity and the work of contemporary France. The Italian tradition of monumental fresco painting was rooted in the early Christian mosaics of Rome, and came of age in the art of Giotto. The great century of Sienese painting was founded on a distinctive synthesis of Byzantine, French and contemporary Italian practice.

Unit 6: Patronage

We have been studying the appearance of buildings and other cultural artefacts in terms of style, materials, technique and context. In this final unit we will be focusing on how and why certain kinds of artefacts were associated with particular social groups and why there was such investment in the visual arts. How were the arts used to express identity, power, social position and ideology? Whilst we will be revisiting some objects you will have looked at before and thinking about them in a different way, we will also be introducing you to quite new material ranging from the simple to the very opulent. Why did patrons make the choices they did? How involved were they in the creative process?   

Preliminary Reading List, Module 1:

• Alexander, J, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work (London: Yale University Press, 1992)
• Avery, C, Florentine Renaissance Sculpture (London: John Murray, 1990)
• Brucker, G, Renaissance Florence (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983)
• Camille, M, Gothic Art. Glorious Visions (New York: Prentice Hall, 1996)
• Gilbert, C, ed, Italian Art 1400-1500. Sources and Documents, (Evanston: North Western University Press,1992)
• Johnson, G, Renaissance art: a very short introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
• Nash, S, Northern Renaissance Art  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
• Richardson, C, K Woods and M Franklin, eds., Renaissance art reconsidered: an anthology of primary sources (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) 
• Sekules, V, Medieval Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)
• Turner, R, Renaissance Florence, The Invention of a New Art (New Jersey: Pearson, 2003)


Module 3: Revolution to Modernity 

Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm at Ewert House, Oxford

The aim of Module 3 is to provide a chronological development of the history of western art and architecture from 1789-1914.  Emphasis will be laid on setting works of art in an historical context and on looking at the art and architecture of Oxford in a relevant and imaginative way.  

Welcome/Induction session: 27 September 2018

Michaelmas Term 2018

4 October 2018 to 6 December 2018

Unit 1:        Introduction to themes and approaches

This unit will examine central themes underlying the course by focusing of a variety of mediums and a range of disciplinary perspectives. This part of the course is designed to give a chronological overview to the module, and set major ideas, such as the emergence of the Gothic Revival, and the importance of the Enlightenment, alongside specific examples, such as the prints of Goya and sculpture of Rodin. Taught by many of tutors you will meet throughout the module, this unit should also familiarise you with the skills and terminology required for the study of this period, and highlight the various teaching and learning approaches you will experience throughout the course.

Unit 2:        Romanticism: Imagination, Inspiration, Individuality

The Romantic Movement assumed different guises in England and the Continent. The return to nature is common, however, with English Romantics revelling in sublime landscapes and dramatic dream worlds, and German painters like Caspar David Friedrich creating unsettling scenarios pitting mankind against the danger and beauty of the natural environment. Later in the century, it can be said that many artists returned to some of the tenets of the Romantic Movement in their approaches to symbolism.

Hilary Term 2019

10 January 2019 to 14 March 2019

Unit 3:        Art of the Bourgeoisie: British and French Expressions​

These seminars will create a narrative of artistic expression over a period of dramatic economic, social, political and cultural change. Revolution, the liberation of the human spirit and sublimation in nature were celebrated in romantic art, often within classical references. In Britain in particular changing modes of production – industrialisation – had far reaching effects, which altered the physical and social environment.  The development of a manufacturing and consuming culture led to the ascendancy of a bourgeois culture, focussed on respectability and convention, and expressing identity and more through historical references and sentimental allegory in architecture and art. There were those who sought to reconnect with the faith of the medieval past, and reassert the association of beauty with worship, and also those who critiqued this prosperous society for its social indifference and hypocrisy in text and in art which depicted social realities. Such sentiments were manifest in a group of artists, the Pre Raphaelites, who combined truthful depiction with spiritual themes.

Unit 4:        Impressionist Paris

The transformation of Paris into the capital of nineteenth-century art was achieved both by the re-planning of the city by Baron Haussmann as well its representation through the lively brushwork and radiant palette of Manet and the Impressionists.  We will explore the celebration of the anxious delights of the city’s modern cafés and boulevards, the phenomenon of ‘la Parisienne’ and the restorative joys of ‘plein-air’ landscapes on riverbanks and the seaside.

Trinity Term 2019

11 April 2019 to 13 June 2019

Unit 5:        The Bourgeois Critiqued: French and British Expressions​

In part I of this section we will have studied an increasingly prosperous society, and a generally confident middle class. The social indifference of that society stimulated a rising chorus of criticism in politics, text and in art. The Aesthetic Movement sought elevation above the ugliness of the world it inhabited through the timeless beauty of art, and a return to Hellenic ideals of ‘sweetness and light’.  Such spare qualities of beauty were also found in the newly re-opened Japan in the latter part of the nineteenth century, inspiration which flowed through into the sensuality found in the natural forms of Art Nouveau. Others, such as John Ruskin and William Morris sought to overturn the indignity of industrial labour with a resurrection of personal creativity; a fusion of the Arts and Crafts.

Unit 6:        The Birth of Modernism 1890-1920

The dawn of a new age witnessed the birth of new pictorial forms and the persona of the ‘Modernist’ artist. The ‘wild’ coloristic experiments of Matisse and the ‘Fauves’, cubist geometry, the dynamism of the Italian Futurists, each evoked new ways of thinking about space and modernity. Other artists on the Continent challenged bourgeois aesthetic notions by exploring radical new ways of depicting the world. This society of industrialisation, consumption and convention was finally fractured in the mechanised destruction of the Great War.

On the last Saturday in May, each student will give a brief oral presentation about their research project.

Preliminary Reading List, Module 3:

• Eisenman, S, Nineteenth Century Art: a critical history (London: Thames & Hudson, 2002)
• Facos, M, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art (Abingdon: Routledge, 2011)
• Foster, H et al., Art since 1900: modernism, antimodernism, postmodernism (London: Thames & Hudson, 2004)
• Green, C, Art in France, 1900-1940 (London: Yale University Press, 2000)
• Greenhalgh, P, ed., Art Nouveau 1890-1914 (London: V & A Publications, 2000)
• Harrison, C, P Wood, and J Gaiger, eds., Art in Theory, 1815-1900: an anthology of changing ideas (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998) 
• House, J, Impressionism: paint and politics (London: Yale University Press, 2004)
• MacKenzie, J, ed., The Victorian vision: inventing new Britain (London: V & A, 2001)
• Nelson, R and R Shiff, Critical terms for art history (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2003)
• V & A Museum, The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement in Britain 1860-1900 (London: V & A, 2011)


Module 2: High Renaissance and Baroque 

Tuesdays, 2-4pm at Ewert House

This course will centre on these themes:

  • Introduction to Themes and Approaches

  • The High Renaissance in Rome

  • The High Renaissance in Venice

  • The Renaissance Moves North

  • Towards the Baroque

  • Baroque Architecture and Sculpture

Module 4: Modern and Contemporary Art

Thursdays 2-4pm Ewert House

This course will centre on these themes:

  • Introduction to themes and approaches

  • Beyond Two Dimensions Between the Wars

  • 1940s and 50s

  • 1960s and 70s

  • Towards the New

  • Art Now

Aims and learning outcomes

Undergraduate Diploma in History of ArtThe aim of the Diploma is to offer special subjects through which to examine key moments in the history of western art, architecture and design. Emphasis will be laid on setting works of art in an historical context and on looking at the art and architecture of Oxford in a relevant and imaginative way. This should enable you to achieve the following outcomes:

  • To learn to look at painting, sculpture, architecture and design in a visually critical and analytical way.
  • To acquire a critical understanding of how to relate art objects to the historical contexts in which they were created.
  • To use the collections of works of art in Oxford, London and the region in order to appreciate the importance of contact with the actual objects themselves, rather than reproductions.
  • To gain knowledge of different artistic material techniques and art historical terms.
  • To be able to participate intelligently and critically in the discussion of the history of art.
  • To study and to respond critically to both primary texts and secondary literature.
  • To develop skills in writing about the history of art, structuring visual and textual evidence into your own effective argument.

Credit transfer scheme

Students who successfully complete the two-year course will gain 120 CATS points at FHEQ Level 5 in the Department’s Qualifications and Credit Framework. 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 Department’s Registry on 01865 280355.

Summary of course requirements


For each one-year module students must normally attend a minimum of 75% of 30 two-hour sessions plus compulsory Day Schools.

Time Limit for Course Completion:

An Undergraduate Diploma will be awarded to each student who successfully completes two modules of the two-year course within five years.

Progress Review:

A review of each candidate’s performance will be carried out at the end of the first year; candidates may not be permitted to continue if their performance is not deemed satisfactory.

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford UniversityAssessment:

Students must complete one presentation and three written assignments (two essays of 3,000 words and a research project of 8,000 words) per module.

All assessed work must be submitted by the deadline indicated in the course handbook provided at the start of the course; failure to deliver an assignment on time without formal application for an extension may result in disqualification from completing the course.

Candidates who are awarded a mark of 40% or over as a weighted average for each module will be awarded a Pass overall. Candidates commencing in MT 2017 and after will be awarded a Merit for an overall mark of between 60 and 69%. The examiners will consider for the award of a Distinction those candidates who achieve an overall pass mark of 70% or more and pass each item of assessment at the first attempt

Teaching staff in 2018-2019

Director of Studies in the History of Art
Dr Cathy Oakes - University Lecturer in the History of Art, OUDCE, Fellow of Kellogg College

Course Director
Dr Janina Ramirez - Tutor in History of Art, OUDCE


Mrs Mary Acton
Dr Meg Boulton
Dr Anthony Buxton
Mr Patrick Doorly
Ms Kristine MacMichael
Dr Manya Pagiavla
Mr Hubert Pragnell
Mr Samuel Raybone
Dr Gill White

Undergraduate Diploma in History of Art Oxford University

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application you may contact the following: janina.ramirez@conted.ox.ac.uk

Award Programme Office 01865 280154 / 270369
For queries on applications and admissions ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk

Widening Access Officer 01865 280355
For general guidance and advice; queries on educational opportunities, credit transfer, special needs provision, residential category and sources of funding: registry@conted.ox.ac.uk

Study Skills 01865 280892
For information about Study Skills courses: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

How to apply

Please use the apply button on this page to download the application form which includes a reference form (Appendix A). 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:

  • details of any previous experience in the subject and membership of relevant societies or groups
  • a statement (preferably typewritten) of 300 words explaining why you wish to enrol on the course
  • Proof of your English Language Ability if you are a non-native English-speaking applicant.

Please send your application with the additional materials to the 

Award Programme Administrator
1 Wellington Square
Oxford OX1 2JA

Application deadlines

Thursday 8 March 2018 and Thursday 10 May 2018.

Applicants will normally be interviewed and we will let you know whether your application has been successful shortly thereafter. The final decision on entry to the course rests with OUDCE.

Late applications may be accepted subject to the availability of places. If you would like to make a late application, please email the Award Programme Administrator at ppaward@conted.ox.ac.uk

Use the apply button on this page to download the application form.

Fees and additional expenses

The fee for one year's module in 2018-2019 is £2,380 (EU students) or £4,470 (non-EU students). A non-refundable deposit of £200 is required on acceptance of a place and the remaining sum can be paid in instalments. Bed and breakfast accommodation may be available at Rewley House during the weekend school at an additional charge. Please contact the Residential Centre for availability on 01865 270362. There may be extra charges incurred on visits to museums.

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

English is the language of instruction for all courses offered at Oxford. You must submit evidence that you meet the University’s English language requirements for your course if your first language is not English, or if your first language is English but you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country recognised by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). List: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, New Zealand, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America.

You do not need to submit test results, or request a waiver, if your first language is English and you have always been a resident and citizen of the UK, Ireland or any other majority English-speaking country (see list above).

Score Requirements (Standard Level)

The University only accepts certain standardised tests with results at or above the following scores. Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. The score requirements in each test are as follows:

  • IELTS Academic (Institution Code: 0713): overall score of 7.0 (with at least 6.5 in each of the four components).

  • TOEFL iBT (Institution code: 0490): overall score of 100 with component scores of at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24.

  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Overall score of at least 185, with a minimum of 176 per component.

  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Overall score of at least 185 with a minimum of 176 per component.

Asking for a waiver of the requirement

Exemptions from this requirement may be waived if you have completed, or are currently completing, a degree-level course that is full-time, at least 9 months and undertaken at a recognised institution where teaching and assessment throughout the course is entirely in English.

Please click here for further information.

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course

Sources of funding

Information on financial support