Research course

Art History

Open University · Department of Art History

Entry requirements

PhD: The normal minimum entrance requirement is an upper second class honours degree or master's degree, relevant to the proposed area of study, from a recognised higher education institution in the UK. You should also have experience of academic research in the previous four years, normally in the form of either a master's degree in research methods, an undergraduate degree with a research element in the final year, or work-related experience with evidence through research reports. If you're not sure if you meet the entry requirements, please contact us ( MPhil: Applicants should normally hold, or be expecting to obtain, a bachelors degree with at least first or upper-second class honours, or an equivalent qualification. However, entry requirements differ between academic areas, and sometimes a taught masters degree is also required. The research topic pages (in the menu on the right of our Research areas page) give details of specific entry requirements, and provide contact details to discuss your suitability for the MPhil with a member of academic staff.

Months of entry


Course content

The Department of Art History specialises in high-quality research and teaching relating to several areas of art and architectural history. These include Byzantine art; the Renaissance (both in Italy and in Northern Europe); art and art theory from the seventeenth through to the twentieth century; recent and contemporary art practice; a cross-period interest in gender studies; architecture and material culture; and heritage studies. Our fully illustrated teaching books (co-published with Yale University Press) have attracted international recognition and many are best sellers. We run a popular MA in Art History and supervise PhD students.

The department’s research groups include:

  • Art Histories in Focus (includes Early Modern Art, Eighteenth-Century Art and Modern Art Theory and Practice)
  • Cross-Cultural and Artistic networks
  • History of Architecture and Design.

In addition the department plays a key role in two inter-departmental research groups. The interfaculty Heritage Studies Research Group promotes a critical approach to understanding the role of heritage in society, looking at the historic environment, interpretation and sustainability issues as well as collections history. The Material Cultures Research Group uses a critical consideration of the role of tangible expressions of culture in society. Topics of interest range from the uses of Byzantine icons to the impact of social housing on gender relations.

Key facts
  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 results showed 86 per cent of our research is world leading or internationally excellent.
  • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 ranked our research 6th in the UK for its proportion of 4* and 3* research.
  • We offer regular opportunities to participate in our collaborative study days held at Tate Modern, the Barbican, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Milton Keynes Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery and the Baltic.
  • We offer unique access to an archive of gallery-based events, lectures and seminars through The Open Arts Archive.
  • Our staff have been successful in obtaining substantial funding for high-profile research projects from The Leverhulme Trust and other funding bodies.

Fees and funding

Please see The Open University website for more information.

Qualification and course duration


distance learning
variable months
full time
36 months
part time
72 months


full time
15 months
distance learning
variable months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Art Research School
+44 (0)1908 652479