Postgraduate Course

MA Curating

MA Curating


The details
October 2019
1 year
Colchester Campus

Our MA Curating offers a practical and theoretical training in devising and curating exhibitions, as you work towards the preparation of an exhibition at our on-site Art Exchange gallery.

Our course combines practice, theory and histories of curating in equal measure. You will develop an essential base skills for a successful exhibition – from object handling to managing exhibition budgets – through visiting lectures by active museum professionals; practical workshops using our on-site collection and galleries; and competitive placements at leading institutions. Previous students have worked at the V&A, Royal Academy of Arts, Hayward Gallery and Firstsite Gallery.

You will build your own confident grasp of the history and theory of exhibition-making, studying with academics who besides being active curators are producing new key texts on the curatorial history and theory. You study topics including:

  • How an exhibition can be used as a means of social or political critique
  • The historical role that museums have played in society
  • Participation and social engagement between spectators, artists and curators
  • A choice of history of art options

We are ranked Top 20 for Art History in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2019) and ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014).

Why we're great.
  • Prepare for your career by working with the Royal Academy of Arts, the V&A Museum, and Firstsite Gallery
  • We give you the opportunity to curate an exhibition at our on-campus Art Exchange Gallery
  • Gain hands-on experience with artworks in our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA)
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

Our staff consists of a dynamic group of art historians. While our research interests span a range of cultures and media, from the early modern to the present, core specialties include exhibition design, modern and contemporary art, public engagement and activism.

Here are a few examples of recent or current projects by staff members:

  • Dr Gavin Grindon, Lecturer in Art History and co-director of our Centre for Curatorial Studies, recently co-curated the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, one of the best attended shows in the museum’s history. He has also widely published on activist art in leading journals such as Art History and recently co-curated a Museum of the Occupation at Banksy's Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, as well as a section of Banksy's Dismaland.
  • Dr Matt Lodder, Lecturer in Art History with an emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, is co-curating the exhibition Tattoo: Ancient Myths, Modern Meanings, which opens next year in the U.S.
  • Dr Michael Tymkiw, co-director of the Centre for Curatorial Studies, has a book under contract entitled Nazi Exhibition Design and Modernism. He has also just launched an interdisciplinary research project that focuses on using digital technologies to expand disability access in museums—a project that involves collaborations with several museums in Colchester and London including firstsite and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Specialist facilities

At Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums in the nearby town of Colchester; on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums and galleries at your fingertips.

Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience and engage in object-based learning, a cornerstone of our approach when teaching the history of art and its modes of display:

  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
  • Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students
  • Colchester’s iconic Firstsite gallery features an exciting programme of contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings and talks, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
  • Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history of exhibition design and curate high-profile exhibitions

Your future

The visual arts and culture industries have become an increasingly significant part of the national and international economy, and our art history graduates leave Essex with the skills to take advantage of this growing opportunity.

Graduates from our programmes are ideally prepared for roles in the media, in advertising, in museums and galleries, in education (in schools, universities, and cultural institutions), as conservators, as auctioneers, dealers and antiques specialists, in charities, in publishing, as specialist arts lawyers, as PR agents, in fashion, or to run their own galleries.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • National Portrait Gallery
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Sotheby’s New York
  • Momart Ltd
  • John Lewis

We also offer research supervision for PhD and MPhil for those who want to continue with research. We cover the major areas of European art and architecture from 1300 to the present, as well as the art and architecture of Latin America and the United States.

We work with our university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2.2 Degree or equivalent in any discipline. Your Degree must contain at least three modules relating to visual culture.

Visual Culture modules include, but are not limited to: Aesthetics, Archaeology, Architecture, Art History, Curatorial/Museum Studies, Design Studies, Digital Imaging, Fashion, Fine Art, Film Studies, Film and Literature, Graphic Design, Advertising, Landscape Design, History, Media Studies, Photography

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here.Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 except for 6.0 in writing

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

Critique and Curating

Want to do more than hang pretty pictures on a pleasantly coloured wall? Then take this module to learn how curators and designers from the 1920s onward have turned exhibition spaces into site of social and political critique -- a practice now often subsumed under the concept of ‘critical curating’. Organised chronologically, the module gives you the chance to hone your understanding of the complex relationship between critique and curating, generally by situating major exhibitions and paradigmatic curatorial concepts in relation to key texts of critical theory.

View Critique and Curating on our Module Directory

Curating Inside Out

Inside out: what does it mean? Reversal? Separation? Exclusion? Use the notion of inside out as a conceptual framework to investigate how different forms of reversal, separation, and exclusion have shaped curatorial practices.

View Curating Inside Out on our Module Directory

Managing Galleries and Exhibition Projects

Learn the nuts and bolts of managing galleries and exhibition projects through this series of lectures and workshops. Each session is designed to teach you an essential skill (e.g., preparing an exhibition proposal; borrowing artworks; writing press releases). The module puts you a step ahead in the job market by demystifying what really happens behind the scenes in museums and galleries.

View Managing Galleries and Exhibition Projects on our Module Directory

Collecting Art From Latin America (optional)

Get valuable real-life experience from inside the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America’s new teaching museum space. As well as discussing and analysing artworks from the collection, take on the exciting challenge of proposing a new acquisition for ESCALA. Whilst the task is hypothetical, if the committee decides to pursue the acquisition, you could be credited for your contribution.

View Collecting Art From Latin America (optional) on our Module Directory

Researching Art History (optional)

Prepare yourself for your dissertation and beyond with this module, composed of lectures and bespoke workshops. Learn how to tackle the challenges of research work and the techniques for planning it, and cover everything from ethics approval procedures, to CV writing and career development.

View Researching Art History (optional) on our Module Directory

Art and Politics (optional)

In 2013, both Jeff Koons and Zaha Hadid designed yachts for obscenely wealthy collectors. At the same time, members of the activist art group, Pussy Riot languished in a Russian prison, charged with hooliganism over the artistic protests against the authoritarianism of the Putin government. How can we make sense of this moment in contemporary culture, where artistic means are directed to such diverse aesthetic, political, ethical, and social ends? Probe the relationship between art, politics and money in this series of weekly lectures.

View Art and Politics (optional) on our Module Directory

Topics in Art History (optional)

Cover some of the key subjects in art history between the Renaissance and the present day, with topics, carefully selected to benefit from the research-led, cutting edge discussions of important themes and authors. Topics in this broad module could include ‘Popular, Mass, and Lowbrow Arts: Histories, Theories and Approaches’ and ‘Sex and the City: Prostitution in Eighteenth Century London’.

View Topics in Art History (optional) on our Module Directory

Current Research in Art History (optional)

Dancing bodies; protesting bodies; falling bodies: the relationship between moving bodies and images is a recurring subject for artists, philosophers, and art historians alike. This seminar shifts away from the iconography of the moving body to focus on the ‘moving image’. Images that investigate bodily movement through new visual technologies suggest the close relationship between representation, embodiment, and the act of beholding. From seventeenth-century fresco painting to twentieth-century performance art and film, students will read and discuss recent literature in philosophy and art history in relation to images of moving bodies that span early modern and modern art.

View Current Research in Art History (optional) on our Module Directory

Art, Architecture and Urbanism (optional)

This seminar explores the role of visual culture within popular religion in the cities of late Medieval and Renaissance Italy. We will challenge definitions of “art” and “popular religion”, especially the ways in which art history, as a discipline, has often interpreted popular religious art from this period through an artificial binary between “high culture” (e.g. altarpieces, sculptures and fresco cycles by well-known artists) and “low culture” (e.g. anonymous panel paintings, reliquaries, prints).

View Art, Architecture and Urbanism (optional) on our Module Directory

Exhibition and Portfolio (optional)

Take the exciting opportunity to develop and produce an exhibition at Art Exchange, our on-campus gallery. Work in small groups to manage the project, undertaking everything from fundraising to marketing, loaning artworks to publishing a catalogue, and delivering education and access initiatives to monitoring and evaluating your success. A diverse range of subjects have been explored in previous years, ranging from social history to historical fine art and contemporary art. You will also produce an individual critical portfolio reflecting on your curatorial practice.

View Exhibition and Portfolio (optional) on our Module Directory

Exhibition (Joint Project) (optional)

Take the exciting opportunity to develop and produce an exhibition at Art Exchange, our on-campus gallery. Work in small groups to manage the project, undertaking everything from fundraising to marketing, loaning artworks to publishing a catalogue, and delivering education and access initiatives to monitoring and evaluating your success. A diverse range of subjects have been explored in previous years, ranging from social history to historical fine art and contemporary art.

View Exhibition (Joint Project) (optional) on our Module Directory

Dissertation - MA Schemes (optional)

Choose an area of research with help from your supervisor, and write a dissertation of between 15,000 and 20,000 words.

View Dissertation - MA Schemes (optional) on our Module Directory

Philosophy and Aesthetics (optional)

Undertake an investigation into aesthetic practices, activities and objects, and their history, from artworks to the aesthetic strategies of protest movements. You reflect on the distinctive experiences that are involved in participating in aesthetic practices or perceiving aesthetic performances and objects, and debate why aesthetic practices and experiences play such a central role in continental thought, from Kant and Hegel to Adorno and Rancière.

View Philosophy and Aesthetics (optional) on our Module Directory

Advertising: Commerce and Creativity (optional)

How has advertising tried to understand the consumer? What challenges are posed by international advertising? Or by the arrival of new media and alternative delivery systems? Explore the history of advertising in Britain and North America, then learn how to analyse and theorise about advertising and the wider creative industries.

View Advertising: Commerce and Creativity (optional) on our Module Directory


  • Full-time for one year or part-time over two years
  • Two-hour seminars with discussion based on a programme of reading
  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Frequent museum and gallery trips, and classes with active museum professionals
  • We run a number of mini-courses, research seminars and conferences that our postgraduates are encouraged to attend


  • Assessment for our courses is normally on the basis of coursework and your supervised dissertation


  • In place of a dissertation, you work towards the preparation of an exhibition at our on-site Art Exchange gallery

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee


International fee


Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2019 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, June 15, 2019
  • Saturday, September 21, 2019
  • Saturday, October 26, 2019


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to over 13,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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