For our PhD in Art History and Theory, we offer supervision across a range of fields and have a long tradition of postgraduate training in all the major areas of European art and architecture from 1300 to the present, and in the art and architecture of Latin America and the United States. Essex Art History features a dynamic group of art historians investigating the production and reception of images and built environments, across cultures and media from the early modern period to the present. While we adopt a diverse range of approaches in our writing and teaching, our work demonstrates a commitment to three key ideas:
All forms of visual culture – from paintings to building interiors, from medical imagery to tattoos – emerge from and contribute to the mediation of social and political forces. Scholars at Essex investigate the role of art, architecture, and other forms of visual culture in the assertion, negotiation, and contestation of power in relation to a variety of topics. These include the planning of tyrants’ cities in the Italian Renaissance; the entanglement of the historical avant-garde with the politics of Fascism; and the production of objects by contemporary activists in pursuit of social change. Throughout our work, we emphasise issues of autonomy, agency, dissent, and the contestation of the public realm.
Art historians at Essex are strongly concerned with the conceptualisation, production, experience, and representation of spaces and places. We investigate topics that include the ideologies that drive urban change; architectural metaphors in software design; the fusion of real and imaginary places in religious paintings; the design of exhibition spaces and the implications of curatorial practice; and the varied locales and landscapes of the county of Essex itself.
We are committed to bringing the approaches of art history into contact with other disciplines and discourses in order to interrogate objects of our shared visual and material culture, including body art, wax casts, activist placards, and Fascist floor mosaics. Our transdisciplinary approach facilitates critical engagement with an array of artworks and visual culture that stand both within and beyond the traditional canons of art history.
Please note: part-time research study is also available, and we also offer an MPhil in this subject.
The support provided by your supervisor is a key feature of your experience as a research student. Your supervisor will guide you through the different stages of your research degree. Initially, your supervisor helps you to develop your research topic and plan; then, you participate in regular one-to-one meetings to comment on drafts, resolve problems and maintain progress on your research.
It is well worth getting in touch with a potential supervisor before applying for your course. The list of academic staff on our website can help you to identify a specialist on your proposed topic.
By studying within our School of Philosophy and Art History, you will have access to a range of outstanding facilities to aid your learning and research.
We provide good facilities for postgraduate study, with access to a range of resources and support mechanisms to foster progression. Our School is home to the Centre for Curatorial Studies, which brings together research in the field of museology, exhibition studies and curatorial practice, and also delivers our postgraduate courses in each of these areas.
We are also home to the Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA).
Many of our graduates are now working in academic institutions, in national or regional museums or galleries, or in other arts-related professions, both throughout the UK and abroad. Several graduates are now Professors in leading art history departments such as CUNY, while others have worked as curators at high-profile museums such as the Tate Modern.
You will need a good honours degree and a Masters degree, or equivalent, in a related subject. A well-developed research proposal is also essential.
You will normally be required to attend an interview/Skype interview for acceptance, and acceptance is subject to research expertise in the department.
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.
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A research degree doesn't have a taught structure, giving you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. A research degree allows you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many careers.
Our PhDs are conceived as a structured, three-year programme of advanced study and research. Supervision is by regular individual tutorials, and the award of a research degree depends solely on the merits of your final research output, a c. 80,000-word thesis.
The development of your research project is supported and monitored via Supervisory Boards, which happen twice a year for full-time students. Here, your supervisor and another member of staff discuss your research with you, progress is assessed against milestones, and training or other support needs are identified. We also provide a number of training opportunities and support services, which aid your studies and help prepare you for employment.
We aim to have all our full-time PhD students submit within four years.
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
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:
If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.
We encourage you to make a preliminary enquiry directly to a potential supervisor or the Graduate Administrator within your chosen Department or School. We encourage the consideration of a brief research proposal prior to the submission of a full application.
We aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.
For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.
Home to 15,000 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.
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.
At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.
The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.
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