Philosophy and Art History

Two female students in a coridoor looking at a art work

Studies for the real world

In the School of Philosophy and Art History, you will take a bold view of art and ideas, and root your work in real-world issues. You will question everything, you will always challenge why, and your ability to combine imagination with critical thinking will put you at the forefront of making a difference in a crucial time of change.

Dive straight into your studies at Essex and choose from a range of degrees, including philosophy, art history and curating. Interested in studying more than one subject? You can choose to combine these areas, or study them alongside a variety of other subjects, such as film, law, politics and literature.

Perhaps you're intereted in studying topics which transcend across disciplines, such as the environment, society, culture and the world in which we live in? We've got you covered. The Interdisciplinary Studies Centre, also housed within our School gives you the opportunity to study courses which combine topics from across the humanities and social sciences, offering degrees in American (US) studies, European studies, global studies, Latin American studies and liberal arts.


In philosophy, we are known for our unique combination of Anglo-American and European philosophy, and as a leading centre for critical theory, phenomenology, German idealism and medical humanities. As an Essex philosophy student you'll benefit from our close-knit community and have your future fully invested in by our passionate academics from the moment you arrive. 

Art History

You will be taught by experts in the history and theory of art and visual cultures from the Renaissance to the present, and in curating cutting-edge exhibitions in museums and galleries around the country. We believe that art history has real world implications, and we prepare you for them by offering you the chance to handle real artworks, use digital media to understand museum displays and curate an exhibition.  As an art history student, you will learn to see the world through new perspectives and it will become clear that the impact studying an art history degree can have on contemporary culture is unquestionable. At Essex, we redefine what it means to study art history.


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Our teaching and learning in light of COVID-19 pandemic

Will COVID-19 change the way my course is taught?

If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to.

Across all our areas (Interdisciplinary Studies, Philosophy and Art History) you will be offered the full range of modules in the first year in our normal blend of lectures and seminars (as appropriate to the subject you will be studying). Where they involve larger groups of students, teaching events will be online. For those students on campus and able to meet us in person, we will allocate time for small group teaching of various kinds, when conditions allow. Weekly academic support hours with all lecturers will be available, offering you one-to-one consultation and support.

What will this mean for my learning experience?

A For the 2020 academic year, we are focusing on ensuring that we are able to deliver a quality education and that your teaching and learning can continue if there is further disruption. That’s why we’ve been working hard to ensure that our students are able to start with us in October – in whatever way possible. The changes we have made to support you and protect your health and wellbeing mean that, for most of our courses, this will include blended learning – with lectures, classes and other teaching taking place both online and face to face. Much of this teaching will be offered “live” (even if online/ virtual) but will also be available to access at times that suit you.

We know that your learning experience is about more than just attending classes, and our campuses can provide you with all you need to make the most of your studies. This includes private space to study, in your on-campus study bedrooms as well as in PC labs and other spaces on our three campuses for self-study. We can also offer you access to laptops on loan and access to our library services; as well as enhanced wifi provision across our campuses.

Your learning experience will also include:

  • Flexible learning
    If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the year, we can offer you the alternative of starting your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transition to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to.
  • No closed-book final exams in the Summer term of 2020-21
    Instead the summer term will be used to complete assignments that will allow you to make the most of your literary, critical, creative and research skills, in a flexible way.
  • No closed-book final exams in Philosophy in the second and third year
    Instead of revision lectures and exams, we offer exciting summer-term modules and will work closely with you to develop further those skills that you need to succeed in your studies and in the professional world beyond academia.
  • Induction events for first year students
    To ensure you know how to make use of the library and other resources – both in-person and digitally.
  • Personalised one-to-one consultations with academic staff
    Following appropriate distancing measures to keep you safe, so you can discuss your academic progress with your tutors
  • Synchronous and asynchronous learning
    This means that everyone in your group or class will be learning together at the same time, by attending a live lecture or seminar. Other learning will be ‘asynchronous’ – that is, accessed by you at a time that suits you. This might be reading an article, watching a film or broadcast, listening to a podcast, posting a blog or a creative or critical response to something you have encountered in your course.
  • No changes to module content
    Module content will not be reduced.
  • Academic support hours
    Weekly academic support hours with all tutors will be available, offering you one-to-one consultation and support.
  • Continuous and carefully curated assessments through a variety of formats
    You will be assessed as normal through a variety of assessment formats, including essays, presentations, reading summaries, in-class tests, take-home assignments as appropriate to your degree subject.
  • Encouraging creativity in your assignments
    We are also making use of digital, audio and online means so that you can be as creative as possible in your assignments.

What happens if the situation changes before I start or during my time at Essex?

We recognise that some students may have difficulty travelling to campus in time to start the academic year. If for any reason you are unable to travel to campus to start the academic year, all teaching will be available virtually. This means that you can start, or continue, your programme off-campus, wherever you are, with full flexibility to transfer to on-campus learning as soon as you are able to. All of our modules are designed to support you to continue learning and still be able to access one-to-one consultation and guidance that you would normally get from the lecturers on your course, if further outbreaks of infection occur during the year. This means you can join us in full confidence that you can continue and complete your programme of study.

There is lots of helpful information about starting at Essex in our guide for applicants should you have any questions, feel uncertain about something in particular, or, would like up to date information on specific topics if your situation changes. If you are an overseas student and you aren't able to join us on Campus in the autumn, then you will need to be aware of some immigration changes taking place in January 2021.

Are there any significant changes to course structure and availability of modules?

We revised our interdisciplinary first year module and expect that it will be of particular interest to all SPAH students: ‘Modern Revolutions in Science, Politics, and Culture’ (CS101). On top of that, for Art History students, we will also be offering a new Art History module for the first time: ‘Writing and Researching Art History’ (AR122). Due to staffing changes, ‘Europe: Myth & Idea’ (CS102) is suspended for 20-21. Apart from these new developments, there are no significant changes to course structure in your first year.

What will my broader student experience in the School and on campus be like?

Your studies are important, but we know that being at university is about much more than just being in a classroom. As soon as you join Essex, you will have the opportunity to get involved in exciting and fun events both in the School, and across the wider University too.

In the School

University is about much more than just the seminars and lectures you attend. University, as our founder Albert Sloman said, is about ‘an experience of living’. You will become part of our vibrant, exciting and inclusive community in The School of Philosophy and Art History and the Interdisciplinary Studies Centre whether we are online, or in-person on our beautiful campus.

You, along with your peers and lecturers will be able to spend time together through activities such as walking outside, coffee and group conversation in a virtual café or meeting a visiting speaker –online or in person, as the case may be.

We will use all our ingenuity to bring students together into social situations outside class-time, by holding picnics, pizza nights, colloquia, reading groups, and quizzes, and, virtual get-togethers.

On Campus

We have been working in partnership with our Students’ Union to ensure that you can enjoy our clubs, societies, activities and services. We have built in flexibility to enable you to access support and activities, and to shape your experience around your life.

To learn more about the range of events Essex will be hosting, please visit our events calendar. To stay up to date with the very latest guidance on how to visit your campus, view our coming onto campus guide.

How will the University support me during this time?

The health and wellbeing of our students is our priority, and this has been one of the focuses to ensure students can start on campus – safely – in October.

This means we are constantly monitoring advice from the UK Government, Public Health England, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the World Health Organisation.

To protect our community on campus once the academic year starts again in October, we will be looking to introduce the following measures:

  • Enhanced cleaning and sterilising regimes
  • Social distancing in line with international guidance
  • Signage and floor markings in key locations to help you move around our campuses safely

We’re asking you to wear face coverings in all public campus areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain or in specifically designated locations. We’ll be supporting you by giving two washable face coverings to all students.

There is a number of support systems available to you whilst you are at Essex, for whenever you need them and for however long you wish to use them.

These include:

  • Medical support and healthcare (and our online mental health programme SilverCloud)
  • Mental and emotional health support
  • Personalised advice and support from the Student Services Hub

The University also runs a variety of online events throughout the year including at-home yoga and mindfulness sessions.

To find out more about the network of support you will benefit from during your time at Essex, please visit the Student Directory.

choose us?

92% of our Philosophy and Art History students are in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2020)
Top 20 for art history (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020)
6th among art history departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014, mainstream universities, THE 2014)
Experience artworks first hand with our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America - the largest collection of its kind in Europe
University of the Year (Times Higher Education Awards 2018)
Essex graduation ceremony
Male kneeling on the floor writing on large piece of paper containing collated notes and snippets
Dr Matt Lodder
two members of staff hanging art in a gallery
UoTY winners 2018
Artwork above bed in a hotel room depicting forces member in pillow fight with civilian militant
Our research

Our school features a dynamic group of art historians and philosophers. Our art historians investigate the production and reception of images and built environments, across cultures and media from the early modern period to the present. Our philosophers are also internationally recognised for research in critical theory, existentialism, phenomenology, and medical humanities.

Explore our research
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Get in touch with us

If you would like any more information about Philosophy and Art History or have a question you would like to ask, please complete this short enquiry form.

Contact the School of Philosophy and Art History
Contact the School of Philosophy and Art History
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ