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Department of History of Art



MPhil in History of Art & Architecture

The MPhil in History of Art & Architecture is a nine month course which commences in October each year. It is intended as a self-contained programme of art-historical study, but also serves as a preparation for students intending to proceed to doctoral research. Please note that this is a research degree with taught methodological elements, not a conversion course for students whose first degree lies in another subject.

The educational aims of the programme are:

  • to provide teaching and learning to post-graduate students in the history of art and architecture in a range of fields linked to the research interests of the staff;
  • to provide high-calibre students with training in relevant research skills and to offer excellent specialist supervision of their individual research in these fields;
  • to provide a stimulating environment in which students can reach their full intellectual potential;
  • to help students develop a wide range of intellectual abilities and skills which will enable them to make a significant contribution in their chosen careers and walks of life, including academic teaching and research.

 On completion of the MPhil, students should have:

  • made the transition in learning style and pace from undergraduate to postgraduate level;
  • acquired the necessary research skills in the use of bibliographical, archival and museum resources as relevant to their field of study;
  • gained practice in the use of the languages and archival skills relevant to their chosen research area;
  • gained confidence in the choice and use of different methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives;
  • refined their critical skills in the examination, recording and analysis of works of art and/or architecture, especially at first-hand (through travel and fieldwork if appropriate);
  • gained experience in oral and written presentation, and in a sustained piece of research in the form of a dissertation of not more than 15,000 words;
  • acquired the proficiency needed to present in writing a coherent and sustained piece of academic research.

The Department welcomes applications from graduates to undertake research towards an MPhil degree in many areas of history of art and architectural research, but is unable to offer places to candidates for whom no supervisor is available. Applicants are admitted who meet the course requirements and whose research interests match those of an available member of the academic staff. 

The MPhil is intended both as an independent qualification, and to prepare students for entry into a PhD programme.  Its satisfactory completion (at a minimum overall mark of 70%) is a condition of entry into the Department’s PhD degree for those without previous Masters-level qualifications in a relevant field.  Students intending to progress to the PhD must establish in good time that a supervisor is able to admit them.  Under Faculty policy, only UTO staff may supervise PhD dissertations.

Course Structure & Examination

The MPhil in History of Art & Architecture is a nine month course which commences in October each year. It is not available on a part-time basis. The course consists of research seminars, skills training, and supervised individual study. 

The syllabus is as follows:

  • Attendance at two selected seminar courses in specialised areas of research, one in the Michaelmas (Autumn) Term and one in the Lent (Spring) Term;
  • Attendance at the department's weekly graduate seminars;
  • Attendance at classes in skills training and career development;
  • Frequent individual consultation with the candidate's supervisor, who will guide the candidate's choice of topics and preparation of individual written work for essays, presentations and dissertation.


Teaching is delivered through the series of seminars referred to above during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, focusing on salient critical and theoretical issues in the discipline, and organised into two parallel strands in each term. The seminars include presentations by MPhil students and other research students. Students may either take one option in each term, or follow the same course throughout. A taught course in visual culture offered at MPhil level by another university department (eg Classics, English, History, Modern and Medieval Languages) may be undertaken in addition to one of the two taught courses, with the approval of the student’s supervisor and the Degree Committee of the Faculty of Architecture and History of Art. This needs to be discussed and arranged at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term.

Throughout the course, students are encouraged to undertake independent reading and study, in order to consolidate what is under discussion in the seminars. In addition, they attend the Department’s weekly public graduate research seminars organised by the graduate students, the Department's fortnightly medieval seminars and other lectures and seminars in the Department and elsewhere in the University.

Students will have their supervisors confirmed at the beginning of their course in October. Students typically meet with their supervisor for 45 minutes on a fortnightly basis during term time. Students are expected to attend their two selected taught seminar courses and the Department's weekly seminars (approximately 12 per term). Students typically spend at least 30 hours per term for the first two terms attending mandatory seminars. 

Students are expected to undertake research training much of which is mandatory. These courses total approximately 6 hours in total. Mandatory courses can be supplemented with other courses provided by the University, School, Faculty, Department and College. Whilst attending lectures is optional, students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of lectures offered in the Department and other Faculties relevant to their research. 

Students will be provided with feedback via supervisions and their supervisor's termly reports which are available to them via their self-service pages on CamSIS.



Two essays of not more than 6000 words (to include footnotes) will be presented for examination. One will be submitted at the end of the Michaelmas and one at the end of the Lent terms respectively. These essays need not relate to the themes of the taught seminar courses, but may instead be directed towards the candidate’s personal research interests. 
The essays represent 40% of the overall mark for the course

The dissertation of not more than 15,000 words represents 60% of the overall mark and is submitted at the end of May. 
An oral examination (viva voce) on the dissertation and on the general field of knowledge within which the work submitted falls may be required. Students must remain in or be prepared to return to Cambridge for such oral examinations, which will be held in June.
Students need to achieve at least 60% for their overall mark in order to pass the degree. If students wish to continue their research and apply to read for the PhD degree in the Department of History of Art, they need to achieve at least 70%.  They also need to identify and be admitted by a supervisor drawn from the established UTO staff of the Department or from its Emeritus staff (see University Teaching Officers and Emeritus staff under the 'People' section of this site.)


At a Glance

Course length and dates:

9 months full-time, October start. Not available on a part-time basis.


Two essays and a dissertation not exceeding 15,000 words.

Academic requirement:

A first-class or high upper-second-class degree in the History of Art, or a closely related subject.

English language requirement:

See: Postgraduate Admissions Office  

Applications accepted from:

The preceding September.

Application Deadlines:  

The final deadline for applicants seeking funding is early January, for the exact date, please see the Postgraduate Admissions website. Even if you are not seeking funding, we strongly recommend that you submit your application by this date, as no applications will be accepted once this competitive and popular programme is full.

If places are still available on programmes beyond this deadline; self-funded applicants will continue to be considered until the final deadline in March, for the exact date please see the Postgraduate Admissions website No applications will be considered after this deadline.

Course Fees:

Information relating to the fee for this course is available from the Postgraduate Admissions Office  


If you are seeking funding for your course via one of the University’s main funding competitions, there are specific deadlines and eligibility criteria for each competition.  Please check the Funding Section of the Postgraduate Admissions Office website for information and application deadlines.