Postgraduate Study

Courtauld Graduate Diploma in the History of Art

Study at the Courtauld

The Graduate Diploma is a concentrated form of the undergraduate degree and gives graduates of other disciplines the opportunity to transfer their skills to the study of history of art.

On graduating, students will be:

  • exposed to and understand a wide range of specialisms within History of Art
  • well placed to take an MA in History of Art

Director's INTRODUCTION to Postgraduate Study At The Courtauld

Video Courtesy of Postgraduatesearch

Key Facts

  • Full time
  • 27 students
  • 1 year
Language skills:
  • English
Study at the Courtauld

The Graduate Diploma is structured into five elements:

  • The Foundation Lecture Course
  • The Frameworks Lecture Course
  • One Topic Course
  • One Period Course
  • The Assessed Essay

Detailed information about the aims and objectives of the course can be found in the full programme specification below:

CGDHA Programme Specification

Graduate Diploma - The Foundations Lecture Course

The Foundations Lecture Series run throughout the year in conjunction with focused study. Courses are desinged to offer you a broad coverage of periods, regions, materials and approaches to art and architecture from antiquity to the present.


This is a series of fifty-four lectures given by the staff of The Courtauld. It deals with major themes and issues in the history of Western art. The lectures are organised into nine blocks of six lectures each. Seven of the blocks introduce you to the art and issues involved in the study of particular periods; the other two introduce you to the physical history of works of art, and to questions raised by looking beyond the normal frontiers of Western art.

The lectures are supported by discussion classes which provide an opportunity to analyse the arguments proposed in the lectures, develop critical skills and discuss any questions raised.

The trajectory of the lectures changes annually but a recent programme is as follows:

Classical and Byzantine Art; The Middle Ages; Renaissance Art c. 1350 – 1550; Seventeenth-century Art; Physical History of Works of Art; Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals; European Art & Society c. 1700 – 1830; Nineteenth- & Twentieth-century Art; The Global Contemporary

Graduate Diploma - Topic Course

Taken in the Autumn term, the Topic course provides detailed examination of one particular form or period of art, for which there are excellent resources in London. The options offered change annually but recently have included:

Taking Shape: Italian Altarpieces of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance

This course serves as an introduction to the study of Italian painted altarpieces of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries through an examination of panel paintings available in London collections, particularly those in The National Gallery and The Courtauld Gallery.

The majority of the works that will be considered were produced in central Italy, although the course will also look beyond Tuscany in a series of focused case studies. The aim of this course is to help students to consider painted altarpieces as physical and functional objects, providing an introduction to important fourteenth- and fifteenth-century works of art available in London Collections.

The course is arranged thematically, rather than chronologically. Each session is intended to enhance the students’ understanding of a different aspect of Italian altarpieces through first hand examination of the works themselves paintings and through the study of primary and secondary texts. The course will also consider how the display of altarpieces in galleries frames them in particular intellectual and institutional contexts.

The Graphic Image: Exploring Early Modern Northern Works in London Collections

The graphic mark was a crucial form of visual communication in the early modern period, comparable in importance to the digital image in our own experience. This course is concerned with drawings and prints, principally from the Netherlands, in the later 16th and 17th centuries.

Close examination of selected works in the Print Rooms of the Courtauld Gallery and the British Museum will familiarise you with different techniques and media, and we shall investigate the graphic mark’s identification with both artistry and invention and with ‘truth to nature’, with both uniqueness and with reproduction and dissemination.

Engraving and etching, the principal ways of making prints during this period, will be considered in this context. We shall be looking at many works by renowned artists such as Cornelis Cort, Hendrick Goltzius, Rubens, Van Dijck, Hollar and Rembrandt, but we shall also study works where authorship is not the main issue, such as copies and educational drawings and prints.

Graduate Diploma - Period Course

The Period Course presents the art from one particular historical period. It aims to investigate the various historical contexts within which art can be studied as well as the different approaches scholars have taken to the study of this material. The options offered change annually but recently have included:

Art in France 1900-39: Nationhood and Tradition

This course explores the history, theory, and promotion of French modernist art in what was perhaps its most innovative period, from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of the Second World War. Beginning by questioning the origins and instability of retrospective terms such as ‘modernism’ and ‘avant-garde’, we will examine the manifestations of these phenomena in the major groupings and movements of the period, including Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, Purism and Surrealism.

The artists involved worked across a variety of conventional artistic and experimental media, and the visual parameters of the course will incorporate painting, sculpture, architecture, collage, film and literature. The framework of ‘nationhood and tradition’ will be explored and problematised through the juxtaposition of such issues as Primitivism and immigration on the one hand against continual reminders of the inherent ‘Frenchness’ of the social and cultural contexts of the art produced on the other. The conscious disruption of tradition and attempts to form new traditions are central to the period.

Study at the Courtauld


The Graduate Diploma is assessed as follows:
• Topic Course (two essays, 2500 words each, submitted in the Autumn Term)
• Foundations Course (two essays, 2500 words each, one submitted in the Autumn Term and one submitted in the Spring Term)
• Frameworks Exam (one 3 hour examination, written in the Summer Term)
• Period course (one 3 hour examination, written in the Summer Term)
• The Assessed Essay (5000 words, submitted in the Summer Term)

Study at the Courtauld

Entry requirements

Please select your Country of Study

We accept overseas qualifications equivalent to a 2.1 in a UK first degree (e.g. US applicants should have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above).

If you hold a qualification from outside of the UK, please feel free to contact the Academic Registry; however, please be aware that our staff are unable to confirm whether you will be invited to interview, as candidates are judged on the strength of their applications as a whole.

Other Requirements

All applicants are expected to have an effective knowledge of English, both spoken and written. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require proof of English proficiency.

We accept the following English language proficiency tests if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with an overall bandwidth of 7.0 or above, with no less than 6.5 in Reading and Writing.
  • Trinity College London – ISEIII

We will accept the following tests if taken on or before 5th April 2015, and if taken within 2 years of the start of the programme, up until 5th November 2015.

  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE) with a minimum grade of B
  • Pearson Test for English (PTE) Academic with a score of 75 or above
  • CPE (Cambridge English: Proficiency) with minimum grade of C

Please note that we will not accept institutional test results.

You may be exempt from providing proof of proficiency if either of the following applies to you:

  • You are a national of a majority English speaking country*
  • You have an academic qualification (not a professional or vocational qualification), which is equivalent to a UK Bachelor’s degree and the qualification is from an education provider in a majority English speaking country, including the UK and Republic of Ireland but not Canada.

*Majority English-speaking countries are defined by the Home Office as:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • The Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • United States of America

If you are unable to book a test at a centre in advance of the application deadline, you may submit your application without an English proficiency result and it will be passed on for consideration. You should send your test result when it becomes available to you.

Foreign language requirements
A small number of the special options require students to be able to study texts in their original language. Where this is a requirement, the special options list the languages needed.

Study at the Courtauld

FEES 2015/16

Home & EU fee: £9,410
Overseas fee: £16,000

Fees are subject to change each academic year. You can find out what qualifies as home, EU and overseas fees here.

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Applications for the 2015/6 Graduate Diploma in the History of Art programme are still openplease click here to apply.

The initial deadline for applications is 1 April 2015 and we encourage prospective students to submit their application by this date. Applications received after 1 April 2015 will be considered only after on-time applications have been reviewed.

Before starting your application, please ensure that you read:





If you are invited to an interview this will be at the end of April.  If you do not live in London, Skype interviews can be arranged.

Please do not contact us to check on the status of your application.  We will contact you when there is a change in the status on your application.

You will be contacted before the end of May with a final decision about your application. 

Unfortunately, due to the large volume of applications we receive, we are unable to provide feedback for unsuccessful applications.



Unfortunately, Graduate Diploma students are not eligible for Courtauld Scholarships.