BA (Hons) History of Art & Design

This course is right for you if you want a career in the art and design and allied sectors, a career that capitalises upon a strong understanding of the historical and theoretical context to art and design. Located in the World Heritage City of Bath, the course draws upon the rich cultural heritage available locally and regionally as well as excellent travel connections to London. We make full use of our extensive contacts with cultural organisations in the area as well as the Wunderkammer Press, the School of Art and Design’s own publishing imprint to support your professional development with appropriate experience. During the later stages of the course there are opportunities for specialisation with an emphasis on developing you as an independent, skilled researcher and worker in the field.


Why study this course

The modular nature of the programme allows you to tailor your study of the subject to your particular interests and needs while having opportunities to experience work in the art and design sector. It gives you a strong historical background and context to the subject alongside the methodological tools that you will need to become a motivated, agile professional in a related career.

Visit Bath Spa University website page for application details

Course Structure & Content

The course structure is intended to balance a firm historical foundation in the history of art and design alongside opportunities to take optional modules that reflect your interests and offer you opportunities to specialise in particular media, geographic areas or periods. Alongside these will be opportunities to undertake work study and experience and to take part in visits and longer travel experiences that will enrich your study. The structure of the course is such that you will increasingly work independently on research projects that represent your interests and experience, acquiring skills that reflect those needed for careers in the creative industries sector.

Year 1

During year 1 you will learn about the foundations of methodology in art and design history alongside a historical context that spans the period from the renaissance to the early 19th century. You will begin your journey to a career in an area related to the subject by undertaking the first of three professional contexts modules, and you will begin to acquire the skills necessary to research and learn independently.

Modules in year 1 are:

  • Renaissance Art, Design and Culture (40 credits)
  • Bath and Beyond: 18th and early 19th Centuries (20 credits)
  • Historiography and Developing the Canon (20 credits)
  • Professional contexts 1: Working in the Arts (20 credits)
  • Research and Study Skills 1 (20 credits)

Year 2

During year 2 you will find that you have increasing options and choice in the direction that you choose for your study alongside a continuing core of history, theory and context in the subject that spans the period from the mid nineteenth century through to the late twentieth century. Your professional contexts study during this year emphasises experiences in publishing for art and design and working in museums and galleries in a number of contexts. You acquire key advanced research skills that will supported your evolution as a professional researcher in the subject.

Modules in year 2 are:

  • Current Art and Design History Options (all 20 cedits)
  • Exploring the Production, Processes and Practices of Visual Art in Relation to Contemporary Culture
  • Making and the Contemporary
  • Seeing the frame within the image
  • Ethical Art and Design in an Era of Globalisation
  • The Shape of Things
  • Of Design and the City
  • Textiles, Fashion and Art: Critical Crossovers
  • Paris, the Mass Market and Insights to Modern Life (20 credits)
  • Modernism and Degeneracy in Art and Design (20 credits)
  • Professional Contexts 2: Publishing and Curation (20 credits)
  • Research and Study Skills 2: Critical and Theoretical Studies (20 credits)

Year 3

During year 3 you will combine a significant amount of self-directed and researched study with a continuing core that reflects upon the world of art and design since 1945 in detail. The emphasis in your professional contexts work will be on honing your career path in preparation for entry into the professional world, and we will support you to promote yourself actively and effectively in this context. You will have the opportunity to produce a substantial piece of personal research in the form of a dissertation.

Modules in year 3 are:

  • Self-Directed Project: Publishing / Curating (20 credits)
  • Art and Design Since 1945 (20 credits)
  • Research and Study Skills 3: Presenting Yourself and Your Work (20 credits)
  • Professional Contexts 3
  • Independent Dissertation Project (40 credits)

Assessment Methods

The course is assessed by coursework (including essays, portfolios, study journals and reviews), projects and dissertations, individual and group presentations, and seen and unseen examinations.

Resource Introduction & Teaching Methods

Staff delivering this course are active researchers who have written many books and articles in their specialist fields as well as curating exhibitions and broadcasting on related topics. You will be joining an active and vibrant community of practitioners, historians and theorists who collectively form what Sir Christopher Frayling (2011) has described as ‘the epitome of a proper Art School’. Our Sion Hill site has a renowned art and design specialist library and at both Newton Park and Sion Hill you will have online access to thousands of journals and ebooks. The local area is home to one of the United Kingdom’s most active and diverse creative industry centres, complemented by a wealth of museums, galleries and craft centres.

Teaching methods

Modules on the course are taught via seminars, lectures, individual tutorials, and IT workshops. A variety of visits and field trips enrich the course. As well as local, regional and national visits, travel opportunties to international centres including Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Los Angeles and Las Vegas helps to further inform your studies.


Whilst nothing can be guaranteed in a a challenging employment market, this course is designed to develop you as an informed, intellectually curious and professionally agile individual well equipped to enter the variety of employment opportunities that the creative industries offer. We do this by introducing you to opportunities for work visits and placements throughout your three years on the course as well as equipping you with intellectual and professional skills that employers will find attractive. Finding and keeping a job in the creative industries requires proactivity, skill and effort. The good news is that we are here to support you in this from your first entry to the course.

Graduates of BA History of Art and Design are employed in a variety of fields including: Museum and art gallery curatorship, art and design publishing, marketing and advertising, librarianship, broadcasting (film and television), travel services, teaching, journalism, arts administration, public relations and design management.

Staff Profiles

  • Rachel Withers

    Course Leader, History of Art and Design - Senior Lecturer in History and Theory of Art and Design
  • Dr Graham McLaren

    Head of Field of Research, Enterprise and Postgraduate
  • Private: Johanna Dahn

    Senior Research Fellow
  • Neil Glen

    Learning Technologist
  • Robin Marriner

    Senior Lecturer
    Design and Critical Studies
  • Paul Minott

    Senior Lecturer
    BA Hons Graphic Communication
  • Helen Rayner

    Campus Librarian
    Library and Information Services
  • Andrew Southall

    Senior Lecturer
    Course Leader MA Visual Communication
  • Private: Sue Thurston

    Administrator for Department of Design and Critical Studies
  • Prof Mike Tooby

    Professor of Art and Design
  • Private: Jo Turney

    Senior Lecturer Critical Studies in Art and Design
  • Private: Victoria Walters

    Research Assistant, Wunderkammer Press

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