Undertaking a research degree in History of Art at Edinburgh means you are part of one of the largest groupings of subject experts in the UK. Our students form a dynamic and supportive community working in close collaboration with experienced teachers and researchers within our School and beyond. What makes us distinct is our inclusion of global art histories, from Japan and China to the Islamic world and India, in addition to a remarkably wide array of methodologies and period specialisms in more established areas. We have strong groupings of staff in Medieval, Renaissance, Early Modern, Nineteenth-Century, Modern and Contemporary subjects. Many of our PhD students contribute to undergraduate teaching.  

As a student, you will have access to the world-class collections of Edinburgh University Library and the National Library of Scotland (one of five legal deposit libraries in the UK). The University is one of the major centres in the world for the study of the Humanities, and interdisciplinary supervision teams are often set up across different Schools. Edinburgh University houses outstanding art and manuscript collections developed over the last 400 years, while Edinburgh itself is home to a wealth of major museums, such as the National Galleries of Scotland and National Museums of Scotland. You will be able to build up a unique network of resources and collaborations, both within and beyond academia, from this range of possibilities. 


The PhD in History of Art at Edinburgh culminates with the submission of a thesis of 80,000 to 100,000 words at the end of three years’ full-time study (six years part-time). The thesis sets out the results of your research, your personal scholarly contribution, for the benefit of future scholarship.  

PhD students are also encouraged to engage with the broader postgraduate community and the Edinburgh experience by participating in conferences (certainly in Edinburgh, and elsewhere when relevant), by contributing to research projects (both within the discipline and across its boundaries), by acting as tutor for one or two groups of undergraduate students in their second or third year of study (for which you would receive payment), and by attending regular research seminars. A dedicated fund for research students welcomes two rounds of applications per year for trips to collections and archives or for presenting papers at international conferences.   

A postgraduate research conference is organised every spring by and for first-year PhD students. It provides a supportive forum in which to articulate your initial findings and hone your presentation skills. At the end of your first year, you will be required to present more developed findings before a review committee. This committee will ascertain whether your project is on the right track and whether you have the appropriate skills in place to complete your PhD project to international standards. A considerable range of courses, including language and skills-oriented courses, are also available to PhD candidates to enable them to develop their work.  


MPhil candidates undertake a programme of study similar to PhD candidates, but the study period is shorter, two years full-time (or four years part-time), and the word-limit is lower (no more than 60,000 words). This degree is intended for students who wish to pursue a research project, but cannot for reasons of time, finance or proficiency commit to the demands of the PhD. 

MSc by Research in History of Art 

The MSc by Research is a Master’s-level degree for students not yet ready to embark on a full PhD programme, but who already have strong research skills in place and wish to include a substantial research element within their study. For some students looking for a Master’s degree, it is an alternative to pursuing an exclusively taught programme. For others, it will serve as a preparation for admission into the PhD. It works whatever subject area their first degree was in if clear ideas about the nature of the research contributions they expect to make have already been developed. Alongside traditional course options, MSc by Research students work closely with a supervisor on two extensive research essays, which act as preparation for a dissertation. They present their work alongside PhD students as part of the School’s annual postgraduate research conference.  

How to apply and entrance requirements

If you'd like to study on a postgraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through EUCLID, our online application system. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh website, where you'll also be able to:

  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about study modes, start dates and fees
  • find out if, and how, you need to submit a portfolio, showreel or research proposal
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance

Take me to the University of Edinburgh website on how to apply for postgraduate study

Preparing your application

Common to all research programmes are a set of research aims, a research context, a research process and a research product/outcome. The research proposal should include reference to all of these elements. All applicants for postgraduate research programmes must submit a research proposal.

Portfolios or writing samples are also required for some research degrees.

View the History of Art guidelines (PDF)

Alumni profiles


Prof. Chia-ling Yang

Professor in Chinese Art

Email: C.Yang@ed.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0)131 651 1370

Facilities and resources

The extensive University of Edinburgh Collections are here to facilitate teaching and research around the University. The collections, which stretch over 60 kilometres of materials, relate to the history of the University, Scotland, and the wider world.

The public art gallery for the University of Edinburgh, comprising three distinct exhibition spaces.

Scholarships and bursaries

AHRC PhD Doctoral Studentships

  • Deadline: 1 December 2022
  • Value: PhD tuition fees and stipend at the UKRI level for 3.5 years
  • Eligibility: For research interests aligning with, or cutting across, ECA's Schools.

Andrew Grant Postgraduate Scholarships

  • Deadline: 1 March 2023
  • Value: £10,500
  • Eligibility: Scholarships available for one academic year of postgraduate Masters study at Edinburgh College of Art.

Carnegie PhD Scholarships

  • Deadline: 24 January 2023
  • Value: Covers tuition fees, a maintenance allowance and a research expenses allowance.
  • Eligibility: For graduates of an eligible Scottish university with a first-class honours degree, or final year students of an undergraduate degree at an eligible Scottish University expected to obtain a first-class honours.

College Research Award

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend at the UKRI level for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time, part-time (pro rata) and PhD by Distance study.

ECA PhD Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Tuition fees plus stipend at the UKRI level for three years
  • Eligibility: Applications are invited from first year applicants for PhD research projects that take advantage of the leading research expertise across ECA. Home and Overseas applicants welcome. Funding for full-time and part-time study (pro rata) and PhD by Distance study.

Edinburgh Doctoral College Scholarship

  • Deadline:
  • Value: Covers the tuition fee plus stipend equal to UKRI minimum rate for the relevant academic year (approximately £17,668 per year)
  • Eligibility: Open to UK and overseas students applying to start their first year of study for an on campus research degree in 2023-2024.


Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions

Email: ecaresearchdegrees@ed.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)131 650 4086