History of Photography (MLitt) 2016 entry

The MLitt in History of Photography offers a range of innovative courses covering the 19th-century origins of photography and the camera to the high-modernist art photography, documentary narratives and technological advances of the 20th century.

Course type

Postgraduate; leading to a Master of Letters (MLitt)

Course duration

One year full time or two years part time

Entry requirements

A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree. A degree in art history is strongly recommended but is not an essential requirement.

If you studied your first degree outside the UK, see the international entry requirements.

English language proficiency. See English language tests and qualifications.

Tuition fees

UK and EU£6,800

Application deadline

Applications for 2016 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Application requirements

  • CV
  • personal statement (500 words)
  • sample of academic written work (2000 words)
  • two original signed academic references
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • English language requirements certificate.

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

If you are looking to start this programme in 2017, you can find information about 2017 entry on the 2017 History of Photography (MLitt) page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in our archive.

Course information

Course highlights

  • This innovative degree is inspired by the important role played by St Andrews in the early history of the most influential visual medium of the modern era. 
  • Students are introduced to the theoretical and methodological challenges and debates that photography’s multiple functions and contexts have provoked since its invention.
  • Classes make full use of the outstanding photographic collections of the University Library and associated archives, such as that held by the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Teaching format

The MLitt in History of Photography offers a unique opportunity to study the history of photography as a specialised field of research.

The MLitt degree requires two semesters of full-time (or four semesters part-time) coursework, normally equivalent to four modules. Each module has a minimum contact time of 12 hours. The modules are taught as small group discussion seminars, with an average size of four to eight students in each group. Additionally, there may be class trips where relevant to the taught modules. 

The assessment for the taught modules is based on coursework including book reviews, annotated bibliographies, visual analysis and object analysis essays, reading journals and research papers.

The final three months of your course will be focused on writing the final assessment piece, a 15,000-word dissertation. Across the two semesters, students participate in a series of skills workshops designed to help prepare for the dissertation element.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue.

Compulsory module

  • Art Historical Resources and Methods: introduces students to the resources (textual, visual and electronic) available in St Andrews and elsewhere in Britain for research into the history of art.

Optional modules

Students choose three optional modules. Optional modules are subject to change each year, and class sizes may be limited (see the University’s position on curriculum development).

  • Bibliography for Art History or History of Photography: an exercise in the bibliography and historiography of an aspect of the history of art or the history of photography which can serve as a useful preparation for a research dissertation.
  • Issues in Photographic Criticism: introduces key writings and debates in the history of photographic criticism from the 1830s to the present day.
  • Histories of Photography (1835-1905): examines the diverse histories of photography in the nineteenth century from the beginnings of the medium to the rise of modernist photography.
  • Imperial Lens: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Asian Photography
  • Readings in Art History or History of Photography: taught on a one-to-one basis, this reading course will allow postgraduate students to acquire a detailed knowledge of an area of art history in preparation for further research and to develop their research bibliographic skills.
  • University of St Andrews Photographic Collection: explores, interprets and analyses photographic materials in the University of St Andrews Special Collections. The module is object-based and will familiarise students with the special properties of archival resources, their study, maintenance and display.

The modules listed ran in the academic year 2015-2016 and are indicative of this course. There is no guarantee that these modules will run for 2016 entry.

Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.


Student dissertations will be supervised by members of the teaching staff who will advise on the choice of subject and provide guidance throughout the research process. The completed dissertation of not more than 15,000 words must be submitted by a date specified in August.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MLitt, there are exit awards available that allow suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of a MLitt.

Conferences and events

The School of Art History supports a large, active and diverse postgraduate community. Postgraduate students publish the North Street Review: Arts and Visual Culture journal, an annual journal containing articles on a wide range of topics by students at St Andrews and other universities. The School also organises postgraduate research seminars and occasional symposia. Each year they invite a number of artists and scholars to give lectures.

The School was institutional in establishing the Museums, Galleries and Collections Institute (MGCI) which is a leading centre for training and research in the heritage sector. 


Recent Graduate Discount
The University of St Andrews offers a 10% reduction in postgraduate tuition fees for students who have graduated during the last three years and are now starting a postgraduate programme.

Find out more about postgraduate scholarships. 

After the MLitt

Research degrees

In addition to the MLitt, the School offers a two-year History of Photography Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree option.

Many of our graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere.

The Catherine and Alfred Forrest Trust
The trust provides annual bursaries for postgraduate research in art history in European and American Art from the end of the Renaissance onwards.

The Scottish Society for Art History 
The SSAH promotes scholarship in Scottish art and art located in Scotland. They offer research support grants from £50 to £300 to assist with research costs and travel expenses.

PhD in Art History


Recent postgraduates in History of Photography are employed in universities and archives, museums and galleries, auction houses, radio stations, publishing houses and magazines.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills. 


School of Art History
University of St Andrews
Old Union Building
79 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AJ
Scotland, UK

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2399
Email: pgarthist@st-andrews.ac.uk

Art History website

Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our Admissions policy.

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online. (PDF, 72 KB).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online. (PDF, 84 KB)