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I'm a UK Art History PhD student - here to answer your questions!


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Hello all,

I'm new to GradCafe (there was an article about it on Slate recently which prompted me to check it out).

I'm in the final year of a PhD in the History of Art department at UCL. I've noticed that UCL gets mentioned quite often on this forum by US applicants thinking about coming over to London, so I thought it would be useful if I ran through some info and made myself available to answer questions.

I can try to answer general questions about PG study in the UK, about living in London, and about art history (I also did my MPhil at Birmingham and my BA at Oxford so I can try to help out there as well).

Some points about History of Art at UCL (and please bear in mind this is my own opinion, nothing 'official')

  • Funding for international students is limited - UCL has an Overseas Graduate Scholarship scheme, which you can apply for, but it is very competitive and I think there are only a few to go around. The funding deadline for 2012 entry passed in February but you can find out more here, for future reference: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/scholarships/scholarships/graduate/

    • Our department is pretty international in its makeup, both in terms of students and staff. We have a strong American (and Canadian!) presence, as well as students/staff from France, India, China and Mexico (to name but a few). The culture/atmosphere of the department is (IMHO) sociable and inclusive. PhD students are treated more like colleagues than students, particularly as you become better-known around the department.

      • Speaking of which, there is a weekly postgraduate seminar held during Autumn and Spring terms. Attendance isn't exactly compulsory, but you are expected to turn up often enough that your face becomes recognisable! (This is more of a thing in your first year - it becomes less important subsequently, but it's definitely worth going to if there's a paper being given which piques your interest). The benefits of the seminar are twofold: it's a forum for research and discussion, and one at which you will eventually have to contribute, because your 'upgrade' from MPhil to PhD status takes the form of a paper given to this seminar. Secondly, it's sociable, and makes the PhD experience less isolated.

        • The History of Art department at UCL makes a point of giving its postgraduates the opportunity to teach (normally in the 2nd and 3rd years of your PhD, although you might get work in your 1st year IF you have prior experience). I can't really say how this compares with other UK institutions, as I don't know. Most of this is standard TA work, but sometimes you get the chance to actually devise and run a course by yourself, which looks great on your CV. You get teaching support from one of our departmental tutors. Obviously teaching cuts into your working time a bit, although to be perfectly honest I haven't found it problematic.

        [*]In terms of actual research, the department has a very strong emphasis on modern and contemporary visual culture, although there are also significant amounts of research activity in 18th/19th century print culture (my field!), late Renaissance and Baroque Italian painting, and a bit of 19th century Romanticism and Impressionism. I have to say that, as a non-mod&con person, sometimes it can feel slightly as if the department is less interested in us, but in reality I think they're just responding to the general academic trend for mod&con by running seminars etc in that area. If you are interested in mod&con there's arguably no better place to be in the UK - the department's Centre for the Study of Contemporary Art (CSCA) was set up a couple of years ago and is very active. That said, there's also an excellent Early Modern Seminar run in collaboration with the Courtauld.

        [*]Final thought that springs to mind - we have a journal, OBJECT, which is written, peer-reviewed and edited by our own postgrads. You would be encouraged to join the editorial board (again, great on your CV), and you can submit your upgrade paper to be considered as an article. OBJECT is properly peer-reviewed: article acceptance isn't guaranteed! As such, it's a relatively good journal in which to have your first publication.

        Hope this helps. Feel free to ask questions!

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