MSc Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism at the University of Edinburgh

Jesse Voetman
British Museum (major in Humanities)
MSc Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism at the University of Edinburgh (2014-2015)

After graduating UCU in 2013 and enjoying my gap year the year after, I started the postgraduate course ‘Modern and Contemporary Art: History, Curating, Criticism’ at the University of Edinburgh in September 2014. This one-year programme consist of two core-courses focusing on research theories and methods and the cultures and politics of display. In addition students are expected to follow two or four optional courses, depending on whether the students decide to do an internship. The topics of the optional courses vary from surrealism to contemporary Chinese art, from modern and contemporary sculpture to urban development, and from Gauguin to art documentation.

Since I chose the vocational option of the programme, that are four courses and one internship over two semesters, I had two two-hour seminars each week and my internship one day each week. Even though this might not seem like many contact hours the students are encouraged to attend weekly research seminars, exhibition openings and staff talks. With only two seminars each week I had plenty of time to prepare my readings and optional non-assessed presentations or reading reports. The core courses were more lecture-based, after which the class broke up into Autonomous Learning Groups (ALGs) to critically discuss the lecture and the readings. The optional courses were smaller (varying from 4-16 students per class) and focused more on discussion and interaction. By the end of each course students are expected to write a 3000-4000 word paper that accounts for the full grade of that course. The internship is assessed by means of an 3.500-word internship report and a poster presentation. The two grades combined account for the equivalent of two courses, which is a substantial part of your overall grade.

Courses are over by the end of April, yet the final 15.000-word dissertation is not due until mid-August. Therefore students have more than three months to fully focus on their dissertation writing. The process leading up to the dissertation is very well organised. Students are expected to have a supervisor and a (very broad) topic by mid-March. Then, a one- or two-page outline is due in early May and a writing sample by the end of that month. I have found this gradual procedure to be very fruitful and motivating. Further supervision is limited to approximately four dissertation meetings with your supervisor, which of course varies per supervisor.

I believe this masters programme is a great continuation of a BA at University College Utrecht. Although the courses are more in-depth and specified, the broad academic foundation provided by UCU is a excellent basis for this exciting programme in one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom!