M.A. Fine and Decorative Art - London

Sotheby´s Institute of Art

Application deadline: July 31; Non EU: May 31
Tuition fee:
  • £ 24,200 / Year (EEA)
  • £ 26,675 / Year (International)
Start date: September  2015
Duration full-time: 14 months
  • English
Delivery mode: On Campus
Educational variant: Full-time

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For over forty years Sotheby´s Institute of Art has been preparing students for careers in the international art world. Our vision is to be universally acknowledged as the premier provider of advanced object-based art education, whose graduates combine passion for the visual arts with scholarship, connoisseurship and market sophistication in order to flourish as leaders in the global art market. MA programmes at Sotheby´s Institute are validated by the University of Manchester in the UK.

The MA in Fine and Decorative Art is taught from the perspective of an art expert, rather than an academic art historian. Based on Sotheby´s original training scheme, the Works of Art Course, this programme has been taught in London for nearly forty years; the approach is object-based and often object-specific.

Case studies in Old Master paintings, modern art, furniture and ceramics from the Renaissance to the present day form the core curriculum, along with the development of professional skills for attributing and cataloguing works of art, culminating in the House Sale project, which closely mirrors the auction house environment.

The defining characteristic of this programme is its frequent and regular visits to museums and galleries, the auction house, and country-house collections for first-hand observation of art objects. The visual and hands-on approach, supported by a thorough grounding in materials and techniques, gives a firm foundation for postgraduate research and the excitement of unravelling the material culture of the past.

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In Semester I students are asked to put aside the methods of interpretation of art they have learned in previous academic courses, and instead to approach individual objects at first hand by means of acute visual observation and the acquisition of precise terminology which is used in descriptive and cataloguing exercises, culminating in an Object Report at the end of the first semester.

In Semester II, students use visual observation, in conjunction with historical research, to analyse the stylistic and technical features of objects in order to arrive at a dating and attribution. These skills are then tested in the coursework exam half way through Semester II. Those writing the dissertation for the MAFDA will begin work in their chosen area of specialisation. By the end of Semester II, students are called upon to synthesise text-based information with object-based information in order to set objects within a broader context of social, political, and economic concerns. That is, observation of objects and knowledge of techniques and materials is supplemented with text-based research. Through stressing visual observation, students at Sotheby's Institute are encouraged to research less well-known objects, patrons or collections. It is hoped that exploration of new areas of enquiry in the fine and decorative arts will be encouraged by means of these teaching methods. At the end of Semester II, students will participate in the month-long House Sale exercise, in which they assume the roles of auction house experts in preparing the catalogue of a major sale. MAFDA students will research and write dissertations in their chosen fields during the summer and autumn months (the third semester).


All postgraduate programmes (Master´s Degrees and Postgraduate Diplomas) require the completion of a BA degree or equivalent, with a major or minor in Art History. Exceptions to the undergraduate art history requirement can be made, based upon an applicant's experience in the visual arts or the relevance of other areas of study.


Transcripts are required for entry onto one of our Master´s Degrees or Postgraduate Diplomas. Please forward your official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate-level programmes attended directly to the Institute from your college or university.

Letters of RecommendationYou will need to designate 2 referees to support your application. These can be both academic references or, in case you have working experience, one can be a professional reference.

Sample of Written WorkYou will be required to include in your application a marked paper (from your BA course) or a newly-written 1000-word review of an art exhibition or artist that you like

InterviewsAll full-time applicants for postgraduate programmes will be invited to schedule an interview with a member of the Institute's staff after receipt of all required application materials. Interviews will be scheduled by the Admissions Manager. You will be contacted at the appropriate time to make such arrangements. The interviewer will assess the candidate's aptitude for the programme, level of English skill and commitment to study. Interviews are held in London throughout the year and can also be conducted by telephone.

UK Visa ApplicationsIn line with the new UK Border Agency rules all non-EU students must now apply for a Tier 4 Points Based System General Adult student visa, details of which can be found at:
Students from non EU countries are strongly recommended to submit their application as early as possible. Please note that new visa requirements mean that after a student is enrolled the visa process may take up to 10 weeks. Visas must be applied for in your home country and NOT once you have arrived in the UK.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 7
TOEFL iBT® test: 100

IMPORTANT NOTE: Per 6 April 2015 only the English language tests from IELTS and Trinity College London are accepted for Tier 4 Visa applications to the United Kingdom. Other tests (including TOEFL, TOEIC, Pearson, City & Guilds) are no longer accepted for Tier 4 visa applications to the United Kingdom. The university might still accept these tests to admit you to the university, but if you require a Tier 4 visa to enter the UK and begin your degree programme, these tests will not be sufficient to obtain your Visa. Since the Trinity College London language tests must be taken in one of their exam centres in the UK, IELTS is now the only language test accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK that can be taken worldwide.

The IELTS test is most widely accepted by universities and is also accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK- learn more.



Our degrees are awarded by the University of Manchester in the UK and combine professional training with academic study.

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