Master in Humanities: Critical Studies in Art & Culture (research)

General

Program Description

The Research Master's programme Critical Studies in Art and Culture (formerly known as VAMA), specialization of the Humanities Research Master, focuses on the study of current developments in visual arts, architecture, design and media, from a theoretical and historical perspective. In a globalizing cultural world in which art, architecture, design and media are ever more closely integrated and packaged as “creative industries,” disciplinary boundaries need questioning and challenging, yet a thorough grounding in older and newer disciplines such as art history, architectural history, design culture, and media studies is a prerequisite for doing so.

In your studies, you will focus on the analysis of “visual objects”: of artifacts in various media that function (primarily or in part) as images. This ranges from landscapes, cities and buildings to artworks in various media, as well as film, television, design and games. Notions such as inter-, cross- and transmediality play an important role in the program. Since artifacts, media and forms of intermediality can only exist in specific social, institutional, economical and ideological frameworks and networks, Critical Studies in Art and Culture will equip you with the analytical and critical tools necessary for analysing these. Each of the four main disciplines that inform the specialization brings specific theories and methods to the table, and the programme seeks to highlight their interconnectedness, with reference to their specific potential as well as possible limitations.

If you are interested in pursuing a PhD after your MA, but also if you generally cherish critical attitude and original lines of questioning based on a profound knowledge of your research subject, and wish to develop your research skills, this programme will be a perfect choice.

Study Programme

The study programme of 120 ECTS (60 ECTS per year) consists of mandatory and elective parts.
The mandatory package consists of

a) Two core courses of 2 x 9 ECTS (=18 ECTS):

  • Imagining the Image
    In this course various theoretical and methodological approaches to the image are traced in close connection with historical and contemporary developments in visual culture. Key texts by modern and contemporary authors on visual culture are critically read and discussed, and applied to cases that are relevant to the students’ budding research agendas. The choice of literature and theoretical focus, meanwhile, is set by the teacher on the basis of his or her current research interests.
  • Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries
    This course focuses on the role and influence of present-day popular culture, or what in the mid-20th century the philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer referred to as the ‘culture industry’. At the dawn of the 21st century, does the culture of the masses still present a threat to High Art, as Adorno and Horkheimer then feared? Or can we redefine the role of the arts and media in this age of globalization and commercialization in a more nuanced fashion? Since this course is taught by different professors, the issues addressed alternate along with the teacher. Currently the focus lies on issues of space, place, and mobility in different cultural practices. Along with the increasing mobility of goods, money, and people and the interconnectedness of cultures through digital media – known as globalization – issues of space and place have been back on the agenda in various disciplines and cultural practices

b) Three Humanities core modules of 3 x 6 ECTS (=18 ECTS)

  • Essentials of Humanities Research
  • Humanities Research Career Preparation
  • Interdisciplinary Research in Humanities

c) Two research seminars of 2 x 9 ECTS (=18 ECTS) (Students choose two out of four seminars)

  • Reading Concepts of Intermediality
  • Methods of Design Analysis
  • Seminar Architecture (annually changing topic on the basis of staff members' research)
  • Seminar Visual Art (annually changing topic on the basis of staff members' research)

Within the research programme, a total of 42 ECTS can be attributed to courses, electives, research seminars and tutorials of your choice (10 ECTS have to be followed with the national research schools). These courses are subject to the programme coordinator's approval, but allow you to co-build your own curriculum and to pursue research projects within one (or several) of the research areas of faculty members. These areas include:

  • Intermediality, new media, media theory, and (post-)digital art
  • Contemporary architecture and urbanism in relation to mobility and globalization
  • Contemporary art, between criticality and creative industries
  • Design theory and criticism

The Master’s thesis (30 ECTS) that concludes the programme is a substantial study based on independent academic research, in relation to topical research areas and projects of staff members.

Career prospects

The research master’s degree will enable you to work as an independent researcher. In the academic world, both at home and abroad, it is seen as a possible step towards a doctoral study. Actually, in the last years, a great number of alumni of our program has been awarded PhD grants in the Netherlands and abroad. Yet you could also find a position in art and media management, journalism and publishing, or in art and architecture centers, research agencies, museum institutions, film or design festivals, art and media archives and teaching and government institutions.

Why VU Amsterdam?

Unique in the Netherlands
The Research Master’s programme Critical Studies in Art and Culture is unique in the Netherlands. The interdisciplinary programme combines art history, media studies, design studies and architectural history. With special emphasis on methodological and theoretical issues, the two-year research master programme allows you to acquire knowledge, analytical skills and a capacity to problematize and critically reflect on historical and contemporary developments in the cultural industries.

Preparation for a career in research or management position in the cultural sector
Critical Studies in Art and Culture aims to equip you with skills and critical insight to conduct research at an academic level, preparing you for a PhD position or other positions for which substantial knowledge and research skills in the field of visual art, design, media and/or architecture are required.

Top-quality researchers as your teachers and individual mentors
The faculty members associated with the Department of Arts and Culture are top-quality researchers with a strong national and international profile. They have a background in art history and art theory, in the history of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture, design studies, and in comparative arts and media studies.

International network of enthusiast students, alumni, and faculty
As a student of Critical Studies in Art and Culture, you don’t just aim at collecting your credit points, but join a highly dedicated international group of students, alumni, PhD’s and staff members from various disciplinary backgrounds, who share a strong interest in the cultural sector. Within and beyond the programme, we meet artists and researchers from around the world, exchange about their research in our informal ‘research brunches’, or join to visit exhibitions and cultural events. Many of our students and alumni are active with the VU affiliated journal Kunstlicht.

Great flexibility in determining your own study programme
During the study you will determine your own course path, in consultation with researchers and teachers at the VU. While a fixed set of courses is compulsory, you will also have plenty of opportunity to define your own individual path on the basis of supervised personal research (tutorials), elective courses, and your research master’s thesis (30 credits). Furthermore, both the Graduate School and our Interdisciplinary Research Institutes CLUE+ (Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History, and Heritage) and the Network Institute offer a broad range of workshops, seminars, lectures and research groups to attend.

International Students
Admission requirements

The research Master's is aimed in particular at the talented student who is exceptionally motivated to train in academic methods and critical thinking in the field of art history, architectural history, design studies and media studies. To be admitted to VAMA, the student should have at least a Bachelor’s diploma in one of these fields, and have a good grasp of academic English.

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

Specific admission requirements for the Research Master’s programme Visual Arts, Media and Architecture: Critical Studies in Arts & Culture
The Research Master's Programme Visual Arts, Media and Architecture (VAMA) concentrates on the study of current developments in visual arts, architecture and media, from a theoretical and historical perspective. In a globalizing cultural world in which art, architecture and media are ever more closely integrated and packaged as “creative industries,” disciplinary boundaries need questioning and challenging, yet a thorough grounding in older and newer disciplines such as art history, architectural history and media studies is a prerequisite for doing so.

The two-year research master's is aimed in particular at the talented student with an academic bachelor's diploma in architectural or art history, architectural history, design studies or media studies.. VAMA is a good option for students who are interested in pursuing a PhD after their MA, but also more in general for students who cherish critical attitude, arrive at original lines of questioning based on a profound knowledge of their research subject, and wish to develop their research skills.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programmes at the Faculty of Humanities:

  • TOEFL score (score 600 paper based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250computer based or score 100 internet based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.

Application

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.


Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education and a list of all the main literature

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Overview Humanities Research: Critical Studies in Art and Culture.

  • Language of instruction: English
  • Duration: 2 years
  • Application deadline: 1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Field of interest: Art, Culture and History

Last updated Oct 2020

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 122 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Curious about student life at VU Amsterdam? Click here to ask our International Student Ambassadors. Read less