Year 12 Art History Summer University 2015

Student Ambassador, Isabella Dabby, reflects on this year’s Year 12 Art History Summer University. Isabella recently completed a Graduate Diploma at The Courtauld, and will be starting her MA in October 2015.

On the first day of this year’s Summer University, nearly thirty A-level students from across London climbed The Courtauld’s spiral staircase and took their seats within the lecture theatre. Just three days later, these students delivered confident and thought-provoking presentations before their peers, parents and teachers.

13 - presentationsThanks to the efforts of Dr Katie Faulkner and the Public Programmes team, a busy timetable was devised to ensure the students gained a real insight into what studying Art History at The Courtauld is like. Inspiring lectures from Dr Alixe Bovey and Professor Joanna Woodall introduced them to the excitement of art historical research, whilst an energetic morning studying and handling Iranian art objects with Dr Sussan Babaie got the students thinking about art beyond the West.

3 - sussan babbaie 4 - object handlingAlongside this, seminars from Dr Caroline Levitt and Dr Natalia Murray provoked discussion amongst the group on topics as varied as the impact of the industrial revolution on Cubism, to the influence of fashion and poetry on art.

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At the start of the course, the students were asked to bring along and discuss an image of their choice with their peers, organising themselves into groups according to their identification of common themes. Using The Courtauld collection as a source of further inspiration, they were then tasked with developing a virtual exhibition proposal. To help them with this they saw a range of exhibitions, with a tour from Dr Karen Serres, curator at The Courtauld Gallery, a tour at the Ben Uri Gallery, and a visit to Tate Britain. Finally, the students were given the chance to discuss their ideas with this year’s MA Curating students. They were asked to think critically about their experiences in these galleries as they developed their projects and undertook further group research within the The Courtauld’s specialist art library.

1 - gallery 2 - group workLeaving no stone unturned and proving that art history isn’t just about lectures, libraries and quiet museums, a trip to the conservation studio proved a highlight for many of the students, who were asked to look beyond the theory and consider works of art as physical objects. For those students undertaking a mixture of science and arts A-levels, the experience showed them just how varied careers relating to Art History can be.

6 - conservationAs a student ambassador helping out on this year’s course, it was a pleasure to witness the students embrace the challenges thrown at them and watch their understanding of Art History, curation and conservation grow so rapidly over just four days. Even the awkwardly-timed tube strike did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the group, who ended up having to walk the two miles journey to Tate Britain, in order to explore and critique the Barbara Hepworth exhibition.

8 - tateOne student said to me that before coming to the Summer University, she hadn’t just been confused about which course to study, but whether she even wanted to go to university at all. By the end of the week she reckoned that getting a degree would be worth the time and money, so long as she studied a subject she really loved. To me that summed up what the Summer University is all about, and is what makes me so proud to have been a part of it. It is a unique opportunity for inquisitive students to gain an understanding of what going to university is all about: meeting like-minded people, exploring new ideas and challenging yourself within a fun and supportive environment.

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For more information about Summer University see here or contact Meghan Goodeve/ Helen Higgins, Oak Foundation Young People’s Programme Coordinator (job-share), on or 0207 848 1058. 

Two weeks left to apply to our year 12 Art History Summer University!

We only have 2 weeks left for you to apply to our year 12 Art History Summer University! Last year, one of our brilliant student ambassadors made this video to give you an insight into what the course was like and how it was useful to her and her friends.

Hannah interviews three students who have attended our Art History Summer University in 2012 to see how it has helped them 18 months on…

Art History Summer University Video

Art history summer university applications open soon!

We are very excited to announce that applications for the 2015 Summer University opened today until 27th April 2015! Further information about the application process can be found on our website.


Summer University runs from Tuesday 7 to Friday 10 July 2015. This year’s theme is Global/ Local looking at art history in its global and local contexts, as well as studying art from across the world in a variety of London collections including our very own Courtauld Gallery.


Not sure what Summer University is? Especially designed for year 12 students, this is an opportunity to spend four days experiencing student life at a world-class university, The Courtauld Institute of Art, with its own beautiful art gallery.



To apply to take part you must be currently studying at a UK state school or FE college, with an interest in finding out more about Art History and the possibilities of studying the subject at degree level.

This is a free non-residential course designed for students from non-selective state school or college.

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Got any questions? Email to find out more.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Naomi, Student Ambassador for Summer University 2014, reveals her insights into the course!

I really enjoyed my week working as a Student Ambassador at the Art History Summer University. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk to young people about what art history at university is like, as many had not studied the subject before! Over the course of the week I saw the group really build, especially when they were shown in various workshops and introductory lectures how their research and writing skills from other art and design, humanities and even science subjects transferred well into art history.

One of my favourite lectures was Illustrated Books and How to Read Them? given by Dr Caroline Levitt. She spoke engagingly about the role of value in art (something that has definitely cropped up in my studies numerous times so far) and how the value of mass produced items like books can change when an artist draws directly onto them. Her lecture was also good in highlighting the broadness of art history and how ‘art’ goes beyond just a painting, a sculpture, a building, and can be extended to so many other forms and philosophical concepts.


Throughout the week the students were asked to prepare an exhibition pitch in groups. Following several curatorial workshops and a visit to the MA Curation exhibition, currently at The Courtauld Gallery, each group selected a theme and suggested a way in which objects in The Courtauld Gallery’s collection and beyond could be curated around this. Each group had fantastic research skills and a knack for understanding the interrelations between different artworks. Their presentations at the end of the week were truly impressive with clear communication and great visuals.


I really hope that the students enjoyed the week as much as we did and as a result will consider the many possibilities that art history at university level can offer.