This course runs every other year. Its next run will be in January 2025.

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Study the history of Scottish art online with our expert team.

On this flexible, 100% online course, explore Scotland’s fascinating visual history across the 18th and 19th centuries. Examine the changing ways in which artists represented Scotland’s identity in this period. Discover:

  • what makes art Scottish
  • how Scottish art evolves
  • the various visions it offers of the country.

Drawing on in-depth case studies, you’ll develop your skills in analysis and synthesis. You’ll learn to critically examine works of art, and discuss them within the broader contexts of contemporary literature, politics and social history.

You can use the credits you earn on this course towards our unique online Masters in Scottish Heritage.

Who is this course for?

This course is for anyone, anywhere in the world, with a personal or professional interest in Scottish art.

It’s also particularly relevant to employees of heritage bodies, like The National Trust for Scotland and Historic Scotland, as well as to librarians, archivists and volunteers in organisations with an interest in the visual history of Scotland.

Build credits towards a Masters degree

This online course is part of:

You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards this MLitt qualification.

What you’ll study

You’ll focus mainly on Scottish painting across the 150-year period following the 1707 Union. You’ll examine the construction and representation of Scottish identity within the broader political entity of the United Kingdom.

You’ll look at changing patterns of patronage, links with England and Continental Europe, and the effects of the Union on Scottish painting. Alongside painting, you’ll consider architecture, prints, and drawings too.

You’ll cover topics including:

  • Allan Ramsay and portrait painting
  • Gavin Hamilton and Neoclassicism
  • the Runciman brothers and Romanticism
  • David Allan and genre
  • Alexander Nasmyth and landscape painting
  • Henry Raeburn and the Enlightenment
  • David Wilkie and narrative
  • history and religious painting
  • romantic Highland identities.

The cross-interaction of ideas, periods, and the arts brings the subject to life.

Alanna MacTavish Khalil, online MLitt Scottish Heritage student
The 19th-century painting Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute by Horatio McCulloch (1805-1867)

Unique archive access

You’ll have online access to our unique Special Collections.

These rich and fascinating archives feature works including the atmospheric painting we’ve chosen as this course’s image, Loch Awe, Argyll and Bute by Horatio McCulloch (1805-1867).

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to...

  • Explain the important elements of Scottish visual history.
  • Describe and apply different historiographical approaches to a range of source material.
  • Critically analyse visual and written sources.

Why study Scottish History of Art online with the University of Aberdeen?

Top 20

Top 20 in the UK

We’re rated top 20 in the UK for History (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024).

You’re in expert hands

We’ve been delivering online and distance learning for decades.

20% alumni discount

University of Aberdeen alumni get 20% off this online course.

How you’ll study

Online learning

Our distance learning Scottish Visual History course is delivered flexibly, 100% online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.

Your teaching

This course is taught at Masters level.

Your teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:

  • videos and audio clips
  • quizzes
  • slide shows
  • reading materials
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library
  • discussion boards with colleagues and tutors.

Your tutors

Your course coordinator is Dr Helen Pierce, lecturer in History of Art and a specialist in British art of the 17th and 18th centuries. Further experts in History of Art, History and Literature contribute to your weekly course materials.

You’ll be assessed entirely online via:

  • three visual-based online assessments. The first assessment is formative and for practice purposes. The second and third online assessments each account for 20% of your final mark
  • a 3,000-word essay submitted in week 12. This accounts for 60% of your final mark.

This course totals approximately 300 hours of study and assessment time.

That’s around 15 – 20 hours per week in regular topic work, with more time required around assessments.

This is an indicative guide to the time required for a typical student at this level to achieve the learning outcomes.

You can largely set your own study hours to cover the materials. MyAberdeen is available 24/7, so you can log in and study when it suits you.

Activities at fixed times

There may be some activities scheduled at a fixed time, such as online meetings with your tutor or assessments with deadlines. But otherwise, you can access and work through the course at your convenience.

Our first-class support structure will ensure that you aren’t alone in your studies. You’ll have contact with your tutors throughout your course. This could be by email, MyAberdeen, online call, or phone. You can use social media and discussion boards to chat with your fellow students too.

We provide a wide range of services to support you in your studies and beyond:

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.

Your course coordinator

Dr Helen Pierce

Helen is a Lecturer in History of Art. She’s a specialist in British art of the 17th and 18th centuries. Helen is currently researching the Scottish sketching tours of the English amateur artists Francis Place and William Lodge. She also recently supervised a PhD on the Edinburgh printmaker and miniature painter John Kay.

View Helen’s profile

Where this will take you

Towards a Masters degree

You can use the 30 Masters-level credits you’ll earn with this course towards our:

Masters in Scottish Heritage

Explore the rich history, art and philosophy of Scotland and its people. Access rare archive treasures and award-winning online teaching, with this flexible online Masters.

View MLitt Scottish Heritage

Build your learning

You’ll earn 30 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. It’s one of several Scottish Heritage short courses that we offer online:

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world.

This course has no formal entry requirements. You do not need to provide proof of your qualifications.

But you do need to check the entry guidance above to understand the level of teaching delivered, to decide if this course is right for you.

If you do not have qualifications from the UK, check the equivalent teaching level for your country.

Visa requirements

You do not need a visa to study online with us.

English language requirements

Teaching is delivered in English.

You do not have to provide proof of your English language skills to join this course. But we want to make sure that you can use English well enough to study successfully.

Recommended level of English

This course uses our Postgraduate Higher level of English language proficiency.

These are our Postgraduate Higher requirements, and these are minimum scores.

IELTS Academic and IELTS Online (not IELTS Indicator or IELTS General Training)

  • 6.5 overall
  • 5.5 for listening and speaking
  • 6.0 for reading and writing

TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition

  • 90 overall
  • 17 for listening
  • 21 for reading
  • 20 for speaking
  • 21 for writing
  • TOEFL DI code is 0818

Cambridge English: B2 First, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency

  • 176 overall
  • 162 for listening and speaking
  • 169 for reading and writing

LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator (Written and Spoken)

  • Overall High Pass
  • 33 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 38 for writing

PTE Academic (online test not accepted)

  • 62 overall
  • 59 for listening, reading, speaking and writing

For more information about language qualifications see our English Language Requirements page.

You will need access to:

A computer (PC, laptop or Mac) operating on either:

  • Windows 10 or later
  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later.

Most teaching materials are smartphone- and tablet-friendly. But we recommend a proper laptop or desktop for completing assignments comfortably.

Reliable internet access

We recommend:

  • a wired connection
  • a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps so you can take part fully in live sessions.

Speakers or headphones

  • We recommend a headset with built-in microphone and earphones if you’re likely to study in an environment with background noise.
  • A webcam is optional, but you may like to use one for some interactive sessions.


We’ll give you access to Office365 applications. This means you can use online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and install these programs on up to five personal devices.

If your course requires specialist software, we’ll provide you with access to this and a licence that lasts throughout your studies.

See our detailed IT requirements for more information.

When you study with us, you can expect a first-class support structure so that you’re never alone in your studies.

But learning online does mean you have to motivate yourself and manage your own time.

Your most important commitment to your course will be time – the time to work through, reflect on and understand your teaching materials.

Before you start a course that involves a high degree of independent study, we recommend looking at the time you will be able to devote to your course each week:

  • Be realistic
  • Create a weekly schedule as a guide

If you have any questions about studying online, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here to help.

Fee payment

Your course fee needs to be paid in full before you start your course.

We accept payment via Visa Debit, Visa Credit and Mastercard.

Ways to save

You may be able to get help funding this course via:

  • discounts – if any discounts are available for this course, they’ll appear in the section below
  • employer sponsorship – we accept full and partial fee payments from sponsors.

Find out more about funding options.

Student card

All our students are entitled to a University of Aberdeen student card. This gives you access to a range of student discounts around the city and online.

This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.

The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least

  • a 2:2 (second-class) degree
  • or relevant experience that supports this level of study.