List of Masters Programmes

Master of Arts (Visual Arts)

Some of the most intellectually engaging questions that we ask about our lives are brought about by encounters with works of art. Moreover, the world we live in is filled with a myriad of images that conveys a range of different, at times conflicting, ideas. How do we make sense of this complex body of materials and knowledge? 

In simple terms, the study of art history and visual culture can be described as a form of object-based or image-centred cultural history. The things we study as ‘artworks’ or ‘visual objects’ often reflect or shape the beliefs and values of the society who made, commissioned and used them. 

Besides providing students with the historical and contextual knowledge to understand art and other forms of visual representations, the Master of Arts (Visual Arts) programme also develop their visual literacy and interpretive skill-set. Critical analysis is taught to shed light on the political, social, economic, religious contexts in which works of art are made. 

While our focus is on Malaysia and Southeast Asia, the perspective is nevertheless global in character. Moreover, the study of art and visual culture from a historical perspective engages with many other areas of study, including History, Religion, Literature, Politics, Geography, Anthropology, Architecture, Design, Philosophy, Performance, Film and Area/Cultural Studies. 

Whether one is thinking of a career in the growing museum and gallery industry, or starting an independent artist’s run space, or pursuing a life-long dream of independent research and learning, the Master of Arts (Visual Arts) programme aims to offer a stimulating environment that fosters independent and critical thinking through the study and research of art history and visual culture. 


Our academic staff includes scholars with expertise in different subjects, including
- Malaysian Art
- Thai Art and Architecture
- Islamic Art
- Comparative study of 20th-century art in Southeast Asia
- Topics in Southeast Asian Art (Pre-modern)
- Theories and historiographies of art history
- Topics in curatorial and exhibition studies
- Topics in contemporary Asian art
- Topics in modern Asian art
- Visual culture and design history


Candidates will be taught foundational theories in the study of art history and visual culture as well as debates and approaches connected to the study of Southeast Asian and Malaysian art in a global context. The programme is designed to encourage independent research and exploration, while also providing strong foundational knowledge in the field of Southeast Asian and Malaysian art. Candidates can also hope to gain the requisite problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will have wide-applicability across different environments.

Career Opportunity

Students graduating from the MA in Visual Art programme could go on to work as lecturer, independent researcher, cultural programmer, marketing executive, art writer/critic, journalist, art teacher, art manager, art historian, curator, independent researcher, copywriter, conservator, art activist, gallerist, public relation executive, education officer, consultant, policy adviser, and many others. 

Course Structure

Students without an undergraduate degree in art history and related studies are advised to undertake their MA studies in a coursework and research track. For coursework and research track, students are required to take 3 Core Courses (Methods, Art Theories and Malaysian Art) and 1 Elective Course (Subjects include Southeast Asian Pre-Modern Art and Architecture, Southeast Asian Modern and Contemporary Art, or Islamic Aesthetics). Upon completion, students will need to work on a research thesis, totalling 30,000-40,000 words. The duration of the course is 3 semesters minimum and 8 semesters maximum. Students on the research-only track are required to attend the Methods course before writing their research thesis. 

Entry Requirement

A Bachelor’s Degree (Hons.) or its equivalent in the related field* 

* Note:

  • Preference will be given to applicants with a Bachelor’s Degree with CGPA 3.0 and above or its equivalent.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor’s Degree with CGPA 3.7 and above can apply directly for the PhD programme
  • Applicants are required to prepare a one page statement that explains their interest in the course. 
Intake Schedule
September and February every year.

Online application for the Semester I, 2017/2018 intake is open from 1st January 2017 - 31st May 2017 at http://ips.um.edu.my
Last Update: January 10, 2018