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UC San Diego's Visual Arts department brings practitioners, theorists and historians together to encourage innovative work at the boundaries of disciplines, discourses, and methodologies.

MFA Program

This program is designed to provide intensive professional training for the student who proposes to pursue a career within the field of contemporary art—including art making, criticism, and theory. The scope of the UC San Diego program includes painting, sculpture, performance, installation art, public art, photography, film, video, and digital media. The program is unique in that the course of study provides for and encourages student mobility within this range of traditional and media-based components. It also offers opportunities for collaborative work. It is strongly recommended that applicants be at least one year removed from completing their undergraduate degree prior to submitting an application Learn more

Final Deadline for Fall 2021 Applications: January 6, 2021

PhD Program

Offering a distinct alternative to existing Ph.D. programs in art history, the program centers on a unique curriculum that places art objects and practices at the center of inquiry, even as it encourages examination of the larger historical, cultural, social, intellectual, and theoretical frameworks within which the category "art" has been contextualized in the most recent developments in the discipline. The program encompasses the study of both past and present art across a broad range that includes fine arts and media (film, video, photography, new media). The Art History program features a concentration in Art Practice designed for artists engaged in advanced research who wish to pursue their work in an environment geared to doctoral study, and to produce studio work alongside a written dissertation. UC San Diego's Visual Arts department brings practitioners, theorists and historians together to encourage innovative work at the boundaries of disciplines, discourses, and methodologies. Art practice students fulfill the same requirements as students working in other Ph.D. concentrations, including language exams, qualifying exams and the submission of a dissertation prospectus. Their dissertations, however, combine a shorter written component with a completed art project (film or video, exhibition, public work, etc.). The program is particularly well-suited for established artists with a research-based practice who are seeking the opportunity to reflect on that practice, and to develop new work in conjunction with a community of ambitious artists, historians and theorists. It is strongly recommended that applicants be at least 3 years removed from completing the undergraduate degree. Learn more

Final Deadline for Fall 2021 Applications: December 2, 2020

Portfolio Requirements

All wrtiting sample, statements and portfolio requirements are outlined below for each of the programs we offer.  All materials are to be uploaded into the PORTFOLIO part of the UC San Diego Campus Application here 

MFA Program-VA75

PhD Art History-VA76

PhD Art History with Art Practice Concentration-VA77


Grad Apply Links

Application Timeline

  • Applications for Fall 2021 PhD open in September until December 2, 2020, 11:59 AM EST
  • Applications for Fall 2021 MFA open in September until January 6, 2021, 11:59 AM EST
  • We admit for Fall quarter only.
  • The next point of communication after application submission occurs in February.
  • MFA interviews will take place the last week in February.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Upon entering the recommender’s information as a New Recommender, further instructions will be sent to the recommender’s inputted email.


  • You may submit your unofficial transcripts to apply. However, upon acceptance you will need to have the schools send the official transcripts.

English Language Proficiency Requirement

  • International TOEFL: The Visual Arts Department requires that all international applicants whose native language is not English submit an English Language Proficiency exam such as TOEFL:
  • For future test dates, you can enter the Registration Number & Date for your upcoming test. Additionally, you can input 0s into the score sections to allow for the submission of your application by the posted deadline.
  • When the scores are received, you will be able to see an additional message stating that the score was received on your application.
  • The official scores will automatically update when received, & the better score will be examined.

MA en route to PhD

  • You may apply for a PhD directly, and, upon acceptance, apply for a Master of Arts Degree at the time of advancement to candidacy for PhD.
  • Please refer to the “Master of Arts Degree” section under the “PhD Program” section: