Admissions and Aid

Prof. Claire Bishop’s Fall 2021 Performing Research seminar did a Moving Rasas workshop with Andrew Suseno in Hudson River Park.
Prof. Claire Bishop’s Fall 2021 Performing Research seminar did a Moving Rasas workshop with Andrew Suseno in Hudson River Park.

The Ph.D. Program in Art History invites everyone, especially minority students, to come to the Graduate Center to find out more about studying art history here. You can meet current faculty, find out about their teaching and current research, and ask any questions you might have about your application. You can also meet current students and ask their opinion of the program! For up-to-date information we host an Open Day annually, usually in October.

Please do not hesitate letting us know if you have any questions regarding the application process. If you are an International Prospective Student, we will be happy to put you in touch with one of current International Students. You may contact us via email at

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Application Overview

Admission to the Ph.D Program in Art History is competitive. We receive around 150 applications each year, and accept only 9 students.

Application Deadline: January 1

Students applying must submit:

  1. A completed application form
  2. Three letters of recommendation, preferably from a professor of art history or related fields, rather than from employers (even if these are museum curators or magazine editors, and more recent)
  3. Transcripts from previous colleges or universities
  4. A writing sample, not more than 15 pages in length (including notes, bibliography, and images) 
  5. A 2-3 page applicant statement discussing your past education and experience, academic and professional plans, and reasons for wishing to undertake graduate work

Please do not send these items to the Ph.D Program in Art History directly. They are processed by the Office of Admissions.

All applications are reviewed by a committee comprising a cross-section of faculty members plus one graduate student. Each application is considered in its entirety, and the committee pays attention—in no particular order—to the following:

  • the student’s record of academic achievement as reflected in the transcripts

  • the student’s potential for graduate work as demonstrated by recommendations

  • the quality of the writing sample

  • the student's background and reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. at The Graduate Center, as expressed in the personal statement.

All applicants to the Ph.D. Program in Art History should also familiarize themselves with our faculty members and recent course offerings.

  • Do you have an Open Day when I can visit the Ph.D Program?

The Ph.D. Program in Art History currently holds an Open Day during the fall semester when all prospective students interested in applying are invited.  We hold a second Open Day, in the spring semester, for students who have been made the offer of a place, and for those on the waiting list.

If you have specific questions about the program beyond the information available on the Graduate Center's website (e.g. about funding, time to degree, language requirements, etc), please contact the Art History office, who will be happy to make an appointment for you to talk to a relevant member of faculty. While you are also in the building, we also recommend that you speak to current students, as they are in the best position to tell you what it is like to study here.

  • Do you offer funding for students, and how much is it? 

The Ph.D. Program in Art History currently offers seven Graduate Center Fellowships (GCFs) and two Tuition Fellowships.
The GCF award consists of a financial aid fellowship and graduate assistantship totaling $29,374, a tuition award, and eligibility for low-cost individual or family NYSHIP health insurance.
Tuition Fellowships cover tuition at in-state rates only, for five years.
Provost’s Enhancement fellowships are available to students from underrepresented minorities who are US citizens or permanent residents. These comprise a five-year package of $39,374.
Graduate Center and Provost’s Enhancement Fellowships include eligibility for low-cost individual or family NYSHIP health insurance. See the Graduate Center's main admissions pages for further information about current tuition fees and other forms of fellowships and funding.

  • How do I choose an advisor to work with?

The Ph.D. Program in Art History is unique in that students are not expected to pair up with an advisor immediately upon entering the program. This is primarily because we have a large faculty drawn from the CUNY colleges, which makes the process of pairing up with an advisor a more organic process, allowing you to respond to input from a wide range of seminars and coursework.

The application form nevertheless invites you to specify members of faculty with whom you envisage working, and this is useful information for the Admissions Committee. Please bear in mind that Professors Emerita are not able to take on doctoral students.

  • Do you prefer students to have a Master’s degree?

We admit students with or without Master’s degrees. The timeline for completion is slightly faster if you have a Master's degree - see the 'Timeline to Degree' charts here.

  • I have an undergraduate degree in studio practice. Am I eligible?

Most applicants have majored in art history as undergraduates. If you have not majored in art history, then we need to see at least 12 credits in art history on your transcript(s), and with excellent grades.

  • I don’t have an art history degree, but I have been working in a museum or gallery since I graduated. Am I eligible?

One of the strengths of the Ph.D Program in Art History is that it attracts curators, and we welcome applicants who have practical experience in museums and galleries. However, this is not always equivalent to academic qualifications. Even if you have many years of experience within a museum or gallery, we still look for evidence of academic ability in art history (12 credits, either as an undergraduate, graduate, or non-matriculated student) in order to assess your potential for doctoral research. This is why we always prefer to see letters of recommendation from academics rather than from a professional work context (museums, editorial, etc).

  • Can you give me an idea of the range of subjects that current dissertation students are working on at the Graduate Center?

View recent dissertation topics here.

  • I am a practicing artist. Is it possible for me to do a Ph.D at the Graduate Center?

The Ph.D Program in Art History is a fully academic degree; there is no studio or practice-based component. We do not accept practicing artists looking to pursue their own work in tandem with doctoral research.

  • I am looking at several Ph.D. Programs in Art History in New York. What makes the Graduate Center unique? 

Around eighty percent of students in the Ph.D Program in Art History are working within modern and contemporary art. We offer broad range of faculty who can be called upon as potential advisors.

Students have first-hand teaching experience. Rather than being a Teaching Assistant (TA) to a professor, you will have your own course and students at one of the colleges. 
Current students tell us that they appreciate the friendly and collaborative atmosphere of the Graduate Center. Students are all working in the city—either as teachers or as professionals—and there is a strong spirit of mutual support, rather than of competition.

Fellowships and Financial Aid

The Ph.D. Program in Art History currently offers seven Graduate Center Fellowships (GCFs) and two Tuition Fellowships.

The GCFs are a five-year package of $29,374 per year. In the first year, students work in the department. In years two to five, students teach one course per semester in one of the CUNY colleges. Tuition Fellowships cover tuition at in-state rates only, for five years. See the Graduate Center's main financial aid pages for further information about current tuition fees and other forms of financial assistance, and the department's FAQ below for prospective students.

Provost’s Enhancement fellowships are available to students from underrepresented minorities who are US citizens or permanent residents. These comprise a five-year package of $39,374.

Graduate Center and Provost’s Enhancement Fellowships include eligibility for low-cost individual or family NYSHIP health insurance. See the Graduate Center's main admissions pages for further information about current tuition fees and other forms of fellowships and funding.

In Fall 2019, we were awarded a $650,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund New Initiatives in Curatorial Training, a five-year project in the Ph.D. Program in Art History that aims to enhance the diversity of curatorial training at the Graduate Center and ensure the sustainability of the initiative beyond the end of Mellon funding.

The Mellon Foundation grant will support graduate seminars focused on the direct analysis of works of art in museums, fund Curatorial Fellowships and subsidize a yearlong seminar on curatorial practice culminating in a student-curated exhibition in the Graduate Center’s James Gallery. The three curatorial fellowships take place in New York area museums, and are worth $27,591.00 per year. Several James Gallery fellowships are available throughout the year.

Through Rewald fellowships, the Ph.D. Program in Art History can provide up to $5,000 to support guest speakers or conferences organized by graduate students. Proposals should go to the Executive Committee (email to Marilyn Mercado). See requirements for application.

In addition to fellowships made available by the Graduate Center, friends and alumni of the Ph.D. Program in Art History generously provide funds for student fellowships. Such funds vary in amount from year to year. Announcements of these fellowships are emailed to all eligible students and posted in the Student Lounge and on the program website.

Alumnae/i, friends, and families of former students have also contributed funds for student research:

  • The Spero-Goldreich Award in European and American Sculpture from 1775 to 1960 is awarded annually to a dissertation-level student.
  • The Kristie A. Jayne Fellowship annually awards one or more fellowships to students who have passed the First Examination and who are focusing on the social and political concerns of twentieth-century art, especially projects that deal specifically with art of the United States of the 1920s and 1930s.
  • The Catherine Hoover Voorsanger Fellowship is awarded to a student of American, and preferably decorative, art.

Besides these Graduate Center and program sources, students are encouraged to seek outside grants to support preparation of the dissertation and advanced research. Please consult the program's list of fellowships in Art History or relevant affiliated fields for more information.

The Graduate Center Office of Sponsored Research maintains a list of available funding sources and helps students in writing grant proposals. The Ph.D Program in Art History sponsors workshops in the fall and spring semesters on grant applications. Graduate Center students have won fellowships and awards from the Samuel H.Kress Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), the Metropolitan Museum and the Smithsonian Institute, as well as other foundations, institutions and agencies.

Fellowships requiring program nomination will be announced by email, so that students can apply for consideration.

Every applicant to The Graduate Center’s doctoral programs will automatically be considered for five-year institutional funding packages. The aid we offer — including fellowships, tuition awards, and assistantships — is based on merit. 

Learn more about institutional aid for doctoral students »

Federal aid for doctoral students includes:

New York State also provides the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) for eligible graduate students who are New York State residents.

Additional funding may be available to incoming students from underrepresented populations through offerings from the Office of Educational Opportunity and Diversity, including several fellowships and the CUNY Pipeline Program for undergraduate CUNY students.

Learn more about funding opportunities from OEOD »

(i) Graduate Teaching Fellowships

Unlike most universities, where doctoral students gain teaching experience by assisting a faculty member, students at the Graduate Center teach their own courses to undergraduate students in colleges within the CUNY system. Preparation for this experience is provided through a Pedagogy for Art History course, available in the spring semester each year.

(ii) Adjunct Teaching

Outside of the Graduate Teaching Fellowships, many students in the Ph.D. Program in Art History gain additional training as adjunct instructors in CUNY college classrooms. 

Adjunct teaching positions are not Financial Aid awards; they are positions created and paid for by the colleges where the student teaches. Art History Departments on each CUNY campus make their own hiring decisions. Students may apply directly for teaching positions anywhere in the system by contacting the Art History Department chair in the CUNY college in which they are interested.

CUNY adjuncts are paid according to a an hourly rate scale. The hourly pay rate is multiplied by the number of credit hours a course carries (which varies from three to six), then multiplied again by the number of weeks in the college's semester (14 or 15 weeks at all but Kingsborough and LaGuardia Community colleges).

Adjuncts who teach at least six credit hours within CUNY for each of two consecutive semesters are eligible, after the second semester, for health insurance benefits.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition rates for doctoral programs at The Graduate Center are based on a student's “level,” which is determined by a combination of the number of graduate credits completed (including, in the case of transfer students, credits accepted by the student's degree program and the Registrar) and specific academic accomplishments. 

The fee structure is also affected by a student’s resident status.

See current doctoral tuition rates »

Each student will be billed for a Graduate School student activities fee, a University student senate fee, a University consolidated services fee and a technology fee. These fees are not refundable.


"The Art History program at the Graduate Center is designed to give students rigorous graduate training in the field. To be blunt, as a student here you will learn a lot about yourself and your support systems, what you will tolerate, what will invigorate you, and why what you add to the discipline is important. From the beginning I believed in my dissertation topic, and I feel extremely grateful that there are faculty and colleagues who support the work I love doing. My research on photography and the Algerian Revolution would not be nearly as meaningful and worthwhile to me without the encouragement, feedback, and guidance of people at the Graduate Center and the abundance of networks and resources that are available to me as a student here."

— Maura E. McCreight

Ph.D. candidate

One of four scholars whose works were selected for first Images of Research Exhibition at the Graduate Center.

Read more
Maura McCreight Art History - Photographic Archives of the Algerian War of Independence
Michelle Millar Fisher - Art History

Curator and Scholar

When New York’s Museum of Modern Art mounted its first fashion exhibition in 70 years—”Items: Is Fashion Modern?”—co-curating the show was Michelle Millar Fisher. Working in MoMA’s design department was a dream come true for Fisher, who said that her courses and the collaborative experience at The Graduate Center made all the difference in landing this position and her new curator role at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

View Students and Alumni Profiles

Resources for Prospective Applicants

Related Links

Below you can find helpful information and guidance on how to apply.

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