Visual Studies investigates the histories, meanings, and implications of the image, art work, representation, and their media. Wide-ranging and theoretically rigorous in approach, our faculty work across diverse cultures, geographies, and periods, with strong interests in photography, performance, illustration and design histories, archaeology, architecture and the built environment, site-based installation, museum studies and exhibition histories, manuscripts, sculpture, and painting. We welcome students exploring new lines of inquiry into the visual and who seek academic community and close mentorship.

Students who are admitted into the program, whether with BAs or MAs, enter directly into the PhD program in small cohorts and with multi-year funding packages. We strongly recommend prospective students contact and speak with faculty members with whom they are interested in working before applying.

Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete fourteen courses. These courses include four method and writing practicum seminars, as well as ten electives chosen from Visual Studies and other fields of study. During coursework, students have the opportunity to encounter a wide range of theoretical and thematic approaches, including studies in race, diaspora, and migration, gender and sexuality, materiality and the environment, medicine and science, design and the museum, to archival and archaeological practices, postcolonial and decolonial approaches. Once they complete coursework, language requirement, oral exams, and degree prospectus, students advance to candidacy at the end of their third year. Students who enter the program with a BA will also complete an MA paper and degree by the end of their second year.  After advancing to candidacy, students undertake their dissertation, with a normative time to completion of three years.  

Because of Visual Studies’ interdisciplinary nature, during their coursework students are required to take a number of electives in other departments and programs. Through their coursework, students may concurrently earn an interdisciplinary Graduate Emphasis or Specialization in areas such as Critical Theory, Feminist Studies, Asian American Studies, Ancient Iran and the Premodern Persianate World, and Latin American Studies, among others.


Students admitted into the program receive five-year funding packages which cover tuition, stipend, and health insurance through a combination of fellowship, teaching assistantship, and research assistantship support. Once admitted, students may pursue further funding opportunities for research, conference travel, and/or language studies through Graduate Division, the School of Humanities, and other campus centers and programs.


Students benefit from our location near Los Angeles and the rich cultural institutions and offerings of southern California, such as the Getty Museum and Research Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Disneyland, San Diego Museum of Art, Museum of Latin American Art, UCI Special Collections, the Jack and Shanaz Langson Institute and Museum of California Art, and Huntington Library and Museum, among others. Graduate students also have the opportunity to take classes from other nearby UCs through the UC intercampus exchange program.

Prospective students interested in the Film and Media Studies PhD Program can find more information here:

The application deadline is December 15.