Art History Link-Up enables young people from diverse backgrounds to be inspired by art history and to use it to enhance their life and educational experience. By enabling access, we believe that art history has the potential to transform students’ lives, and that they in turn, have the potential to transform our visual culture.
Since we were founded in 2016, over 400 young people from 200 state schools across the UK have studied with us free of charge in some of our finest galleries — including the National Gallery, Wallace Collection, and the Courtauld Institute of Art — and online. Students work towards qualifications, including A level Art History and an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), supported by homework clubs and expert mentoring, as well as careers guidance and support with university application.
“We need that fearlessness, and that intellectual curiosity. The field of art history needs it, because if the pool of talent from which art historians are drawn becomes too shallow or too narrow, then what we will end up with will inevitably be a shallow and narrow art history.”
– Professor Craig Clunas, Professor Emeritus of Art History, the University of Oxford
Over the next three years, our aim is to transform thousands more young lives across the UK with expanded programmes, a new regional partnership and the roll out of a national Art History EPQ programme.
No one else is doing this work and this is why we need your support. By supporting Art History Link-Up, you will help make art history relevant and vibrant at a time when it seems most under threat.
- Fewer than eight state schools in the country currently offer History of Art A level yet the creative industries added over £100 billion to the UK economy in 2017, and account for 1 in 11 jobs in the UK, according to latest DCMS figures. Access to arts education should be available and open to all.
- Art History Link-Up’s schemes offer benefits to a diverse range of students who might not currently have these opportunities: access to the arts, cross-curricular connections, and enhanced skills and career development.
- Students benefit from an additional qualification (an EPQ is equivalent to up to half an A level in UCAS points and statistically increases other exam results) and enhanced Further/Higher Education applications.
- As a result of taking our courses, on average around half of our alumni students say they wish to pursue the subject at university and/or a career in the arts, so keeping the subject and sector alive, diverse and vibrant.
- We believe that Art History can be transformational for our students and that our students, in turn, can transform the sector.
Why Art History?
Providing free accredited Art History courses for sixth form state supported students, in museums and galleries, and since 2020, as a result of the pandemic, online and as a hybrid course based at the National Gallery since March 2022 and, in 2022-3, at the Courtauld Institute of Art.
We believe that learning to look and understand our rich visual culture is more important now than ever before – and that this opportunity to learn about art and benefit from it should be available to every young person. We also think that students should come away with a tangible qualification, even when this isn’t available at their school.
Art History Link-Up (AHLU) works with other cultural organisations to link young people to the art and architecture in public collections: our aim is to promote the benefits and enjoyment of Art History to as wide an audience as possible.
How we started
Art History Link-Up was established during the 2016/17 academic year.
Its first programme, Art History for Everyone, a free fast-track AS Art History for state maintained sector students, emerged from a two-year pilot in two state schools in 2014, undertaken by Rose Aidin for the Association for Art History.
In order to open the scheme up to all state supported students and to provide first-hand access to the works of art being studied, in 2016 the scheme was developed independently by Art History Link-Up and relocated to the Wallace Collection.
Until March 2020, Art History for Everyone was hosted at the Wallace Collection and at the National Gallery, with core funding from The Rothschild Foundation. In March 2020, our courses transferred online when museums and galleries closed as a result of the pandemic with great success. Student numbers doubled, with over half now coming from outside Greater London, including from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is significant and increasing demand for places and the majority of students come from under-represented backgrounds. AHLU’s Chief Executive, Rose Aidin, says, “Pleasure in learning and cross-curricular connections is something that art history can offer all students, regardless of background or long-term goals.“
In March 2022 AHLU returned to in-person teaching at the National Gallery, based again in dedicated teaching space in the Sainsbury Wing, but in a hybrid format, with some students studying face-to-face, while others joining class remotely, online, from across the UK.
The Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery is being re-built in preparation for the Bicentenary in 2024. From September 2022, Art History for Everyone will be based at The Courtauld Institute of Art, at Somerset House, in the Leon Kossoff Learning Centre.
Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of the Courtauld, comments, “We think what Rose and her team at AHLU does is fantastic in opening up the world of art history to a whole new generation of young people“, and Professor Alixe Bovey, Dean and Deputy Director says, “Teaching in this way, AHLU can open up their amazing courses to students from across the UK including those with disabilities.”
Since September 2018 Art History Link-Up students have been studying two modules of the new A Level Art History course in one year alongside a taught Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) – equivalent to up to half an A level in UCAS points. Many take the option of continuing to study a further two modules and sitting the A level exam at the end of a second year of the course.
Every student is offered learning support in the form of homework club, individual EPQ mentoring, support from student officers, visiting expert advice on careers and FE/HE applications, and access to work experience in relevant sectors including at Art UK, Christie’s, inigo, The Royal Collection, Society of Antiquaries and Victoria & Albert Museum.
In 2020, all seven of Art History Link-Up’s students who applied to Oxbridge were offered places, including two for Art History at the University of Cambridge. Now AHLU alumnni are studying Art History at Russell Group universities across the UK, including the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and the Courtauld, and embarking on careers in the arts.
Art History Link-Up is also developing a new Introduction to Art History course for younger state supported secondary students, with pilots at Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Courtauld Institute and the National Gallery.
Art History for Everyone
Art History Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and A level courses for sixth form students from the state supported sector, taught in museums and galleries, and currently online as a result of the pandemic, on term-time Saturdays
Introduction to Art History
Art History Link-Up is currently developing a short course to introduce younger state supported students to art history, to museums and galleries, and to opportunities in the arts.
“The Art History course not only bred passion and commitment in all those who took part, it provided a rich cultural and intellectual insight, and is sadly a rare offer in state schools. The Art History Link-Up team take great care and pride in the outreach they offer and were a pleasure to collaborate with. In a time of reduced resource, when learning and enrichment could be threatened, this opportunity is a boon.”
Kat Pugh, Headteacher, St Marylebone CE School