April 15, 2015

Board of Trustees discontinues art history Ph.D program

University of Louisville Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees

Due to a lack of enrollment and demand for doctoral degrees in the art history department at U of L, the Board of Trustees voted April 2 to discontinue the program unless interest for the degree increases in the next five years.

The university, College of Arts and Sciences and faculty from the Department of Fine Arts talked with President James Ramsey before a recommendation received enough votes for suspension of the program last week.  The suspension will begin this summer, but students currently enrolled in the program will still have the opportunity to finish their degrees.

“During these next five years we will consider reconstituting a new program which will be more inclusive, which may be able to attract more students and allow more faculty to be involved,” said Ying Kit Chan, chairperson of the department of fine arts. “We still have the M.A. and B.A. programs. We are only suspending the doctoral program in art history.”

Of the fine arts, art history has taken the biggest hit in terms of decreased enrollment and student activity.  Over the past few years the program has seen its greatest drop in enrolling students, which has been a reoccurring theme for decades.

“Provost Shirley Willihnganz said only 19 students have graduated from the art history doctoral program in the past 25 years with a significant drop off in the past 3 or 4 years and ‘the costs can’t be justified’,” said university spokesperson Mark Hebert.

In the meantime, art history faculty will continue helping current students prepare their doctoral theses until the five year mark.  Financial support as well as scholarships will still be granted to enrolled students.

Although art history has seen a decrease in demand, the art program has been unaffected, as well as the bachelor and master levels in art history.

A statement prepared by Chan also reports, “The Fine Arts department has formed an ad-hoc faculty committee to study the feasibility of reinstating a Ph.D program at the departmental level by broadening the areas to include art history, visual studies, curatorial and critical studies and studio practices.”

As the only place to receive a Ph.D in art history in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, this broadening may be a deciding factor to ensure a future for the program at U of L.

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