Bard Graduate Center is the home for advanced study of the cultural history of the material world. We offer the MA and PhD degrees in Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. For over 25 years, our object-based approach to learning has been training future curators, researchers, and educators to ask new questions about our shared history. Founded in 1993 as a program dedicated to the history of design and decorative arts, BGC has expanded to include the crucial perspectives of anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural historians, and conservators to become the leading institute for interdisciplinary inquiry into material culture.


Students in our MA and PhD programs come from all over the world and from a range of academic backgrounds including art history, anthropology, history, literature, and religious studies. Alumni of our programs can be found curating, researching and teaching at institutions around the world including the Met, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the National Trust.

Located on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, our New York City location gives our students access to some of the world’s richest collections. Affiliations with institutions and their curators, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Frick Collection, and the Museum of Arts and Design, play an integral role in our curriculum. Our own Gallery is the home of ambitious international exhibitions and provides a physical space for the integration of curatorial work into the classroom.

How to Apply

Applications for both the MA and PhD program are due January 3, 2020.


Application requirements

  • Application fee of $70
  • A personal statement of approximately 750 words explaining why you are choosing the decorative arts, design history, and material culture as a field of graduate study. The statement should be specific, especially as to career goals.
  • Three letters of recommendation from instructors or professional colleagues.
  • A sample of written scholarly work (e.g., a college research paper, published article, or extended catalogue entry). This writing sample should be a research paper, academic in form and tone,that exemplifies your best scholarly work. Please include illustrations if relevant. Students who do not have a term paper to submit should consult the Academic Programs Office about the kind of work that is appropriate. NB - applicants to the doctoral program should submit a copy of your Master’s Thesis or Qualifying Paper, if you have completed an MA.
  • An up-to-date CV
  • Official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions attended.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Bard Graduate Center’s score report code number is 2020. All applicants should take the GRE by December 15, 2019. The GRE submitted for admission consideration must not be more than three years old. Applications without GRE scores will make the applicant ineligible for interview consideration.
  • International applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English and should take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Other evidence of English proficiency will be accepted only with the approval of the Graduate Committee. Our TOEFL number is 5034. We must have these results by the application deadline date.

Materials sent via hard copy should be sent to:

MA or PhD Admissions
Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street
New York, NY 10024

All application materials submitted become the property of Bard Graduate Center. An application is considered incomplete and will not be acted upon until all materials listed above have been received.

Tuition and Fees: MA Program

Tuition for 2019–20 is $1,465 per credit. For scholarship information, please see scholarships and fellowships below. A student enrolled full-time in the MA program normally takes 27 credits in the first year and 21 credits in the second year. The number of credits for part-time students varies according to their schedules; however, part-time students must enroll for a minimum of 6 credits each fall and spring term. Tuition and fees for a full-time MA program student entering in the fall of 2019 would be:

Year 1: 2019–20

April 1, 2019

  • New students’ nonrefundable tuition deposit $515

June 15, 2019

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $17,580
  • Health insurance fee $2,993
  • Registration/library fee $300

Dec. 1, 2019

  • Spring term and Internship tuition (15 credits) $21,975
  • Registration/library fee $300


Year 2: 2020–21

July 1, 2020

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $17,580
  • Health insurance fee $2,993
  • Registration/library fee $300

Dec. 1, 2020

  • Spring term tuition (9 credits) $13,185
  • Registration/library fee $300

April 2021

  • Graduation fee $120
All numbers are based on 2019–20 rates and are subject to change in subsequent years. The deposit is credited in the fall term. Health insurance fees are accurate at time of printing and subject to change. Students who withdraw from the program before the first day of classes in the fall or spring term will receive a full refund, less all nonrefundable charges. If the date of official withdrawal from the program occurs after the first day of classes, tuition is refunded as follows. For the fall and spring terms, if the withdrawal occurs within the first week of regular classes, 80 percent of the tuition will be refunded; within the second week, 50 percent of the tuition will be refunded; after the second week of term, there is no refund. Tuition deposit, registration and library fee, and health insurance enrollment fee are nonrefundable.
Tuition and Fees: PhD Program
Tuition for 2019–20 is $1,465 per credit. In the third year of the program after the completion of qualifying exams, you register for the 6-credit doctoral dissertation. Tuition for dissertation registration is $4,500. Funding for a full-time PhD student is for four years. Tuition and fees for a full-time PhD student entering with an MA from a program other than Bard Graduate Center in the fall of 2019 would be:

Year 1: 2019–20 (coursework and exams)

April 1, 2019

  • New students’ nonrefundable tuition deposit $515

June 15, 2019

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $17,580
  • Health insurance fee $2,993
  • Registration/library fee $300

December 1, 2019

  • Spring term tuition (12 credits) $17,580
  • Registration/library fee $300

Year 2: 2020–21 (coursework and exams)

June 15, 2020

  • Fall term tuition (12 credits) $17,580
  • Health insurance fee $2,993
  • Registration/library fee $300

December 1, 2020

  • Spring term tuition (9 credits) $13,185
  • Registration/library fee $300

Year 3: 2021–22 (propose dissertation)

June 15, 2021

  • Fall term tuition (6 credits) $4,500
  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $600

Year 4: 2022–23

June 15, 2022

  • Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $600

Year 5: 2023–24

June 15, 2023

Registration/library fee (2 semesters) $600

April 1, 2024

Graduation fee $120

All numbers are based on 2019–20 rates and are subject to change in subsequent years. The deposit is credited in the fall term. Health insurance fees are accurate at time of printing and subject to change. Students who withdraw from the program before the first day of classes in the fall or spring term will receive a full refund, less all nonrefundable charges. If the date of official withdrawal from the program occurs after the first day of classes, tuition is refunded as follows. For the fall and spring terms, if the withdrawal occurs within the first week of regular classes, 80 percent of the tuition will be refunded; within the second week, 50 percent of the tuition will be refunded; after the second week of term, there is no refund. Tuition deposit, registration and library fee, and health insurance enrollment fee are nonrefundable.

NB–Bard Graduate Center accepts a maximum of 24 credits from other MA work. Doctoral students who complete their MA at Bard Graduate Center have all 48 credits transferred and follow a different path.

Scholarships and Fellowships

Bard Graduate Center is able to offer generous funding at both the MA and PhD levels. We are committed to assisting students whose personal resources would not otherwise allow them to continue their education at the graduate level. Institutional aid is available in the form of scholarships, fellowships, and campus employment.

For the MA program, roughly 80% of the incoming class will receive some financial support. Aid is available for full-time students for two years only. Financial aid packages are automatically renewed at the end of the first year after a review. Scholarship offers range from 25% tuition remission to 100%. There are a limited number of competitive fellowships that are also offered at the time of admission.

The PhD program has a separate funding structure, and applicants are encouraged to inquire with the admissions office (admissions@bgc.bard.edu) for current levels of funding.

There is no special application for institutional aid, but *all* students who wish to be considered must complete a FASFA by January 15, 2020. Bard Graduate Center’s FAFSA number is 002671. International applicants who wish to be considered for aid should complete the International Student Application for Aid and the Certification of Finances by January 15 (see International Applicants).

Student Housing
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Bard Hall located near Columbus Circle provides comfortable and modern housing for students, faculty, and visiting scholars. Nine residential floors offer a variety of furnished studios and one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchens and baths for students. The building is equipped with 24-hour security, a double-height lounge that opens onto a landscaped outdoor space, an exercise room, conference and study rooms, and laundry facilities.

Student apartments are furnished and, depending on size and design, contain a daybed/sofa, small dining table and chairs, desk, bookcase, twin or full-size bed, and chest of drawers. Residents must be enrolled for a minimum of nine credits each semester in order to remain eligible for housing. The monthly costs of the units are:

Studio Unit: $1,545 / month

One-bedroom Unit: $1,855 / month

Two-bedroom Unit: $1,300 / month (per student)

Costs are accurate as of press time and are subject to change.

International Applicants

Bard Graduate Center is an international community and we welcome applicants from around the world. The additional application requirements for those from outside of the United States are:

International applicants who are coming from programs in which the language of instruction was not English must demonstrate proficiency in English by submitting the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores. Our TOEFL number is 5034. These scores should be submitted by January 3, 2020. Generally, the minimum score accepted is 100.

International applicants to the MA program will be considered for financial aid. Applicants should complete the College Board International Student Financial Aid Application by January 15, 2020. Applicants in need of a visa must demonstrate that income from all sources is sufficient to cover expenses during the period of residency in the United States. To this end, international applicants must complete a Certification of Finances. Evidence of financial responsibility must be demonstrated by one of the following: affidavit from a bank, certification by parents or sponsors of their ability to provide the necessary funds, or certification by employers of anticipated income. Detailed information will be sent upon acceptance into the program. Both forms are available here.

Open Houses and Campus Visits

One of the best ways to learn more about Bard Graduate Center is to visit! Each fall, we host open houses for prospective students where you have an opportunity to meet faculty, current students, and tour our buildings. You will also have the chance to have your questions about admissions and financial aid answered.

Fall 2019 Open House Dates

October 13, 11 am

November 17, 11 am

December 8, 11 am

Can’t make it to New York for an open house? Schedule a campus visit by emailing admissions@bgc.bard.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

What degrees does BGC offer?
We offer both the MA and PhD in Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. Students are able to explore the cultural history of the material world in a wide range of courses and methodological approaches. The MA program is a two-year terminal degree consisting of coursework, an internship, and a qualifying paper. The PhD program is four to five years and includes coursework, three field exams, and a dissertation.

Is it possible to do a program part-time?
Yes, and this may be done at both the MA and PhD levels. However, part-time students may not be eligible for financial aid, and will receive reduced support at the doctoral level.

I saw your classes listed online. Is it possible to sit in on one?
No. All students must be enrolled in either the MA or PhD program in order to register for classes at BGC. Students in select graduate programs around New York that are part of our consortium may also take classes.

Is there a foreign language requirement?
Not for admission into the program, but all MA students must pass a timed translation exam in either French, German, Italian, or Spanish before they begin their second year. Doctoral students must show proficiency in two languages, typically French, German, Italian, or Spanish, but other languages may be substituted depending on research areas. Doctoral students must fulfill this requirement by the time they have finished their coursework and exams.

Is there a minimum GRE score required?
GRE scores are required but there is not a minimum score for consideration by the admissions committee. It is important to note that these scores are but one piece of an application, and are looked at in light of a personal statement, writing sample, academic record, and professional experience. Submitted scores should be no more than three years old.

Are there required courses for the MA and/or PhD program?
Yes. All MA students must take the year-long course “Objects in Context: A Survey of the Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture” and its companion “Writing Objects.” MA students must also take the one-semester “Approaches to the Object” and must further satisfy a distribution requirement of two courses designated pre-1800 and one designated non-Western. Additional requirements include the three-credit internship, as well as satisfying a digital project requirement during the two-year program.

Doctoral students may be required to take Objects in Context and Approaches to the Object, depending on their background. They do not have distribution, internship, or digital project requirements.

Are you required to have an MA to be considered for admission to the PhD program?
No. You may be accepted into our doctoral program without an MA. You would be required to complete the two-year BGC MA degree with its attendant requirements en route to the doctoral degree.

How does the Admissions Committee determine acceptance and when can I expect to hear?
After a careful first-round review in January, a select number of applicants are invited to an interview with the Admissions Committee. After the interview process is complete (usually early February), there is an admissions meeting (usually mid-February) and final decisions are made based on the applications and the interviews.

If I am accepted and haven’t yet visited Bard Graduate Center, will there be an opportunity for me to meet students and faculty before I make my decision?
Yes, we hold an accepted students day for all students accepted into the MA and PhD programs in March. And if you cannot make an open house in the fall, you may schedule a visit anytime by emailing admissions@bgc.bard.edu.

Aside from the financial aid available, are there other on-campus opportunities to earn money while I am student?
Yes, most students work a range of campus jobs during their time here. From working in the Library, the Gallery, the Digital Media Lab, Public Programs and Education, Development all hire students. Students may also work as Faculty Assistants, and work staffing public events.

Further questions about your application?
Contact Keith Condon, Director of Admissions and Student Affairs, at 212.501.3056 or keith.condon@bgc.bard.edu.