Programme Description

The Arts and Humanities major addresses the core elements of human expression from historical, critical, comparative, and practice-based perspectives. It will not only teach students about art in human life but also provide a context for students to develop their own arts practice. The intellectual and practical skills developed in the Arts and Humanities Major prepares students for a wide range of careers including work in art history, arts administration, art practice, art education, music, museums, performing arts, publishing, academia and journalism.

Courses in the Arts and Humanities major include historical and analytical studies as well as active practice in the arts. The major is focused on critical and comparative work reaching across media, cultures, and periods, and it affords the opportunity to explore and develop one’s own expression through the practice of creative writing, art, music and performance.

All students in the Arts and Humanities major will complete courses of 40 Modular Credits and a capstone project worth 10 Modular Credits. This can include relevant courses in other institutions and study abroad programmes.


Introduction to the Arts

All Arts and Humanities majors are required to take Introduction to the Arts, preferably in their first or second year. The course will engage in the issues and practice of arts in visual, creative writing, or music and performance through the exploration of a theme, while digging into big questions about art and artistic expression such as:

  • What is art for?
  • What is its place in popular culture?
  • What is its relationship to ritual and religion?
  • What is its relationship to nature?
  • What is modernity in art?
  • How are examples of historical artistic expression relevant today?

Comparative/Analytical Category

Students will take at least one 5 MC course from the Comparative/Analytical Category. The courses in this category will be focused on large ideas that are explored through case studies taken from different historical and geographical contexts with the aim of analysing key themes in human artistic production over time. Many of the courses in this category will develop student’s capabilities in describing, assessing, analysing, and interpreting works of art.

Students will learn how to engage with artistic productions in the ways professional practitioners, critics, and historians do. They will practice analysis, interpretation, and critique themselves, and learn the creative process that each of these kinds of art forms require.

Questions addressed in the Comparative/Analytical Category may include:

  • How does one begin to analyse a work of art, be it, visual, sonic, literary, or dramatic
  • What is art criticism?
  • Who decides what is good or bad art?
  • Where do we get our values and opinions?
  • How does context affect our experience of art?
  • Is there art without an audience?
  • How do new media platforms change our experience of art?

Critical/Collaborative Category

Students will take at least one 5 MC course from the Critical/Collaborative Category. Courses in this category may provide an in-depth study of the historical and theoretical frameworks across the arts. This is the opportunity for students to go deeper into specialised topics, and many of these courses will be a precursor to the capstone project. Other courses offered in this category will require student collaboration in order to create interdisciplinary artworks or events that would be beyond the scope of a single individual. Student groups will plan and develop their projects with suitable partners. The coordinator of the course must approve all groups, projects, and partnerships. Results of such collaborations could result in, for example:

  • An artwork, event or publication in response to a particular location, site or context.
  • A publication incorporating numerous contributors and media.
  • A curated project in an arts institution.
  • A music video or documentary treatment of a chosen theme
  • A musical, theatrical, dance event or festival.

Practice Category

Students will select at least four courses (20 MC) in the Practice Category. These courses may be half or full semester courses taken with faculty or with consultants, such as artists-in-residence, painters, sculptors, fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, critics, theatre and ensemble directors, instrumentalists, dancers, studio producers, etc. Appropriate external consultants may be arranged through the Head of Studies.

Students need not take all of their practice-based studio courses in one medium, especially if they are interested in thinking across media or with hybrid modes of expression. On the other hand, if a student wishes to achieve a high level of competency in practice then the focus ought to be on a single art form. A course in the Practice Category culminates in some kind of presentational end product that reflects the work of the student over the duration of the course.

Elective Category

Students from Class of 2017 and Class of 2018 are required to select another course (5 MC) from any of the three categories above.

Student from the class of 2019 onwards are required to select another two courses (10 MC) from any of the three categories above.


Students will complete a 10 MC capstone project during their fourth year at the College. A capstone project could be:

  • A single, sustained essay investigating a topic or idea and involving original research of some kind.
  • A recital with extensively annotated programme notes and appropriate analyses.
  • The creation and/or production of a performance art work.
  • A portfolio/exhibition of students’ work with appropriate artists’ statements.
  • Findings from a fresh approach to a specific topic or area of study in the arts.
  • A blend of the above.

Students will develop a capstone project through a sustained and rigorous period of research. Students must demonstrate a thorough contextual knowledge of their topic. Students will plan their capstone project in consultation with relevant faculty members in regular meetings before or during their seventh semester. In their eighth semester, students will meet with faculty and students working in the major for discussion and presentation of their work. There will be key deadlines for first drafts, prototypes, rough edits, drawings, compositions, or production plans. Students will contribute to the assessment of the work of others, and discuss the creative process of preparing a capstone project as well as any themes that are relevant to the students in the major.


There are many potential pathways in the major.  Students may decide to focus on one art form or they may devise their own pathway across disciplines.


Students who wish to pursue art practices or topics not offered through the Yale-NUS College curriculum or through the NUS system can get advice from the Arts and Humanities faculty and the Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE) to pursue study opportunities outside the College.


Students who wish to obtain a minor in Arts and Humanities will need to complete 25 MC, including Introduction to the Arts and at least:

  • One course in the Comparative/Analytical Category
  • One course in the Critical/Collaborative Category
  • Two additional courses