• Historic Conservation Banner.jpg

Historic Conservation

MSc / PGDip / PGCert

School of the Built Environment

This course is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), and recognised by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

The Brookes MSc offers a comprehensive grounding in the conservation of historic buildings and sites.

Focusing on the UK, but also drawing on other national and international paradigms, it introduces you to a range of theoretical and practical disciplines, including the relevant aspects of architectural history, historical geography, spatial planning, urban design, construction, surveying, economics and finance, and research methodology.

This course follows the International Commission on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) guidelines on education and training, and covers the knowledge, skills and professional capabilities identified by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) as the foundation for professional practice.

Our programme draws students from a wide range of backgrounds, and provides an ideal training for those wishing to pursue a career in this fascinating but competitive field. For information on recent field trips, please visit our Planning and Urban Design blog.

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: Full time: MSc 12 months; PGDip 9 months
  • Part time: Part time: MSc 24 months; PGDip 21 months; PGCert 9 months

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • Established in 1990, the Brookes Historic Conservation MSc is one of the longest-running and most highly-regarded courses of its type, and our graduates have gone on to work in senior roles across the sector, both in the UK and internationally.
  • Our programme draws on the expertise of built environment teaching staff at Brookes and from the University of Oxford's Department for Continuing Education.
  • The Historic Conservation team has an excellent record of research for organisations such as the EU, English Heritage and the UK government Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
  • Visiting speakers from central and local government, conservation agencies, business and industry, consultancies, research bodies and other university departments provide further input, bringing real-world experience to the course.
  • The Department of Planning - now part of the School of the Built Environment - is renowned internationally for its research. In REF 2014, 69% of our research was rated as either world leading or internationally excellent.
  • Oxford is internationally renowned for its cultural heritage and for the beauty and variety of its architecture, presenting valuable learning opportunities for Historic Conservation students.

This course is offered at three levels: a Master of Science (MSc) degree, a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) and a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert). The MSc and PGDip can be studied on either a full-time (1-year) or a part-time (2-year) basis. The introductory PGCert is a 9-month part-time course.

With the exception of certain field trips, all core teaching is on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing you to fit your studies around other commitments. Part-time students take the Monday modules in their first year and the Tuesday modules in their second.

The course comprises a series of modules, each addressing a different set of questions in the theory and/or practice of historic conservation. (As courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you take may vary from those shown here.)

The following modules are compulsory for the MSc and PGDip:

  • Conservation and Regeneration: Theory, Law and Practice asks: what is historic conservation? how, when and where did it originate? why do we do it, and how might we do it differently? The module examines the structure of concepts, values, principles, narratives, institutions and procedures upon which our current practice rests. Beginning with a historical overview that relates the emergence of the conservation agenda to developments in other fields of culture, it proceeds to analyse the dominant legal and institutional frameworks through which that agenda is pursued, both in the UK and further afield.
  • Historical Studies I and II, two linked modules taught in consecutive semesters, ask: how did our present stock of historic buildings and sites come into existence? what social, political, economic and artistic factors influenced their initial construction and subsequent alteration? The first module concentrates on the medieval period and provides an introduction to the evolution of the landscape and the major elements of architectural history in England up to the sixteenth century. The second module continues the narrative from the sixteenth century up to the present day.
  • Design for Conservation asks: how far, and in what ways, should an understanding of the historic environment inform current design decisions? This module enables you to analyse historic townscapes, to understand basic principles of urban design and to formulate design guidance and codes for sensitive historic areas. You will acquire skills in the critical appraisal of existing or proposed buildings, preparing design briefs for sites in historic areas and presenting design concepts.
  • Building Construction and Repair asks: what are historic buildings made of, what keeps them standing, and how can their physical substance be preserved and/or renewed? This module examines the properties, decay and repair of traditional and modern materials, as well as structural principles, environmental factors and the introduction of new fabric and services into historic structures.
  • Historic Building Analysis and Recording asks: how can we 'read' the history of a building, and how can we best communicate our understanding by visual and written means? This is a skill-based module that helps you to analyse the special architectural and historical characteristics of a particular site, building, or group of buildings, and to develop techniques for the representation of these characteristics through archival research, measurement, drawing and recording.
  • Conservation Economics and Finance asks: who pays for the conservation of the historic environment, and how and why do they do it? An initial overview, setting the built heritage in the context of cultural economics more generally, is followed by a series of classes given by outside speakers, each an expert on some aspect of conservation finance. Topics covered include project costing, development appraisal, third-party funding and the relevant aspects of the property market.

The MSc also requires you undertake the following:

  • Research Methods in Design, which provides a critical overview of research methods and skills relevant to investigative work in conservation and design.
  • MSc Dissertation, an individual research study of 15,000-20,000 words, on a conservation-related topic to be agreed between you and your supervisor.

The PGCert comprises Conservation and Regeneration: Theory, Law and Practice; Building Construction and Repair; and Historic Building Analysis and Recording (details as above).

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning methods reflect the variety of topics and techniques associated with historic conservation. These include lectures, directed reading, workshops, seminars, and practical and project work.

Most modules also include site visits and/or fieldwork, which provide you with direct experience of the practical application of conservation principles.

Watch a video about the MSc Historic Conservation filmed at our virtual open day.

Approach to assessment

Assessment is 100% coursework based.

Additional costs

Associated with the course, but running outside of normal teaching hours, are a number of extra-curricular field trips and practical workshops. These are optional, and those attending will need to pay a supplementary fee to cover costs. This will be in the region of £100 for the October residential field trip (Semester 1, Week 5), and a further £200 for the full programme of technical training days associated with the Building Construction and Repair module (Wednesdays in Semester 2). Exact dates for these events will be confirmed in advance.

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £7,630 (Masters) £6,100 (Diploma) £3,110 (Certificate) 2020/21: £8,500 (Masters) £7,500 (Diploma) £4,250 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £3,890 2020/21: £4,250

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,000 2020/21: £14,700

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by up to 4% each year.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

The course is open to applicants who hold a 2.1 undergraduate honours degree (or international equivalent).
Students come from a variety of backgrounds. Thus, applications are welcome from any academic discipline which can be applied to Historic Conservation - as well as those seeking ongoing professional development.
We will actively consider applications from candidates with lower degrees, who can effectively portray suitable credentials, and usually have an appropriate professional background.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you will require a minimum academic IELTS score of 6.5 overall with 6.0 in all components.


An equivalent English language qualification acceptable to the University.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

There is no formal application deadline (recruitment closes when teaching capacity is reached). However, we advise applying in good advance to secure places, and allow sufficient time for applications to be reviewed. 
Applicants should also factor any time needed to meet offer conditions, arrange accommodation, and obtain a UK Tier 4 visa (if applicable).

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.


The course provides an excellent grounding for those wishing to pursue a career in the conservation sector. Our tutors have wide experience in the field, and the broad variety of visiting speakers from national and local government, private practice, the voluntary sector, the law and academia add greatly to this range. We have excellent links with heritage organisations across the country, giving you opportunities for placements and other work experience. Graduates have gone on to work in many different roles across the sector, including:
  • central government bodies, eg English Heritage and Historic England
  • local government roles, eg conservation and design officer
  • charitable organisations, eg the National Trust and the Landmark Trust
  • campaign groups, eg Victorian Society and SAVE Britain's Heritage
  • private consultancies, eg CgMs and Alan Baxter & Associates.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.