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 Our course includes a number of field trips and other activities, mostly run outside of normal teaching hours. These are optional for part-time students, but those attending will need to pay additional fees to cover costs - in the region of £80-100 for each of the two residential field trips, plus a block payment of approximately £200 for the programme of technical training days.
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