Conservation of the Historic Environment - MA / PgCert / PgDip

Part Time
September 2016, September 2017
£3,750 per annum for UK/EU Part Time 2016 entry (view all fees)

Our Conservation of the Historic Environment postgraduate degree course gives you the skills you need to become a professional within the specialist field of historic building conservation. It provides you with the knowledge needed to preserve the rich heritage of our built environment, in an industry with increasing demand for professionals dealing with building refurbishments.

The course is led by Harriet Devlin who received an MBE for services to heritage and the environment in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. You'll benefit from her conservation practice expertise and connections.

New for 2017/18

Conservation of the Historic Environment

If you’re looking to start this course in 2017, it's important to know that the content and structure are undergoing a substantial review and are likely to be different to what is outlined here. We’ll publish more detailed information about the changes over the next few months. If you’re starting in 2016, the course content/structure won’t be affected by the review.

Sign up for course updatesMore about our new curriculum

What's covered in the course?

There is a growing interest in conserving historic buildings for their own sake to preserve our rich heritage. Our course gives you the skills to become a professional within the specialist field of historic building conservation, such as a conservation surveyor or conservation architect.

The emphasis of the course is very much on practical learning – from metal repair techniques to plastering using lime and bricklaying.

You’ll work on case studies at stunning locations including National Trust and private properties and benefit from demonstrations and talks by experts with specialist skills.

Our outstanding links with key organisations such as the Institute for Historic Building Conservation will give you opportunities and contacts for professional networking.

You will learn how to ensure renovations meet sustainable energy targets in line with government policies and understand important appropriate conservation techniques for specifying or writing tenders for building refurbishments..

Our part-time, flexible study means you can develop your skills while you work. Sessions are held on Fridays and Saturdays, or you can study one module a time at your own pace for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

You’ll be based in our multi-million pound City Centre Campus Parkside Building with access to industry standard facilities.

Why Choose Us?

  • Our close links with organisations such as the Institute for Historic Building Conservation, Historic England and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings will help you make vital connections and increase your professional understanding.
  • The course contributes to becoming a Member of the Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (AABC), the Institute for Historic Building Conservation and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (conservation).
  • You’ll receive outstanding support from internationally-renowned staff whose experience, knowledge and connections helps you develop your skills and career opportunities.
  • Birmingham School of Architecture and Design is highly respected and has a rich history of providing education and opportunities. It celebrated its centenary in 2009.
  • One of the outstanding elements of this course is the use of over 100 specialist lecturers from all aspects of conservation. Conservation architects and surveyors, staff from the Heritage Lottery Fund, skilled craftsmen and women, project managers – all come to give presentations based on current projects keeping your knowledge current and up to date.
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Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Postgraduate Open Day will be on Wednesday 23 November, between 2pm and 7pm. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

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This course is not open to International students
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New £10,000 postgraduate loans

You may be able to take advantage of the government’s plans to make loans of up to £10,000 available for postgraduate study.

More about postgraduate loans

This course is accredited by:

Institute for Historic Building Conservation

Entry Requirements

UK students

Candidates require a good honours degree (2.1) and preferably one or more year’s experience which may include voluntary work.

Entry at Diploma Level may be considered with those with a skills background eg Bricklayer – City and Guilds, or NVQs.

Candidates who wish to transfer with existing credits from other institutions must contact the Academic Director in the first instance to see whether these are transferable and acceptable against part of the Conservation of the Historic Environment degree.

Other notes

If you do not fulfil the entry requirements for a Masters programme, you may register for a Postgraduate Diploma initially.

Based on your tutor's recommendation and if you meet the required assessment standards (marks averaging 50 per cent in all modules and with no marks lower than 40 per cent), you may then be permitted to transfer up to the Masters programme on the recommendation of the Programme Director.

Please be aware there will be an upgrade fee equivalent to 60 credits.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 PT 2 years £3,750 per annum
Sep 2017 PT 2 years TBC
PgCert / PgDip Sep 2016 PT 2 years £2,500 per annum
Sep 2017 PT 2 years TBC

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

International Students

Sorry, this course is not available to international students.

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on specific courses. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Find additional costs for your course

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

This course is available part-time

On receipt of your application form, your application will be considered and you may be called for interview. After interview, if you are considered suitable for the course you will receive an offer of a place.

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our pdf application form instead.

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


The course runs between September and July each year. Core modules cover basic concepts in conservation and key skills in conservation.

You’ll be taught in blocks on Fridays and Saturdays to fit around work commitments. You’ll study two core modules that offer background knowledge in historic environments and conservation practice, looking at legislation, conservation concepts and management plans, as well as finance and sustainability. There will also be 10 practical, skills-based workshops.

Download course dates 2016-18

Your skills-based workshops will include:
The use of lime in historic buildings

All buildings constructed before the mid nineteenth century would have used lime for mortar, render, plaster and limewash. Lime allows buildings to ‘breathe’, but it is sometimes tricky to use and takes longer to apply, dry and finish than modern cements. If you live, work or own an old property using cement for repairs will damage the fabric of the building so this is your chance to understand the lime cycle and enjoy practical hands on sessions pointing and plastering using lime. This course takes place at Llanymynech Limeworks in North Shropshire.

The conservation and repair of stone

If you work in a stone building this two-day course will help you understand why and how stone decays and the appropriate repair or conservation techniques. Demonstrations from a stone mason will complement lectures from architectural conservation staff.

Twentieth Century materials

A number of experts will excite you with the variety of twentieth-century buildings and the materials. Concrete repairs will be covered in detail. There will also be case studies on successful conservation projects.

Ceramic building materials

Bricks, terracotta, faience and tiles – all of these form part of many historic buildings. Do you know how they are made, how they decay and how to repair, replace or conserve them? This hands-on course will include a trip to the newly refurbished Jackfield Tile Museum.

Ferrous and non-ferrous metals in construction

This workshop looks at the historical background of ferrous and non ferrous metals, their methods of production, the reasons for decay and the appropriate conservation techniques for lead, wrought and cast iron. Students will get a feel for iron repair by trying their hand at blacksmithing.

Structural and non-structural timber

Nearly all historic properties will have wood in them - whether as windows, joists, floors or doors. Some buildings are also structurally made from wood with timber frames. The first day of this course will deal with the conservation of non structural timber in buildings – using Treasures Workshop in Ludlow. The second day will deal with the history of and problems with timber framed buildings. Current repair techniques will be demonstrated using local experts.

An introduction to landed estates, parks and gardens

You’ll study how a traditional landed estate used to be managed and how it manages to make it’s way in the 21st century. Are there compromises to be made over re-using farm buildings? If the estate contains listed buildings, scheduled monuments and a registered park or garden, how are funding targets met? The course will be held at a privately owned estate near Shrewsbury. The second day looks at the history and management of historic parks and gardens.

Building recording

This two-day practical course in recording techniques for standing buildings is ideal for those commissioning work – to enable you to read and understand plans, and for those wishing to understand their building.

The conservation of historic interiors

Using Wightwick Manor as a case study the day will progress to how the National Trust conservators identify the agents of deterioration within the mansion and deal with both preventative and remedial conservation. The second day will look at the dating of interiors through studies of textiles, and fixtures and fittings. 

Canal history, heritage and issues

This course emphasises the canal heritage of the West Midlands and looks at planning, conservation and sustainability. It involves site visits, a canal trip with staff from the Canals and Rivers Trust and a session on the conservation of canal vessels.

For the Masters, you'll work towards a final dissertation covering an area you choose.

If you prefer, it is possible for you to just attend the individual workshops on this course for CPD. Each session costs £200 per person.

This course is accredited by the following organisation:

Institute for Historic Building Conservation
Institute for Historic Building Conservation

This course is accredited by the Institute for Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the mark of the conservation professional.

The Institute exists to establish, develop and maintain the highest standards of conservation practice, to support the effective protection and enhancement of the historic environment, and to promote heritage-led regeneration and access to the historic environment for all.

Further Study

Students may wish to further their studies and research with a PhD through Birmingham School of Architecture and Design.

Trips and visits

You’ll have the chance to visit a wealth of historic buildings and will take field trips to enhance your skills and give your studies context. As well as visits to National Trust properties, you’ll visit Jackfield Tile Museum and properties in the Jewellery Quarter, Bournville, Digbeth and Ludlow.

Enhancing your employability skills

You’ll understand the complex issues and legislation surrounding the conservation of historic buildings and have the skills to deal with these.

Our course gives you an understanding of the intricacies of conservation and the suitability of different materials and techniques to carry out work successfully and sympathetically.

Your specialist skills will be highly valued by employers in the industry and will help you develop your career.

You may also have the chance to gain recognition through awards from the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (Gus Astley Award) and the Milepost Society Award.

Studying for a dissertation shows commitment, in-depth specialist knowledge and research skills which will be valued by employers.

You’ll develop a range of transferable skills, such as how to communicate ideas and solve problems, as well as developing planning skills.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate jobs

This professional course is very much focused at upskilling students. Our graduates develop the skills to enable them to gain promotion within industry. You may develop your career as a conservation officer, conservation architect or heritage skilled building contractor.

Parkside - City Centre Campus
Parkside - Milo Studio
Parkside - Photography Studio
Parkside - Milo Studio

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

Much of your time will be spent on historic sites but you’ll have a base in the multi-million pound Parkside building – part of our City Centre Campus – with technology and facilities that reflect advanced professional practice. We offer industry standard facilities.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • Extensive library
  • Design studios
  • Computer and project laboratories
  • Social learning space
  • Café
  • Meeting point
  • Gallery.

Harriet Devlin MBE

Course Director - Conservation of the Historic Environment

Harriet Devlin MBE has worked to preserve a number of historic buildings, including Hermon Chapel in Oswestry, raising £250,000 to fund its restoration. She won the Europa International Nostra Award for a Mourne Homesteads scheme to renovate cottages in Ireland.

Formerly a museum consultant, she also worked freelance on the Heritage Lottery Fund Townscape Heritage Initiative. She is a member of a number of professional institutions, societies and committees, including the Institute for Historic Building Conservation, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Shropshire Parks and Gardens Society. She has published several articles and books, including Traditional buildings of Mourne- pointers for survival, and was awarded the MBE for services to heritage and the historic environment.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295