Conservation of the Historic Environment - MA / PgCert / PgDip

MA - Part Time
PgCert - Part Time
PgDip - Part Time
September 2019
£4,050 per year for UK/EU Part Time 2019 entry (view all fees)

This Conservation of the Historic Environment course will help you obtain key knowledge in the conservation of buildings and the historic environment with practical skills-based workshops and lectures.

Our alumni find employment as conservation officers, and can apply via their professional body to become accredited conservation architects, engineers and surveyors, as well as skilled conservation contractors.  

The programme is recognised as having the biggest cohort in the country (Conservation Course Directors Forum 2016). Accredited by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), if you need to understand a building or landscape in order to apply appropriate conservation techniques managing change in the historic environment, this course is for you.

What's covered in the course?

Through introducing a range of different skillsets and disciplines, our course gives you the skills to become a professional within the field of historic building conservation.

The foundations of conservation are introduced through firstly establishing the basic concepts, understanding philosophical, legal and historical aspects of British buildings.

You will experience an emphasis on practical learning within the course as you choose from a series of workshops surrounding building materials. Explore and acquire a range of specialist industry skills in areas such as metal and timber, ceramic building materials and the use of lime in historic buildings.  

As well as instilling the fundamental skills needed to be a professional in the field of conservation, the course also prides itself on producing professionals that are able to manage and lead a project from visualisation and design, through to implementation. The second year provides insights into the realities of a project, such as ensuring sustainability and financial viability, encouraging forward thinking professionals that are able to see a project through to completion.

The second year also focuses on building elements and the historic environment, including working in a range of environments from historic interiors, parks and gardens to exploring the heritage of canals.

A dissertation at the end of the second year culminates all of the knowledge, perspectives and practical skills that you have developed whilst on the course, and provides the opportunity to specialise in an area of conservation that you have found most stimulating.

Why Choose Us?

  • Friday - Saturday delivery provides flexibility for students in employment.
  • Choice of practical workshops allows understanding of historic building materials.
  • High calibre and varied specialist lecturers.
  • Site visits to venues such as Llanymynech, Limeworks and Ironbridge.
  • Development of a professional network of peers and experts.
  • Embedding practical knowledge and experience.
Talk to the Course Director

If you would like to ask any questions about the course, study routes or individual modules, you are welcome to email the Course Director on . Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Our next Open Day for this course will take place in 2019. Register your interest and we'll send an email update nearer the time. Visit us to see our facilities and speak to our staff and students.

Book your place

This course is not open to International students
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Study via CPD

Modules from this course can be studied via continuing professional development. Keep up-to-date with new skills and choose modules to meet your area of interest.

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Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Course Director: Katriona Byrne.

Email Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

Course Accreditations

This course is accredited by:

Institute for Historic Building Conservation

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements

Candidates require a good honours degree (2.1) plus some built environment experience or practical construction experience in heritage and conservation.

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 Certificate/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.

International Students

Don't meet our entry requirements? You could apply for courses at our International College.

Apply now

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 PT 2 years £4,050 per year
PgCert Sep 2019 PT 1 year £2,700 per year
PgDip Sep 2019 PT 2 years £2,700 per year

International Students

Sorry, this course is not available to international students.

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. Fees for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

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

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements


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 your course. 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.

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

View additional costs for this course

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.

What’s included in your course fees?

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 October 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 2017-19

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.

Year 1 (PgCert)

Basic Conservation Concepts
40 credits

This module provides the basis of the course, introducing the fundamental concepts within conservation. You will explore a range of core aspects to the programme, including conservation philosophy, conservation law and conservation plans. This will provide the foundational knowledge needed as you progress towards modules later on in the course. The assessment for this module is a 6,000 word essay.  

Conservation of Historic Materials
20 credits

This module presents a choice of six practically based workshops surrounding building materials, which include the use of lime in historic buildings; the decay and remediation of stone, metal and timber; ceramic building materials; and finally 20th century buildings. You will be assessed within the module through producing a portfolio of short 2,000 word reports, three of which are delivered for formative assessment, and two delivered for summative assessment.

Year 2 (PgDip)

Project Design and Management
40 credits

You will explore fundamental issues relating to sustainability and adaptation, as well as financing conservation projects. This is assessed through a 4,000 word assignment and a group project. Both are equally weighted at 50 per cent each.

Building Elements and the Historic Environment
20 credits

Here you will be presented with a choice from four practically based workshops providing hands-on skills within a range of environments. The workshops include building recording; historic interiors; estates, parks and gardens; and canal heritage. You will produce a portfolio based on two of the workshops listed with a 2,000 word report for each.

Year 2 (MA)

It is possible to exit after PgCert and PgDip levels before you reach the Major Project.  

Major Project (Dissertation)
60 credits

The dissertation provides the opportunity for you to specialise and enhance the academic research in one particular area of the programme that you find particularly stimulating.

The programme encourages a diverse learning environment, encapsulating site visits to live projects, case studies at stunning locations including National Trust, hands on practical workshops as well as class room based presentations and group work. Assessment is based on case studies and relevant industry templates.

You will be exposed to a broad spectrum of knowledge from experts in the field, with over 100 specialist lecturers and practitioners delivering the programme. You will be based both at the University’s multi-million pound City Centre Campus with access to industry standard facilities, as well as in a variety of locations in the West Midlands.

Students are often mid-career professionals or contractors wanting to upskill their knowledge of historic construction and environment.

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). Each session costs £200 per person.

Number of hours in the classroom per week

  • 12 - 14 hours over Friday - Saturday once a month.

Teaching breakdown

25% Lectures steelblue
5% Seminars darkred
70% Independent study darkorange

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. Graduates from this course usually progress to enhanced positions within the historic environment.

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.


Site visits are a part of the modules taught on the programme, as well as visits to National Trust properties, practical workshop modules are held at varying locations in Shropshire, such as the Ironbridge Gorge Museums and Worcestershire as well as at City Centre Campus.


Students find the workshops most useful for their careers in understanding the performance, mechanisms of decay and palette of remedial measures for traditional building materials.

Student work

Graduates have submitted work for the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) Gus Astley Award for conservation based research. Katherine Kemp, a previous student on this course won the prestigious Terry Keegan Award from the Milestone Society for exceptional work on stone or metal conservation. Find out more.

Enhancing your employability skills

Many past graduates have been commended by their employers by their knowledge of traditional materials, particularly lime. There are three main ways this programme enhances employability skills:

  • Delivery by specialists in conservation, this programme give the students a unique opportunity to network within the profession.
  • The practical workshops give students the knowledge and understanding of traditional building materials, and an ability to specify correct remedial measures.
  • The assessments are all based on industry templates – such as the Conservation Plan or a report on timber defects, or an assessment of sources of funding for a building conservation project.

These skills will enhance graduate employability and are intrinsic to professional membership of the IHBC.

Graduate jobs


This professional course is focused on upskilling students. Our graduates develop the skills to enable them to gain employment or promotion within industry. Graduates from this programme have gained employment as conservation officers, consultants, conservation architects or specialist conservation contractors at a number of important providers in the conservation sector including:

  1. Atkins
  2. Birmingham City Council
  3. Heritage Lottery Fund
  4. Historic England
  5. SAVE Britain’s Heritage



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.

Links to industry

Students have a unique opportunity for creating a professional network through the number of external specialist lecturers that deliver the programme. They will meet over 100 specialist contractors and consultants during the two years and make very useful contacts.

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

Some of the practical workshops take place at a number of different locations in the West Midlands, such as Llanymynech Limeworks where tools, materials and equipment for lime work are provided.

The Conservation of the Historic Environment programme draws on a large number of industry specialists to deliver information on best practice. In addition, staff from Birmingham School of Architecture and Design and from the School of Engineering and the Built Environment deliver lectures.

Tim Ratcliffe

Lime Course Tutor

Tim Ratcliffe is a Conservation Architect and a former Society for the Protection of Ancient Building Lethaby Scholar. He works a great deal with the Churches Conservation Trust and is currently the tutor on the Lime course, being one of the original proponents of the Lime revival. 

Tim Lewis

Visiting Lecturer/ Tutor

Tim Lewis is a visiting lecturer, tutor and moderator for the Conservation of the Historic Environment students. He has more than fifteen years of senior management experience, with a proven track record of success working extensively within the public, not for profit and education sectors. Tim is passionately committed to utilising management, commercial and conservation skills and experience to promote and deliver sustainable solutions for the heritage sector. He is also currently enrolled as a PhD student at Birmingham City University.