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Conservation of the Historic Environment - MA / PgCert / PgDip

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....

Studying with us in 2021/22 and 2022/23

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses.  Information about the arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year can be found here.  

 

Should the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continue in the 2022/23 academic year or subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Part Time
  • Location City Centre
  • Award MA / PgCert / PgDip
  • Start date September 2022
  • School Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media

Overview

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.

It is based on the modern campus of Parkside in Birmingham where new meets old, with access to historic campus buildings such as the wonderful School of Art, the first municipal College of Art in the country, and the School of Jewellery in the world-renowned Jewellery Quarter.

This course is not open to International students.

What's covered in this 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. During a series of site visits, such as to the conservation areas of Digbeth, the Jewellery Quarter and Bournville, this learning is applied to the real environment.

You will experience an emphasis on practical learning within the course as you attend a series of workshops focussing on building materials. You will explore and acquire a range of specialist industry skills in areas such as the use of lime, stone, timber, ceramic building materials, ferrous and non-ferrous metals and twentieth-century design.

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. There is a particular emphasis on climate literacy.

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. Traditional and advanced techniques of recording buildings including laser scanning and photogrammetry are taught. The course has its own thermal cameras which students are encouraged to experiment with.

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.

Accredited By

This course is accredited by:

  • Institute for Historic Building Conservation

Why Choose Us?

  • 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.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements
Essential

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.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Part Time
  • 2 years
  • TBC

Award: PgCert

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Part Time
  • 1 year
  • TBC

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Part Time
  • 2 years
  • TBC

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.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key software

You will be able to download SPSS and Nvivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.

Clothing and safety equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of safety equipment in order to use the workshop facilities, including your own PPE for site visits including steel-toe capped shoes/boots, a hard hat, a high-vis jacket and fabric gloves.

Specialist equipment (mandatory)

This course requires the purchase of specialist equipment.

Entry fees (mandatory)

You will need to cover the costs for your museum entry fees (approximately £12).

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Placement expenses (optional)

If you choose to undertake a placement, you'll need to budget for accommodation and any travel costs you may incur whilst living or working away from home.

Field trips (optional)

This course includes the option of additional trips that may enhance your experience, at extra cost.

Subscriptions (optional)

You may wish to purchase subscriptions to additional journals and websites.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

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.

Course in Depth

Workshops

Core modules cover basic concepts and key skills in conservation.

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 practical, skills-based workshops.

Book your place

Your skills-based workshops will include:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

PgCert

In order to complete the PgCert you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 60 credits):

This module is designed to develop the essential skills and knowledge required to understand basic concepts of conservation of the historic environment. Within the module key concepts will be covered such as the philosophy and ethics that underpin all conservation decisions, the legislation that affects the historic environment, the definition of ‘significance’ relating to conservation, and a broad understanding of the British buildings – materials and forms. All of these will relate back to the primary question ‘What constitutes the Historic Environment and why does it matter?’

The conservation of historic materials workshops aim to give each student a practical experience of a number of materials and techniques (including site visits) which are an essential part of conservation work. They offer opportunities to work with various materials and situations and understand the way they were utilised in different periods of history.

PgDip

In order to complete the PgDip you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 120 credits):

This module is designed to develop the essential skills and knowledge required to understand basic concepts of conservation of the historic environment. Within the module key concepts will be covered such as the philosophy and ethics that underpin all conservation decisions, the legislation that affects the historic environment, the definition of ‘significance’ relating to conservation, and a broad understanding of the British buildings – materials and forms. All of these will relate back to the primary question ‘What constitutes the Historic Environment and why does it matter?’

The conservation of historic materials workshops aim to give each student a practical experience of a number of materials and techniques (including site visits) which are an essential part of conservation work. They offer opportunities to work with various materials and situations and understand the way they were utilised in different periods of history.

Those involved with the management of our heritage work with a finite resource which they must manage appropriately to ensure its long-term survival. This module is designed to develop your understanding of constructive conservation - from the identification of building defects and the palette of remediation techniques, through accessing funding, knowledge of contemporary issues of energy efficiency, ideas of localism in relation to the historic built environment as well as approaches to sustainable heritage management.

The building elements and the historic environment module aims to give you a practical experience of a number techniques (including site visits) which are an essential part of conservation work.

MA

In order to complete the MA you must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 180 credits):

This module is designed to develop the essential skills and knowledge required to understand basic concepts of conservation of the historic environment. Within the module key concepts will be covered such as the philosophy and ethics that underpin all conservation decisions, the legislation that affects the historic environment, the definition of ‘significance’ relating to conservation, and a broad understanding of the British buildings – materials and forms. All of these will relate back to the primary question ‘What constitutes the Historic Environment and why does it matter?’

The conservation of historic materials workshops aim to give each student a practical experience of a number of materials and techniques (including site visits) which are an essential part of conservation work. They offer opportunities to work with various materials and situations and understand the way they were utilised in different periods of history.

Those involved with the management of our heritage work with a finite resource which they must manage appropriately to ensure its long-term survival. This module is designed to develop your understanding of constructive conservation - from the identification of building defects and the palette of remediation techniques, through accessing funding, knowledge of contemporary issues of energy efficiency, ideas of localism in relation to the historic built environment as well as approaches to sustainable heritage management.

The building elements and the historic environment module aims to give you a practical experience of a number techniques (including site visits) which are an essential part of conservation work.

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and theoretically informed research project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. It is important that we can support you appropriately, so you will be guided towards choosing a research topic which is relevant to your discipline and in which your lecturers have expertise. The outcome may take the form of a written dissertation or a practical outcome with accompanying reflective, critical and contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be relevant to your programme and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.

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.

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.

Employability

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

 


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.

OpportUNIty

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.

Facilities and Staff

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.

Our staff

Katriona Byrne

Course Director MA Conservation of the Historic Environment

Katriona's BA in History of Art led her to work on the Pevsner Architectural Guide for Dublin and on the National Inventory of Ireland. The Historic Heart of Dublin European project led to a postgraduate Diploma in Architectural Inventorying and Recording. Katriona then worked for about 10 years as a local authority Conservation Officer in Ireland gaining a Masters in Conservation during this time.

She managed grants budgets, large and small, for conservation projects and engaged with planning of the historic environment, both in terms of policy and development control. This was interspersed with private practice as a Heritage Consultant where she supervised conservation works to traditional farm buildings amongst others, undertook research projects, wrote books and training material, delivered industry and community training, and lectured on some of her favourite topics, including vitrolite, historic ironwork, lime, graveyards and energy efficiency.

Katriona then spent five years with English Heritage/ Historic England in the West Midlands region as an Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas. She took over the direction of the conservation courses in Birmingham City University in August 2018. In her spare time she volunteer with the Twentieth Century Society, leading tours around Birmingham and towns in Worcestershire.

More about Katriona

Hannah Vowles

Deputy Head of School and Associate Professor

Studied architecture at Kingston and the Architectural Association. Worked in architectural practice for 10 years, public and private sector. Founded art practice / project Art in Ruins with Glyn Banks – exhibitions, published critical writing, curating, teaching. Founding Chair of association of architectural educators. 

More about Hannah