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Conservation of the Historic Environment - MA / PgCert / PgDip

Currently viewing course to start in 2023/24 Entry.

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....

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Part Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School Birmingham School of Architecture and Design
  • Faculty Faculty of Arts, Design and Media


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.
  • Two-thirds of the impact of our research was judged to be very considerable (3*) or outstanding (4*) - REF2021

Studying with us during the Covid-19 pandemic

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Should the impact of the pandemic continue in future years, any additional or alternative arrangements put in place by the University will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.


Join us for an on-campus open day where you'll be able to explore our campus and facilities in person. Booking for the next event isn’t open yet. Register your interest below and we’ll email you as soon as booking goes live.

Next Event: Saturday 24 June

Register Your Interest

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.

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • £1028 per 20 credits
  • Year 1 - 60 credits
  • Year 2 - 120 credits

Fees for Part-time students

This course can be studied on a Part-time study basis. The cost per year of study is based on credit requirements for that year.

Award: PgCert

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • £1028 per 20 credits
  • Year 1 - 60 credits

Fees for Part-time students

This course can be studied on a Part-time study basis. The cost per year of study is based on credit requirements for that year.

Award: PgDip

Starting: Sep 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • £1028 per 20 credits
  • Year 1 - 60 credits
  • Year 2 - 60 credits

Fees for Part-time students

This course can be studied on a Part-time study basis. The cost per year of study is based on credit requirements for that 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.

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.


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.

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


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


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


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

Short courses

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 (short courses).

Book your place

Your skills-based workshops will include:

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.


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.

Facilities & 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...

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

Anna Keay

Visiting Professor

Anna Keay is a writer, historian and curator, with a special interest in 17th-century British history. Anna became Director of Landmark at the Landmark Trust in July 2012, following two years as a Trustee. Born in the West Highlands of Scotland, Anna was educated at Oban High School in Argyll and Bedales in Hampshire and read history at Magdalen...

More about Anna