MA in Conservation Studies
in the built heritage

Course Director: Dr Gill Chitty

At a glance

Training for careers in heritage conservation

Why choose this course?

If you’re interested in a career in heritage or historic building conservation, the Conservation Studies course at York gives you the theoretical knowledge and practical application of experience you will need for a professional role in the sector. Established in 1972, the course was the first of its kind in the UK, and has developed an international reputation for producing highly skilled and knowledgeable conservation practitioners.

  • Develop a critical understanding of new and evolving practice in heritage conservation.
  • Learn practical skills alongside experienced professional practitioners
  • Build relationships with conservation specialists and research organisations locally, nationally and internationally.  
  • Develop careers-focused knowledge, experience and contacts.
  • Study in the heritage capital of Britain – be part of conservation in action.
  • Access state-of-the-art facilities, including laboratories, archives and libraries.
  • Choose to study full-time over one year or part-time over two or three years.

York is one of the best places to study Archaeology, Heritage or Conservation. The Department has an excellent reputation and is one of the largest Archaeology teaching centres in the UK. The historic City of York is rich in architectural and archaeological treasures and resources which you will have easy access to during your studies.

The University also validates the MScs in Building Conservation and Timber Building Conservation at the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in Sussex, more details from the Weald & Downland Museum webpage.

To find out more about postgraduate study at York see: Why study post-graduate Archaeology in York?

What does the course at York cover?

The core of the MA in Conservation Studies covers the history and philosophy of historic environment conservation, and provides a critical understanding of contemporary issues in building conservation practice. Theoretical elements of the course are complemented by a wide choice of short ‘skills modules’, which focus on developing your knowledge of the specialist skills that are an essential part of professional practice.  

By choosing a specific set of accredited modules, you can gain the more specialised MA in Conservations Studies (Historic Buildings), which is recognised by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC). As such, it offers a bespoke route for UK practitioners working towards full professional membership of the IHBC. 

Who is it for?

This course attracts a vibrant mix of UK and international students. These include graduates in architecture, archaeology, history of art, architectural history, and related subjects, as well as experienced conservation practitioners from multi-disciplinary backgrounds, including architects, surveyors planners, conservators and practising craftsmen in various fields. We welcome the diversity of our students’ backgrounds.

What can it lead to?

The course focuses on the knowledge and skills required for a wide range of careers in heritage conservation and related fields. Recent students have gone on to employment with organisations ranging from the National Trust, Historic England, English Heritage and ICCROM to building preservation trusts, local authority services, heritage consultancies and conservation practices. Find out what our alumni have to say about the course.

Former MA students have said...

“My studies at York opened many doors for me, introduced me to wonderful lecturers, a dynamic student body and lifelong friends. Where better to study Conservation Studies than in the historic King’s Manor campus at the foot of York Minster?”

Heather Dowling, Martello Media, Dublin

“The option to study part-time suited me very well and allowed me to combine my professional commitments with the course modules.”

Richard Mathers, Design Director, Qualia Creative Ltd

“The healthy mix of practice and theory makes the MA an excellent foundation for a career in conservation; it’s stretching, exciting, and the wealth of other modules allows you to tailor the course to your experience and interests.”

Nigel Walter , Director, Archangel Architects

Content

Professional skills training, hands-on experience, targeted teaching

This MA course is taught in a combination of lectures, workshops and tutorials. You will study two core modules and two optional modules of your choice, alongside four shorter skills modules. You will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation. Alongside the taught programme, you also have the option to gain valuable experience in a student placement in the professional conservation sector.

Students wishing to study for the IHBC-accredited programme should see details for the  MA in Conservations Studies (Historic Buildings .

AUTUMN AND SPRING TERMS

During the autumn and spring terms, you will study two core modules, each worth 20 credits. These are:

Approaches to conservation *

Discover the key concepts and approaches involved in conserving the built heritage, and the ethics and philosophies that underlie them. Understand how these principles are applied in practice, and how the concept of cultural heritage and its conservation has evolved. Develop your research, analytical and presentation skills.

Issues in cultural heritage conservation *

Explore a range of contemporary issues in national and international cultural heritage conservation, and examine the policies, strategies and practices used to address those issues. Appreciate contemporary conservation issues in relation to regeneration, redevelopment and reconstruction projects.

You will study two further 20-credit modules and four shorter 'skills' modules. 

We always try to give everyone their first choice of modules, although this cannot be guaranteed. Some skills modules required by particular programmes may be over-subscribed. Take a look at the full modules list for scheduling information, as some modules run concurrently.                                                 

Conservation Studies placement

Alongside the taught course, at the end of your second term you will have the option of gaining experience in a student placement with a professional conservation organisation.

SUMMER TERM

In your final term of study, you will carry out research for your dissertation and give an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. 

 

Former MA students have said...

“With the experienced, friendly and ever-supportive faculty, it was a real delight to be part of the department at York. The flexibility, independent learning and freedom of thought and expression helped me to hone my research and writing skills.”

Sridevi Changali, co-founder of Masons Inc, Pondicherry, India

 

Placement

Practical experience with conservation professionals

A student placement gives you a chance to broaden your personal experience of the professional heritage-conservation sector. The placement will draw on and develop the knowledge and experience gained on your taught courses, while enabling you to develop new skills in conservation and heritage management, to enhance your employability and confidence in practice.

See one of the student placement blogs online here.

Aims

  • To provide students with experience of conservation within a professional environment.
  • To consolidate students’ knowledge and understanding of conservation procedures and issues from one or more of the taught modules.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing the placement you should:

  • have gained knowledge and skills in evaluating historic buildings and environments, and a good understanding of what is involved in advising on conservation projects.
  • have an understanding of the practical applications of conservation principles and ethics.
  • Be able to critically reflect on the issues raised in the core conservation modules through your work experience.

 

Former MA students have said...

“I had the opportunity to do conservation work at York Minster, which gave me a broader perspective from the point of view of technicians, stonemasons and conservationists.”

Aya Miyazaki, Research Fellow, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

 

Staff

Guidance and insight from conservation specialists

Taught by highly experienced and respected heritage-conservation specialists, the course has been developed and honed by skilled practitioners over the past 40 years. It is led by Dr Gill Chitty, formerly Head of Conservation at the Council for British Archaeology. The following staff provide teaching and support for this course:

Dr Gill Chitty

Director of Centre for Conservation Studies. Gill’s research interests include the evolution of heritage protection policy and its interaction with environmental conservation and sustainability policies. Gill was appointed to York in 2011, following a career that included roles with English Heritage, local authorities, the Council for British Archaeology (where she was Director of Conservation) and in consultancy.

Dr Kate Giles

Senior Lecturer and York Minster Archaeology Research Fellow. Kate is a buildings archaeologist, specialising in the recording and theoretical interpretation of historic buildings.

Dr Jane Grenville

Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Senior Lecturer. Jane’s interests are wide ranging, but focus particularly on buildings of the medieval period and archaeological contributions to the conservation process.

Dr Louise Cooke

Associate Lecture in Conservation. Louise is a heritage conservation expert with interests in vernacular buildings, climate change, sustainability, earth building materials and landscape conservation approaches. 

Dr John Schofield

Head of Department of Archaeology and Director of the Cultural Heritage Management MA programme. Prior to his appointment in 2010, John worked for English Heritage for 21 years, in heritage protection and landscape characterisation.

Professor Jukka Jokilehto

Visiting Professor in International Heritage Conservation and Special Advisor to the Director General of ICCROM. Jukka’s work for the World Heritage Committee and the ICOMOS International Training Committee has engaged him in international missions researching cultural heritage around the world.

 

“The course had a fantastic variety of permanent and guest lecturers, all of whom had valuable insights into various aspects of working in conservation.”

Florence Pye, Built Heritage Intern, Argyll and Bute Council

“I enjoy being associated with the Conservation Studies course because I am encouraged to develop my own professional and research interests for teaching. My background in local authority heritage protection brings a strong vocational element to the course, but with a dynamism that reflects current and forthcoming research in the sector. I think this balance prepares students effectively for a range of careers in research, policy and practical conservation.” 

Sophie Norton, Hamlyn Feilden Fellow

Careers

Step up to a career in conservation

The MA in Conservation Studies has a strong focus on enhancing employability and professional development  with a valuable combination of practical skills and theoretical understanding. By the end of the course you will have:

  • enhanced your skills and knowledge, improving your chances of employment as a heritage-conservation practitioner.
  • developed intellectually and personally through direct engagement with conservation professionals and specialists.
  • developed the ability to work in a team through group working and placement experiences, and independently through research for your dissertation
  • received guidance on career opportunities in the conservation sector and the key networks for employment
  • worked alongside our Regional Heritage Skills Coordinator with the National Heritage Training Academy

Course postgraduates have gone on to careers in heritage conservation roles across the UK, for organisations including:

  • English Heritage
  • Historic Scotland
  • INTACH (Indian National Trust)
  • The National Trust
  • Building Preservation Trusts
  • Local authority conservation services in England and Scotland
  • National Parks
  • The Council for British Archaeology
  • Architectural practices and heritage consultancies
  • Traditional building conservation craft businesses

Others have used the skills gained to pursue careers in other sectors, including:

  • Chartered surveying
  • Planning
  • Business and administration
  • Education
  • International affairs
  • Research

Find out what some of our alumni have said about the course and how it improved their career prospects.

Former MA students have said...

“The MA course really helped me secure my current role, due to the confidence and transferrable skills I gained. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in the historic built environment as well as wider property careers.” 

Danielle Corker, trainee Chartered Surveyor, Savills

Alumni

Where next? A word from our alumni

Alumni of the MA in Conservation Studies have gone on to take up varied careers across the heritage conservation and related sectors, using the skills and knowledge gained during their studies at York.

Here’s what some of them had to say about the course:

Eva-Maria Aitsam (CS 2014), Architectural Heritage Assistant, Ettwein Bridges Architects‌

Eva-Maria Aitsam

 "Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) postgraduate programme at the University of York was a perfect choice for me as it helped to deepen my knowledge about architectural conservation as well as prompted me to think more critically about the decision-making process in the heritage sector. This is an invaluable skill that I developed during my year long study at the University of York and that I now apply in my day to day job as a heritage consultant. Also, the placement module offered as part of the programme helped me to gain an invaluable insight into the everyday life of architectural conservation and broadened my understanding of the historic built environment. I would wholeheartedly recommend this programme for anyone who has an interest in pursuing a career in the heritage sector.‌"

Richard Mathers (CS 2014), Design Director, Qualia Creative Limited

Richard Mathers alum img

“I started the MA in Conservation Studies as part of my mid-career professional development plan and studied for the qualification over three years. The option to study part-time suited me very well and allowed me to combine my professional commitments with the course modules. The course content was very relevant to my professional life as well as personally fulfilling and enjoyable. The course has helped a great deal with my work as an interpretive designer, particularly with regards to planning accessible visitor experiences in places of historical and cultural interest.”

Florence Pye (CS 2013), currently working as Built Heritage Intern for Argyll and Bute Council

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“I gained so many skills from the Conservation Studies course, all of which are applicable for my day-to-day work. It’s great to be able to put these skills into action. The course had a fantastic variety of permanent and guest lecturers, all of whom had valuable insights into various aspects of working in conservation. I also picked up practical skills which have allowed me to assess the treatment of buildings with a breadth of knowledge and experience. I am now determined to work in protecting the built environment, and with the experience, understanding and confidence that the course at York gave me, I hope to be able to pursue this ambition.”

Heather Dowling (CS 2011), currently working for Martello Media in Dublin

Heather Dowling Alumni-CMS

“I made a last-minute decision to move to York for this course and I can honestly say it was the best decision I have ever made. My experience at the University of York has allowed me to carve a career for myself. After graduating I went straight onto a practical conservation workshop and then into secure full-time employment. I have worked on some hugely prestigious projects and I thoroughly enjoy my work. My studies at York opened many doors for me, introduced me to wonderful lecturers, a dynamic student body and lifelong friends. Where better to study Conservation Studies than in the historic King’s Manor campus at the foot of York Minster?”

Sridevi Changali (CS 2013), co-founder of Masons Inc an architectural design and conservation consultancy

 Sri Changali Alumni-CMS

“With the experienced, friendly and ever-supportive faculty, it was a real delight to be part of the department at York. The flexibility, independent learning and freedom of thought and expression helped me to hone my research and writing skills. The classroom lectures and discussions were extremely engaging, especially with students from different parts of the world sharing their perspective.”

Nigel Walter (CS, 2012), currently Director, Archangel Architects, Cambridge

Nigel Walter Alumni-CMS

“The Conservation course has enhanced my own skillbase and enabled the practice I lead to develop in new and exciting ways. York’s excellent reputation in the field has proved a great help in taking forward some of the arguments I first engaged with on the course, and I’m hoping to explore these further in a PhD. I particularly liked the mix of modules covering practical skills on the one hand and theoretical foundations on the other, and the need to do other modules within the Department as part of the MA is a huge benefit. Also, the Department is a great community, with an ethos of friendliness and helpfulness, which makes doing the course so much more enjoyable and fulfilling. It's a great place to be, and to grow!”

Danielle Corker (CS 2013), Graduate Surveyor with Savills

Danielle Corker Alumni-CMS

“The historic setting of York is great for studying buildings and archaeology on your doorstep, and the King’s Manor provides a great community feeling. Modules were taught by experts in the field, including numerous guest lecturers, ensuring the information was the most up to date and relevant to the working world. The MA course really helped me secure my current role, due to the confidence and transferrable skills I gained. I would thoroughly recommend the Conservation Studies programme to anyone interested in the historic built environment as well as wider property careers.”

Aya Miyazaki (CS 2013), currently Research Fellow at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

Aya Miyazaki 

“Studying Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) at the University of York was probably one of the best choices I made in life. Studying in York, where history still thrives was an amazing experience. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do conservation work at York Minster, which gave me a broader perspective from the point of view of technicians, stonemasons and conservationists.”

Entry

How to apply

To apply for this course, you will need:

  • A good honours degree (upper second or first class) or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in Architecture, Archaeology, History, History of Art or Architectural History, or in a relevant allied discipline – we welcome a diverse range of backgrounds.

Mature students or those with less conventional qualifications but with relevant work experience will be considered.

We interview most applicants, unless you live or work overseas.

apply now button

First, check our How to apply page, which explains what information the Department needs from you.

 

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York’s internationally recognised course equips students with a critical understanding of the history philosophy and principles of heritage conservation, combined with hands-on skills and professional work experience. It is a valuable qualification for anyone wishing to pursue a career in conservation in the UK, and around the world.

Dr Gill Chitty