MA in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings)

Course Director: Dr Gill Chitty

At a glance

Accredited training for building conservation professionals

Why choose this course?

The MA in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) is recognised by the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and offers a bespoke route for UK practitioners to achieve full professional membership of the IHBC. The programme conforms with the international ICOMOS Guidelines for Education and Training in Conservation.

Having run successfully for more than 40 years, the programme is now supported by a network of specialist conservation and research organisations locally, nationally and internationally. Contributors to the course include national experts from English Heritage, Council for British Archaeology, ICOMOS-UK, Historic Scotland, and the National Trust and from a large number of local conservation and heritage organisations.

 

  • Understand historic and evolving practice in heritage building conservation.
  • Gain vital work experience and learn practical, hands-on skills.
  • Build working relationships with national and international conservation specialists and research organisations.
  • Develop careers-focused knowledge, practical 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.

 

What does the course cover?

The MA in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) covers the history, ethics and philosophy of historic environment conservation together with a critical understanding of contemporary issues in building conservation practice. It is complemented by training in the systematic research, recording, analysis and interpretation of historic buildings. The practical ‘skills modules’ focus on specific aspects of professional practice, repair and conservation techniques, legislation and planning, policy, finance and managing conservation projects.

Who is it for?

This course attracts graduates in architecture, archaeology, history of art, architectural history and related subjects. It also appeals to experienced conservation practitioners from multi-disciplinary backgrounds, including architects, surveyors planners, conservators and practising craftsmen in various fields, who wish to advance their professional training.

What can it lead to?

The course provides the knowledge and practical skills required for a range of careers in historic building conservation and related fields. Recent students have gone on to employment with organisations ranging from the National Trust and English Heritage to building preservation trusts, local authority services, heritage consultancies and conservation practices.

See what our alumni have to say about the course:

“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.”

Aya Miyazaki (2013, Japan), Research Fellow at National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.

“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.”

Richard Mathers (2014, UK), Designer, Qualia Creative Limited

Content

Focused teaching, practical skills training and professional work experience

This MA course can be studied full-time over a year or part-time over two or three years. It is taught via a combination of lectures, workshops and tutorials. You will study four core modules and four shorter skills modules. You will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic. Alongside the taught programme, you also have the option to gain valuable experience in a student placement in the professional conservation sector.

 

AUTUMN AND SPRING TERMS

During the autumn and spring terms, you will study four 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.

Analysing historic buildings
Understand the archaeology of buildings within the context of heritage and conservation practice. Learn the specialised skills required for the archaeological recording and analysis of historic buildings, and learn to how to visually analyse buildings and assess their significance.

Interpreting historic buildings
Learn the specialised skills required to interpret the historical function and meaning of historic building types, and develop a critical understanding of the ways different building types can be interpreted. Combine knowledge of the archaeology of buildings with other areas of research and analysis.

You will study four shorter ‘skills’ modules, each worth 5 credits. These are:

Heritage protection
Understand legislation and policy relating to the historic environment and the roles of key organisations and charters in the UK and internationally.

Conservation solutions
Understand principles, techniques and issues in conservation project management, including funding, costing and risk assessment, condition survey and market valuation.

Practical building conservation
Understand the principles and practices involved in conserving traditional buildings and materials, working with experienced conservation practitioners. Develop practical and team-working skills and gain hands-on experience in masonry, lime and timber working.

Sustainable building conservation
Explore techniques in adaptation of historic buildings to understand principles and applied practice in the sustainable retrofit of traditionally-constructed buildings

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 or heritage 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.

Here are some examples of previous dissertations:

  • Contested heritage: conservation and reconciliation in Derry.
  • Invasive or sacrificial approach: between stone replacement and mortar repair.
  • The conservation of redundant agricultural buildings: An analysis and interpretation of Castle Howard mill complex.
  • Value of ruins: conservation and enhancement of Ozolimni’s Byzantine Tower in Greece.
  • Moving buildings is an appropriate method of conservation?
  • Adaptive re-use in Taiwan and the UK: a comparison of conservation approaches in the East and West.
  • Cliff-Bungalow Mission: finding the right community heritage management plan for historic urban neighbourhoods in Calgary.
  • The lidos of Britain: an analysis of their value and significance in modern British society.
  • The relevance of churches to conservation theory and practice.
  • A study of authenticity in relation to the adaptive reuse of urban industrial buildings.

 

“This course 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.”

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

Alongside the taught programme, you also have the option to gain valuable experience in a student placement in the professional [ as appropriate: conservation / heritage/ archaeology ] sector.

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 be able to advise on their conservation requirements.
  • 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

Learn from award-winning practitioners

Taught by highly experienced and respected building-conservation specialists, the course has been developed and honed by skilled practitioners over the past 40 years. As Director of Studies, Dr. Gill Chitty provides the principal teaching and support for this course. Gill has more than 30 years’ professional experience in the heritage sector, working in conservation and public archaeology. She was appointed to York in 2012, following a career that included roles with English Heritage, local authorities, the Council for British Archaeology (where she was Head of Conservation) and in consultancy.

Gill’s research interests include the evolution of heritage protection policy and its interaction with environmental conservation and sustainability policies. She is currently working on research into capacity building and community engagement in conservation. In 2013, she was winner of the University of York’s ‘Supervisor of the Year’ award.

Departmental teaching is supplemented by lectures and seminars from visiting researchers, academics, heritage professionals and practitioners, and extra-curricular seminars and workshops.

Alongside Gill, optional and skills modules on the course are taught by leading specialists in the field of conservation and building heritage. These include Dr Kate Giles, Dr Jane Grenville, Sophie Norton, and Professor Jukka Jokilehto.

 

“The course programme was detailed in its teaching of conservation philosophy and perspectives, and provided hands-on experience in the construction, decay, interpretation and conservation of building fabric.”

Jennifer Tonkins (2012, UK) Assistant Heritage Consultant, Turley

“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.”

Sridevi Changali (2013, India), Masons Inc architectural design consultancy

Careers

Enhance your employability in building conservation

The MA in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) focuses on enhancing students’ employability and professional development with a combination of practical skills training and theoretical teaching. By the end of the course you will have:

  • enhanced your skills and knowledge so that your chances of employment as a conservation professional are improved.
  • developed both intellectually and personally as a result of having dealt directly with conservation professionals and completed a sustained independent research project.
  • developed the ability to work both within a group through seminar and placement experiences, and independently through research for a dissertation.

The accredited training provided by this course has led postgraduates into varied careers in historic building conservation across the UK, for organisations including:

  • English Heritage
  • Historic Scotland
  • 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

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

“There is no doubt that my year at York has been instrumental in kick-starting a career in building conservation, and I highly recommend the Conservation Studies course to others interested in pursuing a profession in historic architecture.”

Jennifer Tonkins (2012, UK) Assistant Heritage Consultant, Turley

Alumni

Where next? A word from our alumni

Alumni of the MA in Conservation Studies (Historic Buildings) have gone on to take up varied careers in the building conservation sector and associated fields.

Here’s what some recent graduates had to say about the course and what they are doing now:

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

Eva-Maria Aitsam

“The 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, UK), currently Designer with 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.”

Aya Miyazaki (CS 2013, Japan), 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.”

Jennifer Tonkins (CS 2012, UK) currently Assistant Heritage Consultant at Turley, a UK-wide planning consultancy.

CS alumnus Jenny Tonkins

“Following an undergraduate degree in History my entry into the heritage sector began at King’s Manor, on the Conservation Studies course. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the department; York and King’s Manor are the perfect place to study old buildings! The course programme was detailed in its teaching of conservation philosophy and perspectives, and provided hands-on experience in the construction, decay, interpretation and conservation of building fabric. There is no doubt that my year at York has been instrumental in kick-starting a career in building conservation, and I highly recommend the Conservation Studies course to others interested in pursuing a profession in historic architecture.”

 

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 of art, architectural history or related fields. 

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

If you are uncertain whether your qualifications or experience are appropriate, please contact the Course Director for more information. 

apply now button

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

Conservation Studies course leader Dr Gill Chitty

This long-established, IHBC-accredited course provides students with targeted training for professional careers in historic building conservation in the UK. It provides a thorough grounding in the philosophy and principles of heritage conservation, combined with essential practical skills training and real-life work experience.” 

Dr Gill Chitty