Postgraduate Diploma in Railway Studies

An online study programme

The PG Diploma in Railways Studies is designed to give students an alternative perspective on railway history, and the course will provide a better understanding of how academics have investigated the social, cultural, political, business, economic, and technological aspects of British railway history between 1825 and 2002. Those successfully completing the diploma are expected to come away from it thinking about railway history differently from when they started the course, and the programme overall will act as a bridge from an ‘amateur’ interest in railways to becoming part of the ongoing academic discourse.

The programme starts in late September/early October each academic year – places are limited to ensure a constructive atmosphere for discussions.   

This is a part-time, postgraduate-level programme delivered wholly online in a fully-supported learning environment. Students can exit with a Postgraduate Certificate after successful completion of the first year if their circumstances change.‌



  • To provide students with knowledge of the academic debates regarding different aspects of British railway history between 1825 and 1920s
  • To give students knowledge of how the building and development of Britain’s railways in the Victorian period changed the nation socially, economically and politically
  • To provide the students with an understanding of how and when railways’ operational and managerial systems were developed, refined and advanced before 1914
  • To provide students with knowledge of how labour relations changed within the British railway industry before 1926, and how the railway unions developed
  • To provide students with an understanding of the potential causes of the declining profitability of British railway industry after 1870
  • To demonstrate the complexity and diversity of events in the past, and the range of problems involved in the interpretation of complex, ambiguous, conflicting and often incomplete material • To equip students with the analytical tools to effectively interrogate the worth of primary and secondary source material pertaining to the history of the British railway industry
  • To encourage students to develop their own views on different historical debates in the academic literature and to think creatively about the topics they are studying
  • To provide a supportive and stimulating postgraduate environment enabling students to work independently within a clearly defined structure of regular discussion and supervision
  • To provide students with knowledge of the academic debates regarding different aspects of British railway history between 1920s and 2002
  • To give students with an understanding of the debates in government and in public surrounding what the social and economic role of British railways should be
  • To provide students with an understanding of how government changed the structure of the British railway industry after the First World War
  • To impress on the students the importance of studying emotive or controversial historical events in an objective manner. 




This part-time two-year programme will comprise six 20-credit modules:

Year One

  • The Coming of the Railways to Britain, 1825-1900
  • The Declining Profitability of the Railway Industry, 1870-1914
  • British Railway Workers, 1825-1921

Year Two

  • The Role of the Railways: Railways and Government,1888-1939
  • The Railways and Society: The Railways After the Second World War, 1945-1968
  • Privatising British Rail, 1987-2002

Students will be required to complete all these modules in the first instance, though additional modules may be added in the future to accommodate future programme growth and offer a broader learning experience.

Assessments will comprise a balance of short and long critical essays, book reviews, short research projects and other similar tasks.

Full details of programme structures and the modules which comprise individual awards can be found at Postgraduate Programme Specifications.

Online Study

What's involved?

Our approach to e-learning is distinctive and may be different from your general perceptions about online study:

  • Flexible, fully supported, modular delivery
  • Taught exclusively online
  • Two stages: Certificate and Diploma. Each stage typically takes 12 months
  • Comprises six distinct modules
  • Part-time study (approximately 15 hours per week) allows participants to structure their learning around the other life circumstances


Key points

  • These are not self-study programmes which leave you on your own, nor are they Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). You will be part of an active learning community with regular contacts and activities.
  • The technology-based approach means that our programmes are highly flexible, and you can study from anywhere at a time convenient to you. They are however carefully structured and you will be asked to participate in tasks and activities every week.
  • The programme is highly interactive and comprises numerous blog-driven tasks and exercises. You can engage with the tasks at any time during the week, and you don’t ever have to be online at the same time as other people, but can engage through a simple commenting function.
  • The learning takes place within a reflective and supportive environment, providing all the benefits of studying as part of a community but without having to be in a physical classroom
  • As well as interacting with your fellow students, you will also have regular discussions with a dedicated and friendly academic and administrative team at York.
  • The programmes are situated within a Virtual Learning Environment called Blackboard. This is a user-friendly integrated website that provides access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Online Library and your University email account.


The York Team

A key feature of our programme is the availability and quality of support that we offer through module tutors, pastoral support and a dedicated administrative and technical support team.


Residential Weekends

We hold an optional two-day Residential Weekend at York each year. Each event is an opportunity to meet your fellow students and staff, engage in discussion and share your knowledge of railway history. These events are free of charge, though students are expected to meet the costs of their travel, accommodation and sustenance. 

Entry Requirements & Cost

Who is the programme for?

The programme is aimed at anyone with an interest in Railway History who wishes to study the wider social impact at an advanced level.


Admissions Criteria

Normally students will be expected to hold a Bachelor’s Degree in a related subject area. CLL will also favourably consider any student previously awarded a BA/BSc in any subject, and with evidence of recent HE level study in this area.

As a Centre based upon the cornerstone of open access, CLL will also seek to ensure that those without the qualifications highlighted above, but with the obvious ability to succeed, have the opportunity to engage.

In such instances, the presentation of a critical essay in the field of Railway Studies may be requested and considered by the admissions panel; CLL reserves the right to ask any student for academic work to support their application.

Any student may be called to interview.

Students must have an IELTS score of 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.5 in Writing (or equivalent). Details of the requirements for distance learning students can be found at English language requirements: distance learning 2017/18

  • Sufficient study time: approximately 15 hours per week including the capacity to take part regularly in the online weekly tutorial group discussions. These are an essential part of the study process.
  • A willingness to share your experience and be an active member of your tutorial group.
  • A personal computer with a broadband internet connection and Office software suite, compatible with Word and Excel formats. Students should also have a personal computer with a webcam and microphone to facilitate online video discussions if unable to attend residential weekends.


Programme Cost

The online postgraduate diploma in Railway Studies is priced in line with other University postgraduate programmes, details of which can be found at

For 2018/19, the cost of the first year will be £3,030. Fees in subsequent years are subject to confirmation.

Students can spread the cost of their tuition fees, including by paying monthly in advance. More information can be found at Finance and financial support for distance learners.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at the University of York, you could be eligible for a 10% discount on your tuition fee. See more information about the York Graduate Loyalty Discount.


How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system.

If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.





Amanda Pauw: 
Postgraduate Administrator 
Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 8482

Dr David Turner:
Associate Lecturer




In collaboration with the 
National Railway Museum

The Institute for Railway Studies has information about further study options. 

Listen to an introduction to the
programme by Dr David Turner:

Railways Podcast 1