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MA Archaeology of Buildings

Open a doorway to the past of our historic buildings

Year of entry: 2019


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time,
3 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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Train in the systematic research, recording, analysis and interpretation of historic buildings.

Through a combination of academic studies, practical training and research projects, you will learn the specialised skills required for the historical research, visual analysis and archaeological recording and interpretation of buildings. You'll gain a foundational knowledge of the history of architecture in the UK, from c.1000 to the present day. The course will allow you to explore current intellectual and professional research priorities in the archaeology of buildings and introduce you to conservation legislation, policy and practice. You'll leave with excellent research and communication skills relating to the research, analysis and interpretation of historic buildings.

The course at York brings together experts in buildings survey and recording, archive research, legislation and policy, conservation, theoretical interpretation and computer modelling to deliver a dynamic course, which will equip you with the specialist skills and knowledge required for a career in researching, managing, interpreting and conserving historic buildings. Specifically, you will gain valuable experience in archive research, photogrammetry and other 3D recording methods, CAD drawing, and computer modelling of historic buildings.

Established more than 15 years ago, this course is one of the longest-established and most respected buildings archaeology and buildings history courses in the UK. Graduates from the course are now well-established across the heritage sector, in leading architectural practices, archaeological units, heritage organisations and charities, both nationally and internationally. 

Course content

You will undertake a total of 180 credits. This will be made up of two core modules (worth 20 credits each), two option modules (worth 20 credits each) and four shorter skills option modules (worth 5 credits each). You will hone your research skills by producing a dissertation and presenting an assessed lecture on your dissertation topic which will be worth 80 credits in total. 


Core modules

Option modules

You'll be able to pick two further 20 credit modules and four, 5-credit skills modules from this list.

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


You will undertake a dissertation (15-20,000 words) and assessed lecture as part of the course (worth a total of 80 credits). You will have a supervisor throughout this time who will be able to help and guide you through the process.


Optional work placements provide a valuable opportunity to gain practical experience of working in the professional buildings sector. Your placement will draw on and contribute to the knowledge and experience you have gained, while enabling you to develop new insights, understanding and expertise in buildings archaeology. You'll gain experience of buildings archaeology in a professional working environment and consolidate your knowledge and understanding of procedures and issues gained through the taught modules. Placements usually take place in term time, or over the Easter or Summer periods. We assist you in finding the right placement, however you will be responsible for meeting any costs associated with the placement such as travel to and from a different location.

Upon successfully completing these placements you will have:

  • gained experience and knowledge of how building recording and research inform conservation and heritage practice, under the guidance of experienced professionals.
  • developed experience in practical applications, facilitating critical reflection on the theoretical and philosophical issues raised in both core modules.

Placement providers

Although the organisations offering placements change from year to year, according to availability, the following list is a good indication of the choices likely to be available:

  • English Heritage
  • National Trust
  • Council for British Archaeology
  • York Civic Trust, including Fairfax House Museum
  • York Conservation Trust
  • The Churches Conservation Trust
  • Diocese of York 
  • Architects such as Purcell, Ferrey and Mennim
  • City of York Council
  • Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
  • York Archaeological Trust
  • West Yorkshire Archaeology Service
  • Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture
  • North Yorkshire Moors National Park

Take a look at Buildings Archaeology students putting their experience into practice on a landmark survey and conservation project at York Minster (YouTube video).

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • record and analyse structures of all types, selecting a level of record appropriate to the end use.
  • execute hand, metric and photographic surveys and present the results in hand drawings, photographs and CAD.
  • recognise and apply the principles of structural analysis to elucidate a building’s history.
  • draw on a sound knowledge of British architectural history and, where appropriate, that of other countries.
  • carry out research using a wide range of archival sources on buildings in the UK and integrate these critically and effectively into the interpretation of buildings.
  • discuss and debate current research agendas in buildings archaeology.
  • direct your own independent work, and also interact with others as a member of a recording or conservation team.
  • communicate the results of research effectively through oral, written and graphic forms of presentation.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee
Part-time (3 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee
Full-time (1 year) £7,810£17,370

Students on a Tier 4 Visa are not currently permitted to study part-time at York.

Additional costs

We don't anticipate there being any additional fees associated with this course. All books and resources you need will be available in the library or online and it isn't mandatory that you buy your own copies. You may wish to set aside a small budget for photocopying, depending on how you like to work.

If you decide to take up an optional placement, you'll have to fund the travel costs to placement yourself (if applicable).

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers additional costs that are not included in your tuition fee such as expenses for accommodation and study materials.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You will be taught through a combination of lectures and seminars, with an emphasis on student led-discussion and presentations. The skills modules are hands-on, practical classes, lasting four hours each. These are taught in small groups of 12, so there is plenty of one-on-one guidance with staff.


You'll have access to state-of-the-art facilities, including survey support, libraries and archives. 

Teaching location

The majority of teaching on this course takes place in Kings Manor, City Centre Campus, with additional teaching on Campus West.

About our campus

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You will be assessed by a variety of methods. Depending on which modules you opt to take, these could include: 

  • Essays
  • Oral presentations
  • Report writing
  • Dissertation
  • Or alternative assessment methods such as film-making, blogging or posters

Beautiful surroundings

Study in King's Manor, a beautiful Medieval building in the centre of historic York.

Feel at home

Informality is one of our distinctive qualities - the atmosphere in our department is friendly, supportive and enthusiastic. We want you to develop your potential and thrive at York.

Careers and skills

You will gain practical skills and research training that provide excellent preparation for a range of careers.

Course alumni have successfully launched careers with organisations across the heritage sector, including English Heritage, National Trust, Historic Scotland and Historic Royal Palaces, as well as with local authorities and conservation bodies, conservation architects, archaeological units and commercial developers.

Find out what our alumni say about the course.

Career opportunities

  • Field Archaeology Specialists (FAS Heritage)
  • Oxford Archaeology
  • URS Corporation
  • Purcell Architects
  • AOC Archaeology Group
  • Pre-Construct Archaeology
  • Headland Archaeology
  • Arc Heritage
  • York Archaeological trust
  • English Heritage
  • National Trust
  • Historic Scotland
  • Historic Royal Palaces
  • West Yorkshire Archaeology Service
  • MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology)

Transferable skills

  • Time-management
  • Recording and analysis
  • Execute surveys
  • Use structural analysis
  • Research skills
  • Debate and discuss
  • Direct own, independent work
  • Work with others as part of a team
  • Communicate orally, in writing, and in graphical forms

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
  • A good honours degree (2:1 or first class) or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution in Archaeology, History of Art, Architectural History or in a related field. If you are uncertain whether your first degree is appropriate, please contact the Course Director for more information. 


  • Relevant professional experience or qualifications. The course is suitable for students and mid-career professionals seeking to develop or enhance an academic or professional specialism in buildings archaeology. To find out if your professional experience or qualifications are appropriate, please contact the Course Director.
Other qualifications

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability

If you've not met our English language requirements

You may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language courses. These courses will provide you with the level of English needed to meet the conditions of your offer.

The length of course you need to take depends on your current IELTS scores and how much you need to improve to reach our English language requirements.

After you've accepted your offer to study at York, we'll confirm which pre-sessional course you should apply to via You@York.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

We interview most applicants, unless you are living or working overseas. 

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