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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>Parish Church Studies (PGDip)

PGDip Parish Church Studies: Heritage, History and Fabric (online)

Discover the hidden history and contemporary relevance of parish churches in this unique online programme.

Year of entry: 2019
Show year of entry: 2020


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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Find out what studying at York as a postgraduate is really like.  

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Parish churches are religious, historical, artistic and archaeological monuments. With social, economic and cultural implications, the parish church is a recognisable feature of villages, towns and cities across the country. 

This online programme provides an excellent academic grounding in the key issues, themes and contexts associated with the changing nature of parishes and parish churches. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of a breadth of notable research on topics ranging from the conservation of the church and its legislative framework, sacred objects and art, to the management and care of the churchyard. 

Joining an active community, you can craft your learning around your life by participating in flexible weekly modules in your own time, and at your own pace. The intuitive technology-enabled approach allows for lively discussions and a high degree of engagement, guidance and support. You’ll also be invited to attend an annual residential weekend to hear expert talks, network in-person and share your learning with the wider cohort of students and staff


Delivered in association with The Churches Conservation Trust, this unique qualification provides unprecedented access to local sites and valuable resources as well as discounted membership to the Trust and opportunities for work placements.

"There is a good variety of activities, from reading primary, secondary and tertiary material online, including videos and quizzes, to conducting practical research, exploring churches to put learning into practice, and interacting and debating with our tutor and fellow students."
Dennis, PGDip Parish Church Studies 2018 graduate

Join a global community

Broaden your academic horizons alongside enthusiastic staff and students.

Learn online

The flexible modules can be accessed from anywhere, at any time; allowing you to shape your own learning experience.

Residential weekends

Meet tutors, network with fellow students, listen to expert talks and engage in study activities.

Course content

The course comprises six distinctive modules that are taught over two years.

The interdisciplinary modules are ordered to gradually build your understanding of the field. 

You will explore the complex relationships between setting, building and community from the Anglo-Saxon era to the modern day, and the subsequent impact that these have had, and continue to have, in understanding, using and managing these buildings. You’ll be introduced to a wide range of sources, evidence types and approaches from across each period

At the end of each academic year, you will be invited to attend an optional residential weekend in York to meet your fellow students and staff, engage in discussions and share your knowledge.


Year One 

In the first year, you’ll learn about core historical concepts and methodologies in relation to church history and engage with primary research in such topics.

The Autumn and Spring Term modules explore issues arising from the nature, extent and survival of evidence, and objects of faith in the context of their study, care and interaction with specialist and statutory bodies. By exploring primary research on such topics, you’ll develop an awareness of core historical concepts and methodologies relating to church history. 

In Summer Term, you’ll consolidate this knowledge through the study and application of sources for church history by examining the history of Christian worship in parish churches from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day.

Year Two

During Year Two, you will consolidate your knowledge of core and specialist historical concepts, particularly current debates in the discipline, encouraging a deeper engagement with primary research.

You'll investigate the wider contextual background of the parish church, including examining social structures and changes in the late medieval and Early Modern period.

The programme culminates with an examination of the current realities facing the Church, conservation history and practice, regulatory systems, issues of change and the notion of significance, before concluding on people and issues of ownership.

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

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:

  • Articulate an advanced understanding of the development of the parish system and its role, as well as that of liturgy and ritualistic practice from the Anglo-Saxon era to the present day.
  • Critically engage with and contribute to different perspectives, as well as historical and current debates related to the study of parishes and parish churches.
  • Conduct focused and rigorous research on the changing nature of the relationship between a parish church and the community it serves across social, historical and archaeological contexts.
  • Identify, select and employ the analytical and methodological tools necessary to interrogate effectively a variety of source material and interdisciplinary evidence to a construct original responses to specific historical questions.
  • Collate, manage and communicate a range of information creatively and effectively, across oral, visual, written and online platforms, and a range of specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • Act autonomously in planning and implementing an array of tasks and address complex problems and decisions through negotiating effective cooperation and collaboration.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EU/International
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee

Additional costs

We strive to make reading materials available digitally within licensing agreements. When this is not possible, students may have to obtain some key texts themselves. You'll be issued reading lists in advance of each term.

UK-based students are encouraged to utilise the SCONUL Access scheme which allows the borrowing of reading materials from other libraries belonging to the scheme. 

The optional residential weekend in York is free of charge to attend but you should expect to pay for food, accommodation and travel, which will vary in price depending on your location and the standard of accommodation you choose to book.

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.

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 study online for an average of 15 hours per week. You can decide when you choose to work, as all the activities can be completed around your schedule.

At the heart of the University's approach to distance learning are small cohort sizes. This enables your programme leader to provide a high level of support and guidance throughout.

Weekly activities

You'll learn through a combination of directed reading and guided online tasks that will challenge you to develop your independent learning, research, analysis and communication skills.

Residential weekends

Annual residential weekends held in York will provide you with an opportunity to meet your peers in person, hear from expert speakers and engage in discussion.


Your learning will take place within a supportive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Blackboard which will give you access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Online Library and your University email account.

Within the VLE you will have access to a personal journal for talking to your programme leader on a one-to-one basis and an online social space for conversing with other students about programme material and interests or organising social events.

Find out more about Parish Church Studies teaching and learning on our blog which is written and curated by current students. 

Assessment and feedback

You'll be assessed via a balance of short and long critical essays, book reviews, short research projects and other similar tasks.

Careers and skills

Parish Church Studies will provide you with a range of highly transferable skills that enhance employability. A key focus of our degree is training in oral communication: from Year One, your learning takes place in small groups and trained to develop presentations in collaboration with other students. You'll also be shown how to effectively utilise audio and visual tools and encouraged to make contributions to group discussions.

This programme can also serve as a valuable continuing professional development (CPD) opportunity for numerous professional bodies and memberships related to the Church, particularly the IHBC, who have recognised the Diploma for such purposes.

Our partnership with the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) provides access to local sites and resources, and further opportunities to undertake valuable work placements across areas covered by the Trust, such as maintenance and regeneration. 

Career opportunities

Graduates work in a variety of sectors including:

  • History
  • Heritage and conservation
  • Museums sector
  • The Church
  • Teaching
  • Archives
  • Higher education
  • Archaeology
  • Local government planning
  • Chartered surveying and estate/land management
  • Civil service

Transferable skills

You'll develop a range of transferable skills during the course including:

  • Communication and literacy
  • Presentation
  • Teamwork and cooperation
  • Self-management
  • Critical thinking
  • Research and report writing
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Historical analysis
  • Problem-solving

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

You should normally be a graduate in a related subject area. We favourably consider students with a BA/BSc award in any subject and evidence of recent higher education level study in this area. Any student may be called to interview and the University of York reserves the right to ask students for academic work to support their application.

Other qualifications

We are committed to ensuring open access and will seek to ensure those without the qualifications highlighted above, but with evident ability to succeed, have the opportunity to engage. In such instances, you may be asked to submit a 1,500 word critical essay in the field of parish church studies for consideration of the admissions panel.

Applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis following the University's Equal Opportunities policy.

Additional requirements

You will require access to a personal computer with a broadband internet connection and Office software suite, compatible with Word and Excel formats.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. You must have:

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 6.5 in Writing and no less than 5.5 in all other components
  • PTE Academic: 67, with a minimum of 61 in Writing and no less than 51 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 162 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 23 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components

Full details of the requirements for distance learning students.


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.

Applicants are advised to submit applications as soon as possible as places on programmes are limited. Please also note that applications can take up to six weeks to process. Our programmes are extremely popular but, to support the student experience, minimum numbers also apply, so we recommend that you submit your application by mid/late-July. As such, please do not leave your application until the last minute. 

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Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Emma Wells, Lecturer
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator

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Centre for Lifelong Learning