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MA Railway Studies (online)

A symbol of modernity, the railway is as important to Great British history as it has been in shaping the country’s landscape.

Year of entry: 2022 (September)


3 years part-time

Start date

September 2022 (term dates)

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Explore an exciting breadth of academic discourse on the history of British railways between 1825 and 2010.

This unique Masters programme covers a range of perspectives crossing social, cultural, political, business, economic and technological boundaries. You'll develop a comprehensive understanding of the role of the railway in British history and the broader impact of historical events on transport and mobility.

During your studies you will join a vibrant online community of students from around the world to learn outside of the traditional classroom. You'll engage with your peers and a dedicated academic via intuitive technology that requires only basic IT skills to follow a series of interactive and flexible modules.

This interdisciplinary course will enable you to analyse key themes and material on Britain's railways and participate in lively forums and discussion sessions with a supportive discipline expert. You'll gain independent research and analysis skills and produce a dissertation on a topic of your choice within railway, transport and mobility history.

Stimulating and challenging. The course content explores many facets of British railway history that as a ‘hobbyist’ I was previously unaware of. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Nigel, MA Railway Studies

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

Go behind the scenes at the National Railway Museum, explore archives and attend expert talks.

University of the Year shortlisted

We're proud to announce that we've been shortlisted for two prestigious University of the Year awards.

  • Times Higher Education Awards 2021
  • The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

Find out more about our nominations

Course content

This Masters course will give you an alternative perspective on British railway history. You'll be taught about the railways' social and economic significance, and learn about a range of interrelated topics from the development of the railways in the Victorian period to the evolution of labour relations and politics of the privatisation of British Rail.  

In Years 1 and 2 you will take diverse modules that are delivered by the Centre for Lifelong Learning. Your third year consists of an independent study module hosted by the York Management School. In this module, you will write a dissertation on a subject of your choice.

Each year you will have the opportunity to attend a residential weekend at the National Railway Museum where you will meet fellow students and staff, engage in discussions, attend lectures by academic experts, explore the archives and share your knowledge of railway history.

Should your circumstances change, you can also study for a shorter period of time and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate after a year, or a Postgraduate Diploma following the second year. 


To graduate with a Masters degree, you will need to take 120 credits of taught modules and complete a dissertation worth 60 credits. 

Year 1

The first year of the course will ensure you have a solid understanding of the different resources that can be used to explore academic subjects. You will be introduced to some of the key academic discussions, methodologies and theoretical issues in railway and transport history. You'll begin to hone your critical and analytical skills to debate and articulate your own points of view.

You will take core modules which may include:

Year 2

In your second year, you will consolidate and improve your awareness of core and specialist historical concepts. Building on the first year, you'll continue to develop your research skills and critically evaluate different historical issues and situations. 

You will take core modules which may include:

Year 3

  • Independent Study - Dissertation 

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module.

Our modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.
Our course structures are changing in September 2023. Find out more about how this course may be affected.


In Year 3 you will undertake a year-long independent study module. You'll apply the skills and knowledge that you've gained in previous modules and produce a 12,000-word dissertation or research project on a subject of your choice. You'll be able to select from a vast range of topics from the social, cultural, economic, technological or business history of railways, transport or mobility.

You will also take a six-week online study skills module to enhance your research, planning and writing ability. 

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 a comprehensive understanding of how Britain's railways have influenced, and have been influenced by historical events between 1830 and 2010
  • Engage critically with existing scholarship and debates in the literature, and present rigorous arguments that demonstrate independence and creativity of thought
  • Select and apply the most appropriate methodological and analytical tools to assess a range of source materials and evidence when responding to specific historical questions
  • Gather, process and communicate complex information and conclusions with clarity to peers and other audiences in written form
  • Autonomously plan, organise and manage research projects that respond effectively and rigorously to a defined research brief, and which demonstrate originality of approach
  • Develop an understanding of working with and processing source material appropriate to sustained independent resource projects

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2022/23

Study modeUK (home) / International and EU
Part-time, distance learning (3 years)
This is the year 1 fee. Fees for future years are subject to confirmation.

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

Fees information

UK (home) or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK (home) or international student. Check your fee status

Find out more information about tuition fees and how to pay them.

Additional costs

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

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

The optional residential weekends at York are 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.

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 work, as all activities can be completed around your personal schedule. 

At the heart of the University's approach to distance learning are small cohort sizes. This enables the academic tutor 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. You'll be guided through the well-structured syllabus by one of our expert academics.

Residential weekends

Annual residential weekends held at the National Railway Museum in York will provide you with the opportunity to meet your peers in person, hear from a variety of speakers and engage with primary source materials from the archives. 


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 tutor on a one-to-one basis, and an online social space for conversing with other students about programme material and interests or to organise social events.

Assessment and feedback

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

Careers and skills

This course is ideal for people with an enthusiasm for British railway, transport and mobility history that would like to mature their interest into a deeper understanding of how scholars have understood and debated these subjects.

You will develop a range of highly transferable employability skills and a critical sensibility that transfers across many disciplines and professions. You'll be able to lead varied tasks and projects that evidence your flexibility to prospective employers, or for further graduate study.

Career opportunities

  • Operations consultant
  • District councillor
  • Business consultant
  • Journalist
  • Local government officer
  • Higher education researcher

Transferable skills

  • Communication and literacy
  • Team working
  • Self-management
  • Critical thinking
  • Historical analysis
  • Archival and online research

Entry requirements

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree Typically you'll 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 of study in this area.
Other qualifications and experience We are committed to ensuring an open access application process. We therefore seek to ensure that those without a first degree, but with evidence of substantial ability and/or achievement in a professional field, and/or those who can demonstrate regular use of the skills and expertise required for academic research and writing, have the opportunity to join. In such instances, you may be asked to submit a 1,500-word critical essay in the field of Railway Studies for consideration by the admissions panel. In such instances, individuals must also have a minimum of A-Level or equivalent qualifications.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

Additional requirements

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

The University of York reserves the right to ask students for academic work to support their application, and any student may be called to interview.

When applying you will be asked to provide an academic transcript. If you have any problems producing this document, please contact us for advice.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
Duolingo 120, minimum 110 in all other components
LanguageCert C1 Expert High Pass with 33/50 in each component
PTE Academic 67, minimum 61 in each component
TOEFL 96, minimum 23 in each component
Trinity ISE III Distinction in all components

For more information see our English language requirements.


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. 

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Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr David Turner, Associate Lecturer <br>
(Academic enquiries)
Admissions and general enquiries

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Centre for Lifelong Learning

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