Skip to content
Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses>Railway Studies (MA)

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: 2019


3 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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 history, and the broader impact of historical events on the transport and mobility industry.

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, and you'll follow a series of interactive and flexible modules. 

This interdisciplinary course will enable you to analyse a range of materials and participate in lively forums and discussion sessions with a supportive and knowledgeable discipline expert. As well as engaging with key themes and debates on Britain's railways, you'll gain skills in independent research and analysis, and produce a dissertation on a topic of 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, Railway Studies (2017 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

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

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 six diverse modules that are delivered by the Centre for Lifelong Learning. Your third year is comprised 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, 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. The core modules are:

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. The core modules are:

Year 3

  • Independent Study - Dissertation (60 credits)

Academic integrity module

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

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


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 research project on a subject of your choice. A vast range of topics can be selected from the social, cultural, economic, technological or business history of railways, transport or mobility.

Your dissertation is worth 60 credits and will be 12,000 words long. 

You will also take a five-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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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 2019/20

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Part-time, distance learning (3 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

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

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 students to borrow reading materials from other libraries belonging to the scheme. 

The optional residential weekend at 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. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

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.

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

Graduates of this MA in Railway Studies will have built the foundations for pursuing higher-level research projects and careers in a variety of industries including:

  • Historical writing and law
  • Journalism
  • Heritage
  • Tourism
  • Museums sector
  • Teaching
  • Archives
  • Higher education teaching and research

Transferable skills

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

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

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

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. 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. 

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 study. In such instances, you may be asked to submit a 1,500-word critical essay in the field of Railway 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 Microsoft Office software suite that is compatible with Word and Excel formats.

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. You must have:

IELTS: 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.5 in Writing (or equivalent).

Full details of the requirements for distance learning students can be found at English language requirements: distance learning.


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.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr David Turner, Associate Lecturer
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator

Learn more

Centre for Lifelong Learning