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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: 2021 (September)


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2021 (term dates)

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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 fit 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

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 1

In the Year 1, you’ll learn about core historical concepts and methodologies in relation to church history and engage with primary research in such topics.

You'll 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. 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 2

During Year 2, 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 2021/22

Study modeUK (home) / International and EU
Part-time, distance learning (2 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; this is very much a taught programme. You will be continuously supported and guided by an expert lecturer who will aid your participation in a lively yet scholarly online community. 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. You'll be guided through the well-structured syllabus by one of our expert academics.

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 1, 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 use 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

Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 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.
Other qualifications and experience 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. Please note, although the CLL are committed to ensuring non-traditional learners can access and thrive, this is a Postgraduate-level programme. The nature of Church History as a discipline requires a student to acquire the basics of academic rigour, approaches and methodologies to the subject including archival research techniques, an overview of past scholarship, but also, in part, the “language” of architecture. As such, this programme requires commitment, focus and determination. Please contact the Programme Leader, Dr Emma Wells (, if you have any queries or to find out more about what the programme involves before making an application.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

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.

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.

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
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. 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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Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Emma Wells, Lecturer and Programme Leader
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator

Learn more

Centre for Lifelong Learning